Warren Buffett

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When the New York Times reported last month that Wal-Mart had brazenly been bribing government officials in Mexico, the public responded with anger. According to the Washington Post, the outcry forced the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to slow its campaign to water down the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the 1977 law that bars payoffs to foreign decision-makers in exchange for business. The agitation also led to a 5 percent drop in the price of Wal-Mart stock. But one group seemed decidedly less bothered by the reports of Wal-Mart’s misdeeds: corporate America.

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Tax Day 2009 was a very steamy affair. As you may recall, tempers got so hot at several anti-tax Tea Party protests in Texas that the Lone Star governor who was riling up the crowds, one Rick Perry, declared that he might just be open to his great state seceding from the union. Just three years later, Tax Day 2012 has now passed in decidedly quieter fashion.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Mitt Romney is in the top .0025% of American income earners. That makes him poorer than Warren Buffett, George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, probably even than Jon Huntsman, the father of the junior Jon Huntsman, who, with all his money and a very decent record, scored virtually nothing in the Republican presidential sweepstakes. So the question about Romney is whether the electorate will resent his wealth or take it as an index of initiative, imagination and hard work. Also, I suppose, a real drive to be rich. No, not just rich, but downright wealthy, super-wea

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We’ve come to expect grand things from the State of the Union: Major revelations about the president’s agenda, bold policy initiatives, memorable turns of phrase. And sometimes that’s what we get, for better and for worse. In 2009, for example, Obama used his budget speech (the de facto State of the Union) to lay out his ambitious first-year agenda.

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A new survey shows that the vast majority of millionaires agree with Warren Buffett’s calls for the very wealthy to pay more in taxes. There’s just one catch: Most of the survey respondents who sided with Buffett don’t see themselves as part of that very wealthy group. It’s hardly surprising to find support for the idea of somebody else ponying up more in taxes, but the survey does raise an interesting question: Do Americans see their tax burden as fair? Survey data from Gallup indicates that the country is about evenly split on the question.

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Would it be possible for Mitt Romney to handle the problem of his tax returns any worse than he has? By withholding them as he has, he has built up anticipation among political reporters who could generally care less about such matters. Romney's equivocating answer in the debate last night about whether he would release the returns sent Fox News' audience-response "hedge-ometer" machine literally off the charts. Then this morning he went ahead and confirmed the most salient fact in the returns: that he pays a rate of only about 15 percent.

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RED OAK, IOWA -- Outside a candidate's event in Council Bluffs, as the wind was blowing in bitter cold from Nebraska, I witnessed my first ugly moment of the Iowa caucuses. A 19-year-old local man, Steve Bertelson, was standing outside on the sidewalk, shivering visibly, silently holding a sign with a scrawled slogan about the 1 percent. As people left the event, several turned on him, shouting angrily just steps away from him as he absorbed the abuse without saying anything. Why didn't he go across the river to Omaha and bother Warren Buffett instead, shouted one man.

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In his deficit-reduction proposal, unveiled in his Rose Garden speech on Monday, President Obama once again found himself adopting the other party’s frame, embracing budget austerity instead of the fiscal stimulus that the economy needs. He still talks about finding bipartisan consensus and describes his ideas as common-sense solutions that every well-intentioned person should support, even though Republicans have shown they’ll block anything with his name on it.

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President Obama has made all kinds of speeches and proposals about how to reduce the deficit. But, at least recently, he hasn’t submitted a formal plan – a fact Republicans and their allies constantly use against him. That will change Monday, when the Obama administration introduces a detailed proposal on how to reduce the budget deficit. Overall it will call for about $2 trillion in new* deficit reduction over the next ten years, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on Sunday evening.

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