Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders often makes headlines for his attacks on billionaires. In August, the independent from Vermont briefly changed his tune, praising Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett for an admission nearly 15 years ago that the rich had fought and won a class war.
Buffett, the fourth-wealthiest person on earth, told The New York Times in 2006 that the rich had leveraged their wealth and power to secure a favorable tax code: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning.”
In a new interview, left-leaning author and Omaha, Neb., native Kurt Andersen echoed those glowing remarks about Buffett, calling him “extraordinary” for his acknowledgment of how the wealthy avoid taxes and influence policy in Washington.
“I don't share some of the loathing of each and every billionaire that some of my political friends and allies share,” Andersen says. “He has been extraordinary.”
In 2013, Buffett, another Omaha native, drew attention when he complained of paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. He has not endorsed a candidate in the 2020 presidential race, though he actively campaigned for the two prior Democratic presidential nominees.
‘It wasn’t just a poetic notion’
Andersen, the founder of “Spy” magazine who for two decades hosted a weekly public radio show called “Studio 360,” released a new book in August called “Evil Geniuses,” which examines how wealthy Americans leveraged their power to control federal policy from the 1960s onward.
The remarks from Buffett about class war helped inspire the book, Andersen said.
“At that moment is when I began thinking and reading and studying more, and ended up in this book,” Andersen says.
“Realizing that it wasn't just a poetic notion,” he adds. “There really was, had been, since the 1970s, a kind of class war on the part of the rich to transform the economy.”
Andersen spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
During the 2020 campaign, President Donald Trump has repeatedly portrayed opponent Joe Biden’s policy agenda as a set of “socialist” measures that would hike taxes and send corporations overseas. The rebuttal from former Vice President Biden in recent days: he already “beat the socialist,” referring to Sanders, whom Biden defeated in the Democratic primary.
Biden’s tax plan would raise the top individual tax rate from 37% to 39.6%, according the Tax Policy Center. People with income greater than $1 million could face long-term capital gains rates of up to 39.6%, up from 20%.
Under the tax cut signed into law by Trump in 2017, the corporate tax rate fell from 35% to 21%. Biden’s tax proposal would raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, a midway point between current and pre-Trump levels.
Andersen called Biden a “moderate candidate” who will follow the Democratic party line but noted the party has “moved significantly to the left” over the past decade.
“He will do what his party wants,” Andersen predicted.