Warren Buffett’s annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders was just released, and it has an important message for policymakers and those seeking to help spur economic growth.
“One word sums up our country’s achievements: miraculous,” he said. “From a standing start 240 years ago – a span of time less than triple my days on earth – Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers.”
Almost every year, Buffett talks up this U.S. economic miracle, and he regularly repeats his line that “Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”
But this year’s message is unique in that he highlights the “tide of talented and ambitious immigrants.” A simple search for the word “immigrant” or “immigration” yields no results in recent years’ letters.
This message is in conflict with the efforts of President Donald Trump, who has made a series of anti-immigration proposals and legislative moves ranging from the Mexican border wall to the travel ban against seven Muslim countries.
While Buffett doesn’t explicitly mention Trump by name in his letter, it’s pretty clear that he believes immigration is good for the U.S. economy.
He offered further thoughts on immigration during a January talk at Columbia University.
“This country is built on it,” Buffett said. “I always say to people that are anti-immigration, ‘Let’s put it in retroactively.’ And everybody leaves.”
“We are sitting here, in part, because of two Jewish immigrants who in 1939 in August signed the most important letter perhaps in the history of the United States,” he added. He was referring to a letter sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard warning that Germany might develop an atomic bomb. It resulted in the Manhattan Project.
“If it hadn’t been for those two immigrants, who knows whether we’d be sitting in this room,” he said.
Business leaders from Wall Street to Silicon Valley have been vocal in their criticism of Trump’s stance on immigration. All argue that immigration has helped propel the U.S. economy to where it is today.
“You need not be an economist to understand how well our system has worked,” Buffett said. “Just look around you. See the 75 million owner-occupied homes, the bountiful farmland, the 260 million vehicles, the hyper-productive factories, the great medical centers, the talent-filled universities, you name it – they all represent a net gain for Americans from the barren lands, primitive structures and meager output of 1776. Starting from scratch, America has amassed wealth totaling $90 trillion.”
Sam Ro is managing editor at Yahoo Finance.