Lane: America’s real problems

Joe Lane
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During this election, the voice of a businessman has cut through the chatter. For years, many have followed the gospel of this billionaire. He has, over his decades-long run as a tycoon, experienced profound success virtually unmatched by any other. His investors respect him and, given what we saw last week, the American public respects him, too. I am, of course, talking about Warren Buffett.

Last week, Buffett released his annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. In the letter, Buffett said, “It’s an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do.”

Buffett goes on: “That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.

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As proved by the information included in the letter (such as the $56,000 per capita GDP in America), Buffett is absolutely correct. Not only is America still great, it’s as great as it’s ever been. It’s time for candidates to stop acting like they are the savior who will return the United States to some form of glory. But this is all with respect to the economic problems brought up in political debates.

There are other problems aplenty in America: race issues, economic stratification, climate change, education, terrorism, hatred, and bigotry. The individuals who have taken control of the political microphones have trumpeted hyperbolic diatribes of the purportedly negative state of America. They have twisted the scenarios unfolding in our country to meet their political needs.

But who am I to say this? I write this column from a position of privilege. I am a white male, I grew up in a fairly affluent suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, and I am currently enrolled in a four-year institution on track to graduate.

I haven’t really had to experience the full force of many of the problems that candidates are “addressing.” So I cannot express the feelings of fed-up Americans who are turning to the likes of Donald Trump to speak for their needs.

It’s amazing how the important topics to be discussed at presidential debates are determined almost entirely by the outlandish comments of the candidates in the week leading up to it. The real issues, those that are truly facing the American people, are only brought up in town halls by the real voters facing them.

The real problems are those that neither I — nor Buffett — could possibly fathom. They are problems that candidates ought to be talking about but aren’t. They are the problems that Buffett is not talking about in his shareholder letter.

Buffett goes on to add, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start. America’s golden goose of commerce and innovation will continue to lay more and larger eggs.”

So it is true, that the U.S. economic engine will keep churning despite an assortment of candidates’ apocalyptic prophecies. But for the problems that Buffett chose to avoid in his letter — those in which he (and I) have little experience — more has to be done. Buffett’s explanations should be used as a guide to the candidates so that they may gain perspective on the true problems facing the citizens of this country.


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