Nathaniel Popper

Buffett Antitype to Norquist

Warren Buffett, the seer behind Berkshire Hathaway, is the idyll of the Democratic Party in its quest to raise income tax rates for wealthy Americans.

The Oracle of Omaha has become the antitype to Grover Norquist. Norquist keeps his no-tax pledges in a vault and rules his conservative domain from a seat at the head of a table in a DC office building. Buffett extols the need for tax equity in ubiquitous quotes, appearances on The Daily Show and a new book, "Tap Dancing to Work."

The 82-year-old Buffett, who some call the most successful investor in the last century, doesn't pledge allegiance to trends or fads. He follows his own instincts and research, often in contrary directions to the investment crowd. He laments what he calls the trading culture that generates profits, not wealth.

One of the wealthiest and most influential men in the world, Buffett says he looks for the long-term gain. That accounts for why he invests in railroads, utilities, financial companies, newspapers and, most recently, debt-ridden Spain. It also accounts for why he doesn't see higher taxes as an impediment to investment.

His promise to give away 99 percent of his fortune, his continued residence at the house he bought in 1958 for $31,500 and his preference for public transportation make Buffett an outlier in the magnate set. So does his support for higher tax rates for billionaires or, as he puts it, tax rates higher than his secretary pays.

So while Republicans scurry around trying to avoid ticking off Norquist and his army of conservative contributors, Democrats fawn over Buffett for his magnanimous position on tax equity, philanthropy and the public good.

Buffett's latest round of book tour interviews also offers a sharp contrast to actions by major corporations such as Oracle and Wal-Mart, which are accelerating dividends to the end of this year to help shareholders escape anticipated higher capital gain tax rates next year.