Friday, October 28, 2011

The Big Oil Quiz

1. ExxonMobil produces 2 million barrels of oil per day of worldwide.  In addition to its own production, Exxon also purchases crude oil at the market rate for its global refining network.  How much oil does Exxon buy every day at the prevailing market rate?
a. 500,000 barrels
b. 1 million barrels
c. 3 million barrels
d. 5 million barrels

2. Local, state and federal gasoline taxes average roughly 49 cents per gallon nationally, and are as high as 67 cents per gallon in California and New York.  What amount of profit does ExxonMobil earn per gallon of gasoline sold? 
a. 65 cents per gallon
b. 45 cents per gallon
c. 25 cents per gallon
d. 8 cents per gallon 

3. More than 75% of ExxonMobil’s operating earnings come from outside the United States. What percent of ExxonMobil's workforce is based in the United States?
a.  20%
b. 40%
c. 60%
d. 80% 

4. ExxonMobil is the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. What percent of the world’s oil reserves does it actually control?
a. Less than 1 percent
b. 2 percent
c. 5 percent
d. 10 percent 

5. What percent of the world's oil reserves do America's "Big Oil" companies control?
a. 3 percent
b. 6 percent
c. 12 percent
d. 18 percent 

6. In the first half of 2011, ExxonMobil paid $6.7 billion in tax expenses in the U.S. What were ExxonMobil's operating earnings for that period? 
a. $20 billion
b. $7 billion
c. $5.5 billion
d. $3.5 billion

Find the answers here.

The Grouch's bonus question:  Who gouges their customers more and reaps windfall profits, Exxon-Mobil or Apple Computer?

A Painful Truth

Quote of the Day: Warren Meyer

If the very rich got that way through special access to government power, then why is the solution to tax them more, and not just to reduce government power?

And if the very rich got that way through hard work and innovation, then why the hell are we proposing to take resources out of these people’s hands?

~ Warren Meyer

Several Interviews with William Bernstein

Take Risks in Stocks, Not Bonds

What Looks Cheap Right Now

Precious Metals: Time for Fear, Not Greed

William Bernstein, author of several classic investment books The Four Pillars of Investing, The Investor’s Manifesto, is interviewed by Christine Benz of Morningstar about a variety of timely investment topics.

Peter Schiff vs OWS

Thursday, October 27, 2011

USA, Inc.: Where We Are, How We Got Here, What May Be Next

There's a lot of info packed into the long presentation. May only be suitable viewing for hardcore policy wonks.

Phantom Water

PHANTOM WATER EDIT from Chris Bryan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quote of the Day: ABC News

At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.

“The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own,’” Obama told a crowd of 200 donors over lunch at the W Hotel.

“If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own. If you don’t like that some corporation is polluting your air or the air that your child breathes, then you’re on your own,” he said. “That’s not the America I believe in. It’s not the America you believe in.”

ABC News, from Obama: If We Lose in 2012, Government Will Tell People ‘You’re on Your Own’

Grouch: All I can say is thank goodness the country wasn't founded on self-reliance and individual responsibility. Who cares about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as long as Big Brother is there to take care of us. That's all that counts...... (Side note: Kind of ironic Obama is at the "W" hotel soliciting money.....)

Cartoon of the Day: The 1%

The Wal-Mart Education System

But who has three hands to count this high?

Free or Equal: How Friedman Freed Man

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quote of the Day: Russ Roberts

Occupy Wall Street reminds me of a doctor who sees a patient with a broken arm, decides that both arms are broken, and proceeds to amputate them: The diagnosis is half right, and the cure may be worse than the disease.

Start with the diagnosis. "Us against them" always makes for good theater. But is the big problem with the American economy really the top one percent versus the rest of us? Are we being victimized by the fat cats? The data seems undeniable. The share of income going to the top one percent has risen dramatically over the last 40 years. If the top one percent have more, surely the rest of us have less, right? But as the writer P.J. O'Rourke has said, wealth is not a pizza. If we're sharing a pie, and you get a bigger piece, that does not mean that I have less to eat. It depends on what happens to the size of the pizza. Ten percent of an enormous pizza is more filling than all of a tiny one.

The protesters are right about one thing: Washington has been coddling Wall Street. But they have missed the most important way that Wall Street lives off the rest of us. Programs like the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008 are red herrings. TARP did send $700 billion to Wall Street, but most of it has been paid back.

There is a much more important, albeit quieter, favor Washington has been performing for Wall Street over the last 25 years: When large financial institutions get into trouble, policymakers make sure that their creditors receive 100 cents on the dollar.

The economist Milton Friedman liked to point out that capitalism is a profit-and-loss system. Profits encourage risk-taking. Losses encourage prudence, which is just as important. Over the last 25 years, however, government policy has been laissez-faire when it comes to profits, and socialist when it comes to creditor losses. That is a very destructive cocktail. It has encouraged imprudent risk-taking financed with large amounts of borrowed money. When you subsidize recklessness, you unsurprisingly get a lot more of it.

The bailouts of large creditors -- such as the 1984 rescue of Continental Illinois, the 1995 rescue of Mexico, and the 1998 government-orchestrated attempt to save the creditors of Long-Term Capital Management -- sent a signal to large lenders that they might lose little or nothing if the investments they fund go bust. That in turn made lenders much less cautious, allowing financial institutions to use borrowed money, rather than their own capital, to finance the housing boom.

Using borrowed money instead of equity lets you keep the upside for yourself. Such an arrangement is always appealing. But why did lenders accept such risks when they do not share in the upside, especially when the investments were increasingly risky? Part of the reason is that government created expectations that lenders might get their money anyway.

~ Russ Roberts, from Occupy Wall Street and Washington's History of Financial Bailouts: Why We Need More Capitalism, Not Less

120 MPH Ford Focus Crash Test

I certainly won't be driving my Focus 120mph anytime soon. Not sure it can even obtain those speeds.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Personification of Big Government--- The Adult Baby

Stanley Thornton Jr. was cleared of fraud allegations by the social security administration, and continues to live off of his social security check that he receives due to his "disability."

The Washington Times reported:

The California man who lives part of his life as an “adult baby” and collects Social Security disability payments says the federal agency has cleared him of wrongdoing and will continue sending checks.

Stanley Thornton Jr. now wants an apology from Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who called for the benefit review because the investigation disrupted the final months of life for his roommate Sandra Dias, who playacted as his mother, spoon-feeding him and helping him into his baby clothes until her death in July.

“We recently reviewed the evidence in your Social Security disability claim and find that your disability is continuing,” the agency said in an August letter that Mr. Thornton posted on the website he maintains to document his adult baby lifestyle.

Mr. Thornton first gained prominence after he appeared on a reality television show and later after Mr. Coburn asked for the Social Security Administration to investigate him. The lawmaker questioned why he was receiving taxpayer-funded Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, commonly called disability checks, given the woodworking skills he demonstrated in May on the National Geographic channel television show “Taboo.”

Dias died July 7, and Mr. Thornton moved out of the apartment they shared.

Quantum Locking

Equality from a Different Perspective

Hey, it's only fair that my pub band should get paid the same as U2.  We've worked really, really hard on our U2 cover tunes.... sound just like them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nassim Taleb on Wall Street Protest, Banking

Nassim Taleb, author of "The Black Swan" and a New York University professor, discusses the "Occupy Wall Street" protest and his view of the global banking system, including how to apply the principles of "Hammurabi's Code" to the banking system. I think applying "Hammurabi's Code" first to the politicians would result in a more satisfying outcome across the entire economic spectrum of activities.

As Allan H. Meltzer said: "Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. Bankruptcies and losses concentrate the mind on prudent behavior."

Sovereign Debt Champions

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dorian Electra: Roll With The Flow

Dorian Electra has done a fantastic job of communicating the basic lessons of Austrian Economics in, well, a single song. She covers:
  • Subjective value - One person's trash is another's treasure.
  • Human action (in circumstances of time and place) - Your economic behavior is unique and perspectival.
  • Knowledge problem, as well as problems of quantification and measurement - Macroeconomic models are pretty much useless.
  • Unseen costs - Big digs and boondoggles mean foregone opportunities for growth.
  • Bottom up versus Top Down - The collective behaviors of individual actors on the ground make up the economy (not aggregate demand).

Via: Ideas Matter

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quote of the Day: Ron Alsop

When Gretchen Neels, a Boston-based consultant, was coaching a group of college students for job interviews, she asked them how they believe employers view them. She gave them a clue, telling them that the word she was looking for begins with the letter "e." One young man shouted out, "excellent." Other students chimed in with "enthusiastic" and "energetic." Not even close. The correct answer, she said, is "entitled." "Huh?" the students responded, surprised and even hurt to think that managers are offended by their highfalutin opinions of themselves.

If there is one overriding perception of the millennial generation, it's that these young people have great -- and sometimes outlandish -- expectations. Employers realize the millennials are their future work force, but they are concerned about this generation's desire to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

~ Ron Alsop, from The 'Trophy Kids' Go to Work

Economic Freedom and Quality of Life

The Green Jobs Answer Man

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quote of the Day: Thomas Sowell

To believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by “society.”

~ Thomas Sowell, from The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quote of the Day: Peter Wallison

There is no mystery where the Occupy Wall Street movement came from: It is an offspring of the same false narrative about the causes of the financial crisis that exculpated the government and brought us the Dodd-Frank Act. According to this story, the financial crisis and ensuing deep recession was caused by a reckless private sector driven by greed and insufficiently regulated. It is no wonder that people who hear this tale repeated endlessly in the media turn on Wall Street to express their frustration with the current conditions in the economy.

Their anger should be directed at those who developed and supported the federal government's housing policies that were responsible for the financial crisis....

Beginning in 1992, the government required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to direct a substantial portion of their mortgage financing to borrowers who were at or below the median income in their communities. The original legislative quota was 30%. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development was given authority to adjust it, and through the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations HUD raised the quota to 50% by 2000 and 55% by 2007

When the bubble deflated in 2007, an unprecedented number of weak mortgages went into default, driving down housing prices throughout the U.S. and throwing Fannie and Freddie into insolvency. Seeing these sudden losses, investors fled from the market for privately issued MBS, and mark-to-market accounting required banks and others to write down the value of their mortgage-backed assets to the distress levels in a market that now had few buyers. This raised questions about the solvency and liquidity of the largest financial institutions and began a period of great investor anxiety.

The government's rescue of Bear Stearns in March 2008 temporarily calmed the market. But it created significant moral hazard: Market participants were led to believe that the government would rescue all large financial institutions. When Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail in September, investors panicked. They withdrew their funds from the institutions that held large amounts of privately issued MBS, causing banks and others—such as investment banks, finance companies and insurers—to hoard cash against the risk of further withdrawals. Their refusal to lend to one another in these conditions froze credit markets, bringing on what we now call the financial crisis.

The narrative that came out of these events—largely propagated by government officials and accepted by a credulous media—was that the private sector's greed and risk-taking caused the financial crisis and the government's policies were not responsible. This narrative stimulated the punitive Dodd-Frank Act—fittingly named after Congress's two key supporters of the government's destructive housing policies. It also gave us the occupiers of Wall Street.

~ Peter Wallison, from Wall Street's Gullible Occupiers

The Failure of CRAPitalism

The Latest Guru to Go Under

Word from David Faber of CNBC is that Roubini Global Economics, the research firm founded by noted guru Nouriel Roubini, is for sale according to people who have been contacted by an investment bank conducting an auction of the firm. Roubini gained famed during the 2008-2009 credit crisis as Dr. Doom, predicting the economic downturn as well as forecasting the European debt crisis. If anyone is interested in the sale, the firm is projected to have revenues of $14 million this year and it will post a loss of roughly $2 million dollars, and projects eight percent revenue growth into next year followed by 40 percent revenue growth in 2013. Obviously, being a guru is no guarantee of success, and appearing often on TV and at high-powered economic conferences does not ensure profitability.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Too Big to Fail

Casey Research provides this nifty chart of how the big 4 banks got to be too big to fail. I don't claim to have any great answers to the too big to fail problem other than to split these companies into two parts--- 1) FDIC guaranteed deposits, 2) money that is at risk such as investment banking, credit cards, etc.

Click to Enlarge

Quote of the Day: Stuart Schneiderman

Finally, let’s offer a few remarks about the students who are camped out across America, protesting against whatever.

At the least, we can say that they are putting their college educations to good use.

The pride of America’s educational system did not acquire the skills needed to do the jobs that are available. They did not learn a work ethic that would have served to propel them into the workforce. And they did not learn that markets have a say in determining their value.

Not at all. Today’s younger generation learned how to complain. They learned how to take offense and how to be aggrieved. They have come to believe that they deserve rewards, regardless of whether they have earned them or not.

And, on top of it all, four years in an American institution of higher education has taught them how to PARTY. According to the London Daily Mail they are putting that side of their educational experience to good use.

~ Stuart Schneiderman from The Revolution Comes to Wall Street

Quote of the Day: Eric Raymond

Community and collectivism are opposites. Community is valuable and powerful; it is individuals freely choosing to cooperate and identify with each other to achieve more than they can individually, as we do in the open-source community.

Collectivism is a fraud. It pretends to be about community, but it is actually about the use of force. Collectivists want us not only to bow to their desire for power over others, but to thank them for coercing us and praise them as our moral superiors.

~ Eric Raymond, from Community versus collectivism

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Perfect Venn Diagram

An explanation of protests for the educationally challenged in the media and government.

Actually, I see things a little differently than the diagram.  The Occupy Wall Street Protesters are looking for an increase in government freebies for themselves and their causes, and less government freebies and favoritism for corporations, while the tea partiers are looking for smaller government, less gov't spending and less crony capitalism which is why the ruling class views the tea party as evil and the Occupy Wall St crowd as benign because they know Occupy Wall St will never get what they are asking for except through the benevolence of the ruling class.

HT: Kids Prefer Cheese

The Destructive Culture of Free (Explicit Lyrics)

The Music

The Rationale

I don't quite know what to say to this. I am reminded of the controversial words of Dr. Walter Williams: "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn’t do, what Jim Crow couldn’t do, what the harshest racism couldn’t do. And that is to destroy the black family." You can read more of Williams' thoughts here. I would extend his words to cover all families regardless of race. The helping hand has ultimately proven on the whole to be very destructive (there are exceptions of course), and an entire culture has developed to play the system for all it is worth. It is easy to understand why California is seeing a flight of businesses and professionals to other states.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picture of the Day: The Anti-Occupy Wall Street 1%

Click to enlarge the picture and read the text

Quote of the Day: Warren Meyer

From: The Consumers and Small Businesses of China

To: The United States Senate

Re: Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011

Dear Senators:

Thanks! For years, our government has pursued a currency and trade policy that has subsidized your American consumers at the expense of our own here in China, and while we are unsure exactly why you would want to end this arrangement (we presume due to powerful lobby by your large manufacturers), we are happy that you are doing so….

A low yuan makes Chinese products cheap for Americans but makes imports relatively dear for Chinese. So-called “dumping” represents an even clearer direct subsidy of American consumers over their Chinese counterparts. And limiting foreign exchange re-investments to low-yield government bonds has acted as a direct subsidy of American taxpayers and the American government, saddling China with extraordinarily low yields and creating inflationary pressures.

Every single step China takes to promote exports is in effect a transfer of wealth from Chinese citizens to Americans, and we are tired of it.

~ Warren Meyer, from Chinese Consumers To US Senate: Thanks

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011) Has Moved on to Conquer New Worlds


Image Via Jonathan Mak


1984 Commercial: "The triumph of the entrepreneur over the ideologue."


Introducing the first iPod


Grouch: The only Apple product I've owned is an iPod, but I had a great respect for Job's relentless innovation that moved computing and entertainment in new directions, his pursuit of perfection and his unwillingness to settle for anything less than perfection.

Just as an aside, keep your eyes and ears open for the usual bash the rich crowd. They will universally be praising Steve Jobs from the President to the entertainment community even though he created great wealth for himself, his employees, his shareholders, and enriched the world with the products he designed.

Amidst the Euro Crisis, How Does Europe See Itself?

click to enlarge

Cartoon of the Day: The New Normal

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What if The NFL Was Run Like America’s Schools?

"Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player's salary is based on how long he's been in the league. It's about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he's an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player's been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct. Let's face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?

No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn't get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money. Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: "They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans." The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn't help.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the NFL in this alternate reality is the real -life American public education system. Teachers' salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn't rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they've been teaching. That's it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you're demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation's children.

Perhaps no other sector of American society so demonstrates the failure of government spending and interference. We've destroyed individual initiative, individual innovation and personal achievement, and marginalized anyone willing to point it out. As one of my coaches used to say, "You don't get vast results with half-vast efforts!"

Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn't working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities, not to the letter of the union contract and federal standards."

~ ex Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Fran Tarkenton from Monday's Wall Street Journal

Grouch: Do you agree with Tarkenton's position?

HT: Carpe Diem

Failures in Education: The Occupy Wall Street Protests

This protester fails to grasp the Jefferson quote on her poster embodies the very philosophy and economic system she is trying to destroy.  Or perhaps she is pining over her dreams of a worker's paradise here on earth?  Wasn't that tried somewhere once before?

Grouch:  I'll raise her one Jefferson quote:  "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."

For those actually curious, here are the demands of the protesters (hint, it contains a lot of "frees" and "Give me mores"):

"Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.

"Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.

"Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

"Demand four: Free college education.

"Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

"Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

'Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.

"Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

"Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

"Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

"Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the "Books." World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the "Books." And I don't mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

"Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

"Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

"These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy."

Grouch: If the country implements these demands, we might as well change our name to Greece or Zimbabwe now and declare bankruptcy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quote of the Day: Brad Jones and Larry Summers

"The allocation of spending to clean energy is haphazard; the government is just not well-equipped to decide which companies should get the money and how much. One of our solar companies with revenues of less than $100 million (and not yet profitable) received a government loan of $580 million; while that is good for us, I can’t imagine it’s a good way for the government to use taxpayer money."

~ Brad Jones, Redpoint Ventures [an investment firm with financial connections to Solyndra], email to Larry Summers Dec. 2009
"I relate well to your view that gov is a crappy vc [venture capitalist] and if u were closer to it you’d feel more strongly. But suppose we think there are all kinds of externalities to renewable investments. What should we do?"

~ Larry Summers, National Economic Council Director, response to Brad Jones, Dec. 26, 2009

ManBearPig, Climategate, and Watermelons: James Delingpole on the Climate Industrial Complex

James Delingpole is the man the climate-industrial complex loves to hate. He has put together a damning case against the green movement in his book Watermelons. This was before the billions lost to taxpayers on Solyndra and Nevada Geothermal Power and how many other companies yet to be named. He is putting a big dent in the carbon robber barrons' dreams of world dominance.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

YTD Portfolio Performance -- End of 3rd Quarter

After a very rough third quarter, our sample highly diversified balanced portfolio has returned -8.10% for the year, slight outperforming the S&P 500 with its -8.77% return. Readers might recall the Meredith Whitney prediction of doom for Municipal Bonds. Ironically enough, Municipal Bonds have turned in the best performance of the year in this portfolio.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Buffett on Double Dip, The Buffett Rule, and Why He Doesn't Voluntarily Pay More in Taxes

In this interview with Bloomberg, Warren Buffett claims we are in a recovery and not heading into a double-dip recession based on the the performance of the 70+ companies that make up Berkshire Hathaway (good news for Berkshire stock holders). The discussion then turns to his support of higher taxes on himself and some of those in his elite friends in the "super-rich" club.

At about 4:30 in the video, the Betty Liu asks Buffett the ultimate question: If he wants the rich (including himself) to pay more in taxes, why doesn't he simply voluntarily write a check to the government for the extra millions that he thinks would be "fair" for him to pay? Buffett fumbles around unable to give a clear answer. The reporter presses him again and asks "Warren, since you're a large proponent of higher taxes, why not write a check to the government for several billion dollars just to underscore a point?" Buffett then fumbles some more and claims that he doesn't want to act alone, but would join a group of other "ultra-rich" taxpayers who are supposedly "under-taxed" and they would all pay higher taxes as a group. Not exactly what I would call acting on your convictions or leading by example.

Why should Buffett wait for anyone else to act instead of being the first to voluntarily pay higher taxes and set an example for the skinflints in "ultra-rich" club? Isn't Buffett's position kind of like saying: I think it's a good idea to donate blood, but I won't do it unless: a) I'm forced to by the government, or b) a bunch of my friends and I hold hands and we all do it together?

HT: Carpe Diem