Billionaire investor Warren Buffett Buffett ripped into Republican Donald Trump Monday over his refusal to release tax returns, his business bankruptcies, and his attack on a fallen soldier’s family, repeating a famous phrase from the McCarthy era, “have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Buffett campaigned alongside U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a rowdy rally in his home state of Nebraska, where he questioned Trump's business acumen.
Trump, a New York real estate developer making his first run at public office, has said he cannot release his tax returns, a ritual of U.S. presidential campaigns, until the Internal Revenue Service has completed an audit.
“Now I’ve got news for him," said Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate is based in Omaha. "I'm under audit, too, and I would be delighted to meet him anyplace, anytime, before the election," Buffett said.
“I'll bring my tax return, he can bring his tax return ... and let people ask us questions about the items that are on there,” Buffett added, saying Trump was “afraid” not of the tax-collecting IRS but of voters.
In response, Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Reuters: “As you know, Mr. Trump is undergoing a routine audit.” She had no immediate comment when asked to respond to Buffett saying that he too was under audit but would release his tax returns.
Trump has asserted his success as a businessman qualifies him to lead the country, but Buffett, mocked Trump’s claims of business success, noting that Trump has declared bankruptcy six times with businesses financed with borrowed money.
The only time Trump sold stock directly to the public was in 1995, when he formed Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts and listed it on the New York Stock Exchange. Buffett said the company lost money every year for the next decade. A monkey would have outperformed Trump's company, Buffett said.
"In 1995, when he offered this company, if a monkey had thrown a dart, at the stock page, the monkey on average would've made 150 percent. But the people that believed in him, who listened to his siren song, ended up losing well over 90 cents in the dollar. They got back less than a dime," Buffett said.
"In the next 10 years, the company loses money every year, every single year, and he takes out $44 million in compensation during that period," Buffett said.
Buffett is chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., an Omaha-based conglomerate whose stock has been publicly traded for about 50 years.
Buffett spoke for nearly 30 minutes to a raucous capacity crowd of roughly 3,100 people in a suburban Omaha high school with Clinton sitting at his side.
He said Trump's “final straw” was an ABC interview broadcast on Sunday in which he criticized the Muslim parents of a decorated U.S. soldier killed by a bomb in Iraq 12 years ago.
The father Khizr Khan spoke at last week's Democratic National Convention about their son and attacked Trump for proposing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Trump said he was “viciously” attacked by Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, when the father publicly doubted Trump had read the U.S. Constitution. Khan said that Trump had "sacrificed nothing," prompting Trump in his ABC interview to say, "I think I've made a lot of sacrifices."
Buffett on Monday bluntly contradicted Trump.
“No member of the Buffett family has gone to Iraq or Afghanistan. No member of the Trump family has gone to Iraq or Afghanistan," Buffett said. “We’ve both done extremely well during this period and our families haven’t sacrificed anything,” he said.
"How in the world can you stand up to a couple of parents who lost a son and talk about sacrificing because you were building a bunch of buildings?" Buffett asked, to a cheering crowd.
In his remarks Buffett announced the launch of a get-out-the vote effort, pledging to take at least 10 people to the polls who would otherwise have difficulty getting there. Buffett said he was backing a website, Drive2Vote, that would coordinate transportation to cast votes and that he had reserved a trolley that seats 32 people for the same purpose.
“I’m going to be on it all day. I’m going to do selfies, whatever it takes,” Buffett said.
Buffett said his goal is to generate the highest voter turnout in the congressional district that includes Omaha of any in the country. Nebraska is one of two U.S. states that award electoral votes in presidential elections by congressional district.
Clinton responded to Buffett's pledge with a promise of her own, if his turnout goal is met.
“Warren and I will dance in the streets of Omaha together! Maybe if we’re really lucky he’ll wear his Elvis costume again!” she said.
“I have made no sacrifices,” Buffett said. “No member of the Buffett family has gone to Iraq or Afghanistan. No member of the Trump family has gone to Iraq or Afghanistan. Donald Trump and I haven’t sacrificed anything.
“So how in the world could you stand up to a couple of parents who’ve lost a son and talk about sacrificing because you were building a bunch of buildings?”
Buffett also said that he “violently disagreed” with Trump’s assessment that the United States is in trouble, saying instead that the country’s future is bright and that the same factors that have made the country a success over the past 240 years are still present today, reported the Omaha World-Herald, which is owned by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Buffett quoted Trump as saying, “No one knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
“Well, la-di-da, you know,” Buffett said. “I didn’t really realize we were in such grave danger.”
Buffett, who’s been an Barack Obama backer, promoted Clinton last December during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, saying in an event in Omaha that he and Clinton share a commitment to helping the less affluent. Buffett spoke about how incomes for the wealthiest increased seven-fold over the past two decades in the U.S. as their tax rates fell.
He was the inspiration for the so-called Buffett Rule, proposed by Obama and backed by Clinton, which would tax incomes exceeding $1 million at a minimum rate of 30 percent. Clinton, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator, has also pledged not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year.
Buffett, an outspoken critic of the unlimited spending in politics that was set in motion by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, has helped Clinton raise money but has yet to make a major financial contribution to her presidential campaign, Bloomberg reported. Early in the election season, he donated $25,000 to a political action committee that helped lay the groundwork for Clinton’s run for the nomination and he contributed the $2,700 maximum to her primary campaign in April 2015. Last year he also gave about $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).
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