Prof. Buffett?

Posted: October 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Economics, Politics | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Last week, I had a great time blogging the veep debate briefly considered doing the same for the presidential debate on Tuesday night. I’m glad I thought better of it, because the whole thing was a big bore. In fact, the ennui of it all was the only thing pundits agreed upon this morning. Otherwise, they were busy hashing out the same old attacks on each other, which is precisely what the candidates did themselves.

There WAS one surprising source of amusement, however, when both Obama and McCain said Warren Buffett would be on their short list for Treasury Secretary. I have misgivings about asking private sector experts to run public sector enterprises. Sometimes, as in the case of Mike Bloomberg, it works out great. Other times, a la Mitt Romney, it flops. The key is whether the expert can check their private enterprise mentality at the .gov door, since business and government just don’t work the same way.

A former teacher of mine put it well today when he compared working in public schools to independent ones. At a private school, you can accept only students you want to teach; at a public school you have to teach the ones you have. Similarly, Warren Buffett can “throw on his living room floor the balance sheet of any company he doesn’t want to invest in. You can’t throw millions of people on the floor.” A Treasury Secretary is like a public school teacher in the hardest inner-city school–you will never have enough books or enough time, but you still have the teach the kids you get. Could a man worth 50 billion and used to making his own choices face that?