Monday/ healthcare cost matters (not taxes)

I checked out some of the live-streaming of the Berkshire Hathaway* annual meeting on Saturday.

*Berkshire Hathaway is an American multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.  Warren Buffet (86 yrs old), business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, has been CEO since 1970.  His 37.4% ownership of the company’s share makes him the second wealthiest person in the United States, with a total net worth of some $78.7 billion.

During the Q&A session, people ask all kinds of questions (as usual, at these meetings). What does Warren think of the Republican healthcare proposal?  Buffet pointed out that in 1960, corporate taxes were 4% of GDP, and that it is 2% today.  Healthcare costs, on the other hand, increased from 3% of the GDP in 1960, to 17% today.  So it puts the American economy at a 6% disadvantage against its competitors, since healthcare is 10 or 11% of the GDP, in OECD countries.  So it’s very important to bring healthcare costs under control, and to reduce waste and unnecessary treatments.

Inevitably, the question of Coca-Cola came up as well, as it does almost every year. (Berkshire Hathaway holds 400 million shares, and Buffet drinks a lot of it).  Is it not bad for you, and for people in general? And are the Coca-Cola company with its products still a good investment?

Said Buffet: I would say I’ve been eating things I like to eat all my life. And Coca-Cola, this Coca-Cola 12 ounces, I drink about five a day. It has about 1.2 ounces of sugar in it. And if you look at what different people get their sugar and calories from, they get them from all kinds of things. I happen to believe I like to get my calories from this, I enjoy it … if you told me that I would live one year longer—and I don’t think I would—if I’d live one year longer if I ate only broccoli or asparagus or whatever, or if I eat what I like including Coca-Colas and steak and hash browns, I’d rather eat what I like and enjoy eating what I like than eat something I don’t and live another year.  And I do think that choice should be mine. Maybe sugar is harmful and maybe you’d encourage the government to ban sugar … but I think Coca-Cola has been a very positive factor in the country and the world. And I really don’t want anyone telling me I can’t drink it. I think there’s something in longevity of feeling happy about your life.

To which I say: Mr Buffet, enjoy your Coke. You’re a lucky guy. I love Coke, but I can no longer drink the stuff.  (Doctor’s orders).

This screenshot is from Friday, from CNBC’s coverage of the events at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. That’s Becky Quick from CNBC, flanked by the Kool-Aid Man and by Mr Peanut, mascots of consumer product companies that BH own.

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