/Warren Buffett Has the Cash Americas Infrastructure Needs

Warren Buffett Has the Cash Americas Infrastructure Needs


Maybe he can help us keep the lights on.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

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Today’s Agenda

Make America Not Break Down Again

America is out of balance. CEOs earn 320 times the average worker. The top 10% of American households owns 70% of the country’s wealth. “Emily in Paris” gets Golden Globes nominations, “I May Destroy You” gets none.

Meanwhile, the country’s infrastructure is crumbling, burning up or freezing to death, depending on the season, even as Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sits on $138 billion in cash it can’t spend. This may sound like an apples-and-oranges kind of deal until you realize, as Conor Sen does, that Berkshire also happens to sit on the country’s biggest agglomeration of infrastructure assets through its railroad and energy holdings. You see where this is going: Maybe Berkshire can boost the return on that cash by helping America run a little better.

One area rife with opportunities is the electrical grid, of which Buffett owns a healthy piece. As Texas recently demonstrated, Justin Fox writes, there’s a growing imbalance between the number of Americans using electricity for heat and the ability of the system to not turn into useless scrap at the coldest moment.

Climate change will make such crises more routine. America’s farmers, including Buffett’s Nebraska neighbors, could help this particular fight by using their land to store carbon, Bloomberg’s editorial board writes. With technical assistance from the USDA, they could plug their farms into a carbon-credit market that benefits them, corporations such as Berkshire Hathaway, human beings such as Warren Buffett, and maybe America’s sense of balance.

Free Ain’t Free

One defense of some of the tech behemoths that dominate our lives is that they give away their products for free: Can Facebook and Google really be consumer-harming monopolies if they charge nothing for their services? But one of life’s oldest and truest rules is that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Alex Webb breaks down just how much of the world’s advertising dollars these two behemoths devour, forcing other providers to jack up prices for products they once supported with ads. Free search and social media end up making everything else on the internet more expensive.

We Can’t Always Wait for Elections

In case you missed it, Andrew Cuomo as of this writing remains the governor of the state of New York, despite mounting scandals that would have long ago sent any corporate leader packing to spend more time with his family. And maybe this is just. Or maybe it’s the latest reminder, hot on the heels of the presidency of Donald Trump, that the U.S. could really use a more foolproof system for removing leaders without having to wait for elections. Stephen Carter suggests there’s no reason we can’t take a page from Corporate America and make politicians sign employment contracts. This could help put America’s lawyer glut to use.

Further Politics Reading: Neera Tanden’s new job got canceled, but don’t call it cancel culture. — Ramesh Ponnuru

Telltale Charts

With their relatively high yields and their relatively low exposure to rate shifts, junk bonds are a surprising safe haven now that Treasuries are in turmoil, writes Brian Chappatta.

Credit Market Cliff

For evidence Big Oil sees demand in permanent decline, check out how it’s been letting its reserves dwindle, writes David Fickling.

Out of Time

Further Reading

Dems shouldn’t chase Republican votes to pass their Covid relief bill. — Jonathan Bernstein 

The Supreme Court could hurt democracy by trying to avoid politics in voting-rights cases. — Noah Feldman 

European banks forever lag U.S. rivals in investment banking, a problem for keeping them healthy. — Elisa Martinuzzi 

Lex Greensill knew credit insurance was a problem, but he relied on it anyway. — Chris Bryant 

Maybe all our worry about a stock market bubble is a sign there isn’t one. — John Authers 

ICYMI

Dems are squeezing eligibility for stimulus checks.

Trump may run without Mike Pence in 2024.

An Indian Covid vaccine sped into use is proving effective.

Kickers

Japanese billionaire ISO eight people to fly to the moon

Qantas brings back “mystery flights.” (h/t Scott Kominers for the first two kickers)

You should end conversations more quickly. (h/t Ellen Kominers

You might want to parent your kid more like a cave person.

Note:  Please send conversation/parenting advice and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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To contact the author of this story:
Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Brooke Sample at bsample1@bloomberg.net

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