Tuesday night’s Presidential debate in Nashville featured a few notable clashes, but on one topic there was unanimous agreement: Warren Buffett. The so-called “Oracle of Omaha” is an Obama supporter but also received a nod from John McCain. When asked who would be a suitable Treasury Secretary both men invoked Buffett’s name. So who is the Oracle everybody admires?

Well, Warren Buffett is the 78-year old chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company based in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2007 Forbes ranked him the richest man IN THE WORLD, worth $62 billion. Recently his wealth declined to $50 billion…but you get the idea. 

How does somebody get that rich? By buying the stocks of companies that make good returns for their investors. Some of Buffett’s picks over the years include: Coca-Cola and McDonalds as well as Dow Chemical, and of course WalMart. Trouble is, those that make the best returns for their shareholders don’t generally treat their workers all that well — or the environment. Heck, that shareholder profit’s got to come from somewhere. Buffett also owns MidAtlantic Energy, a utility that burns coal and runs nuclear power plants.

In terms of Buffett the bellwether — the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Buffett was shopping for businesses in Europe; he owns some in Israel, and last week announced an investment in a Chinese venture that makes batteries for electric cars. Not a very reassuring move for car makers here at home.

Buffett would change the tax system to make it fairer — He’s been public about the fact that in 2006, he paid just 19% of his income in total federal taxes. He gives lots of money to the Gates Foundation. So you can see why he’s a man for all candidates.

But if the candidates like Buffett for Treasury Secretary so much, it’s odd that they vote for Paulson. When Buffett kicked in $5 billion to Goldman Sachs he demanded 10% interest back. Paulson just gave it away.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.