Saturday, February 25, 2012

Attitudes Toward Debt

I recently finished reading "The Snowball" by Alice Schroeder and I have to say it's the best biography on Warren Buffet I've read. Schroeder was given close access to Buffet and the result is a mammoth, sprawling book.

Here's a quote on the subject of leverage that appears quite timely given the state of government debt around the world:

"The deals of the 1980s repelled him above all because they were loaded with debt. To those reared during the Depression, debt was something to be used only with a careful eye for the worst-case scenario. In the 1980s, however, debt became mere "leverage," a way of boosting profits using borrowed money. "Leverage" arrived at the same time that the U.S. government began running large deficits courtesy of "Reaganomics"-the "supply-side" idea that cutting taxes would ultimately increase tax revenues by stoking the economy. Fierce debates raged among economists over whether tax cuts could actually pay for themselves and, if so, by how much. The economy was heating up at the time from consumer spending, also fueled by debt; John and Jane Q. Public had gradually been accustoming themselves to buying everything with credit cards, building up a balance that they would never pay off until from their plastic death did them part. The Depression-era culture of hoarding and saving had turned turtle, into a culture of buy now, pay later."

- Alice Schroeder, "The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life"