Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

“I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that any time there is a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.” So said Warren Buffett in a news interview last July.

A somewhat embroidered version also containing the interesting plan below has been making the rounds in e-mail that asks each person who receives a copy to send it on to the 20 people you know best, asking them to do the same.

If that happens, in three days a majority of American people will have the message.


Congressional Reform Act of 2012

  1. No tenure. No pension.

    A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when out of office.

  2. Congress — past, present and future — participates in Social Security.

  3. All funds in congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system
    Immediately. All future funds flow into this system and Congress participates with the rest of the American people.

  4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, as other Americans do.

  5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay rise. Congressional pay will rise with the lower of CPI or 3 percent.

  6. Congress loses their health-care system and participates in the same health-care system as the American people.

  7. Congress must equally abide by any laws they pass for the American people.

  8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective at once.

    Congressmen/women made these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The founding fathers envisioned citizen legislators. Ours should serve their terms, then go home and go back to work.

Will Congress pass these laws? Not a chance. But just the thought of them is likely to spur worthwhile reforms.


  1. Andrew J says:

    Warren Buffett did say the first part about ending the deficit in 5 minutes, but he had nothing at all to do with the 8-point plan or the idea that you should forward it to 20 people that followed it — see the Snopes article at http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/buffett.asp for more details. It’s generally a good idea to check Snopes before publicizing these kinds of things, especially anything that asks you to send it on to other people (that’s always a big red flag).

  2. Phillip Helbig says:

    While I appreciate the sentiment, it probably didn’t originate with Buffett and contains some false claims. The facts: http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/28thamendment.asp

  3. John Traylor says:

    Never going to happen, but wonderful if it did.

  4. TonyC says:

    I knew I liked old Buffett!

  5. Dan'l Danehy-Oakes says:

    URBAN LEGEND ALERT: The quote is really from Warren Buffett, but the eight-point plan is NOT. When you get things like this that ask you to pass them on, you should check them out on Snopes.com.

  6. Eric says:

    Just to be clear, the “Reform Act” portion of this article has been (mostly) debunked by Snopes.com. Many of the provisions (notably 2,3,4,6) are either already the status quo or might as well be.

    Please see:

    For more information.

  7. Dennis Howard says:

    Members of Congress DO pay into Social Security.

    From Snopes.com:

    It is not true that Congressmen do not pay into the Social Security fund. Since 1984 they have been required to pay into Social Security just as most everyone else does. (A few odd exceptions to the Social Security program still exist, both inside and outside of government, but not for members of Congress.)

    It was true prior to 1984 that Congressmen did not pay into the Social Security fund because they participated in a separate program for civil servants (the Civil Service Retirement System, or CSRS), but that program was closed to government employees hired after 1983


  8. KRG says:

    1 (and the note after 8, by implication) is actually pretty bad, if you think about it- it would, even more than it already is now, make Congress a game about how to use your power to secure the best paying post-term job.

    If anything we should do just about the reverse- for the next 5-10 years, you get a healthy stipend that’s indexed to certain economic health indicators, and are barred from any private sector employment or investments. And if you break those rules, or any evidence of corruption is discovered, you become responsible for paying back every penny of public compensation that you’ve received.

  9. H. E. Parmer says:

    I hate to have to be the one to say it, but what you have here are a few good ideas, poorly expressed, and some really, really bad ones. Worst of all, none of it comes anywhere near addressing what’s wrong with the institution.

    For example: “No tenure”? I think whoever came up with that gem either inexplicably confuses Congress for an institution of higher learning, or they just can’t bring themselves to say “Term limits”. (Which, btw, are a terrible solution that just gives more power to the lobbyists, but that’s another argument for another day.) Regardless, the author should have the honesty to state what they’re really angling after.

    “No pension”? But they can purchase a retirement plan, after giving all the funds in their current pension plan to Social Security. Hokay …

    Whether the congresscritters have a pension or a retirement plan, it’s still the taxpayers’ money. I’d say that making sure their pension/retirement plan is just as crappy as the average worker’s just helps guarantee they’ll legislate with an eye to pleasing prospective employers. Frankly, I’d have no problem at all with paying Congresspeople a ridiculously lavish pension — so long as it was attached to some conditions regarding the jobs they can take for a certain period after leaving Congress, depending on the branch. I’d bet that would save the taxpayer far more money in the long run, by providing less incentive for corporate giveaways.

    Of course, the real root of the problem with Congress is that to get elected in the first place — and then stay in office — you either have to be independently wealthy or have some backers with very deep pockets, who will naturally expect something in return when it comes time for the legislative sausage-making. If the former, well, you might luck out and get a self-made individual who retains some feeling for what it’s like for the average working stiff, but I wouldn’t bet on it. (see: Herman Cain) And if we’re talking about inherited wealth, you’re far more likely to get a Willard Romney than an FDR.

    Nobody gets rich from Congressional pay, or the pension. It’s the various forms of legalized bribery while they’re in office, and afterwards, the sinecures with lobbying shops, think tanks and the corporations. (If, that is, they’ve been a well-behaved politician, stayed bought and consistently screwed the majority of their constituents for the benefit of the 1%.)

    I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Fred, but what’s being proposed here just isn’t very well thought-out, and amounts to little more than slapping a few band-aids on a cancer.

  10. the blog team says:

    All of you directing Fred to Snopes, please reread the post carefully and note the link at “somewhat embroidered.”

  11. Howard Brazee says:

    I always look for possible undesired consequences for a proposal that looks good at first.

    Some of these ideas may result in a Congress of millionaires – people who can afford to give up Congressional perks.

    Oh, I forget, we already have a Congress of millionaires.

  12. John Montague says:

    What saddens me is the poor-response from taxpayers regarding this article. THIS IS a start to correcting the problem. Elected representatives have THE LICENSE TO STEAL while we set back and do nothing to prevent it…. sad. Taxpayers should email Buffett’s solution to their local Congressman…. it’s a start.