Warren Buffett, in his annual letter, says you don't have to be an economist to understand one of the key factors that has made America great: Immigration.
Nonetheless, the statement from Buffett, the world's third richest man, may attract some controversy this year. As a candidate, Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to restrict immigration. And now as president, he has been working to introduce stringent limitations on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Buffett, who is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, in his annual letter to shareholders, which was released on Saturday morning, writes that America's economic growth has been "miraculous." He says one of the main reasons for that has been a tide of "talented and ambitious immigrants" to the U.S.
The letter, which is widely read for clues on where the world's most famous investor thinks the economy and markets are headed, is not an explicit rebuke of President Trump. In fact, Buffett does not name the new president by name in the letter. What's more, only a small portion of Buffett's 29-page annual letter touches on politics, including a brief defense of entitlements. And Buffett, who publicly backed Hillary Clinton for president, has said he doesn't think Trump will derail the economy.
In the letter, Buffett continues to maintain his optimism about America and the market. "American business—and consequently a basket of stocks—is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead."
But Buffett does sound a bit more cautious about what could happen to the market in the next few years. Some, including another famous investor, George Soros, have suggested that the mixture of high stock valuations and uncertainty about policy decisions under Trump could cause the market to crash. Buffett isn't predicting that. But he does offer caution. "The years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines—even panics—that will affect virtually all stocks," Buffett writes. But don't panic, he says. "Yes, the build-up of wealth will be interrupted for short periods from time to time. It will not, however, be stopped."
Buffett does seem concerned about the uneven distribution of that wealth. He says that there is some concern that some Americans are still too much in debt. A foreclosure may not cause wealth to go away, but it does redistribute it. Buffett quotes the author Gertrude Stein: "Money is always there, but the pockets change." And while Buffett does praise America's market system for rewarding success, he also seems to back the government's role in determining the "distribution of a significant portion of the bounty."
And that statement will likely be met with some disagreement these days as well. With the president aspiring to lower taxes for both businesses and individuals, it seems clear Trump is looking for the government to redistribute even less wealth in this country than it has in the past. In the end, Buffett does seem to express strong optimism about American's long-term future, but he's also suggesting how we get there over the next four years might be a challenge.