Developed countries like the U.S. should take care of those in desperate need, said Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
“In a country with $65,000 in GDP per capita … you do take care of the people that for one reason or another … have become roadkill,” Buffett told CNBC’s Becky Quick at The Gatehouse’s Hands Up for Success luncheon in Grapevine, Texas. “We are prosperity. We should take care of people who’ve become roadkill because of something beyond their control … I think that’s the obligation of a rich country,” he said.
Buffett said the benefit of free trade is rather “invisible,” and in fact the policy has done damage to some workers.
“I’m 100 percent for free trade. I think it has benefited the country enormously and will continue to benefit it. But the benefit of free trade is invisible. … There’s nothing in Walmart that says you saved 8 percent because we bought this somewhere other than American manufacturers,” Buffett said.
“You have this huge national benefit unseen but you ruined the economic lives of people who are 50 or 55. They are not going to be retrained and relocated … they became uneconomic in the world of economy. Rich countries can take care of those people to follow policies which benefit all of us to take care of the relative few who are dislocated,” he added.
Buffett also said Thursday that economic growth has lost some steam recently.
Fourth-quarter GDP rose 2.2 percent, in line with expectations, but it was down from the previous estimate of 2.6 percent and leaves full-year growth at 2.9 percent.
J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has also voiced concerns about the economic benefits that are leaving the poor behind, while benefiting big corporations.