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Conservative Internet bloggers are turning up three-year-old quotes from Warren Buffett and casting them as fresh evidence that American support is dwindling for President Barack Obama's health care law.
But the quotes are not properly identified as three years old and do not reflect Buffett's full thinking on the health care law.
It's unclear why or how the old quotes resurfaced.
But we started seeing the Buffett quotes in Facebook feeds on the morning of Sept. 17, 2013, after the Weekly Standard linked to it, starting its blog post, "You know things are bad for President Obama when even Warren Buffett has soured on Obamacare and says that 'we need something else.' "
The link went to a website called Money Morning, which posted an entry on Sept. 13 titled, "Buffett: Scrap Obamacare and Start All Over."
The post on the website includes quotes from Buffett, including:
• "Health care costs in the United States are like a tapeworm eating at our economic body."
• "We have a health system that, in terms of costs, is really out of control. And if you take this line and you project what has been happening into the future, we will get less and less competitive. So we need something else."
• "Attack the costs first, and then worry about expanding coverage. I would much rather see another plan that really attacks costs. And I think that's what the American public wants to see. I mean, the American public is not behind this bill."
The post goes on to paraphrase Buffett as saying he would scrap Obamacare and start over.
A variety of other conservative media outlets spotlighted the post in the past week as a development in the ongoing battle over the health care law, such as Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto and Newsbusters.
But the comments come from an interview that Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., gave to CNBC on March 1, 2010 -- three and a half years ago, before the bill was signed.
Buffett's office told PolitiFact that the blog reports do not reflect his views. Buffett "has never said or thought that Obamacare should be scrapped," said Debbie Bosanek, Buffett's assistant. She said she showed him our research and that he said our analysis "covered it very well."
So what did Buffett say in 2010? They can be found in a Politico article published at the time that summarized the interview.
That article also includes other tidbits excluded from the more recent blog posts that paint a more nuanced picture of his views.
• Buffett was referring to a bill that was still pending in Congress. At the time of his comments, a bill had passed the Senate, but lawmakers were still deciding how to get it through the House, so he’d have reason to think his comments might carry some weight in bargaining over details. He was not referring to the law after it was on the books, and he did not make his comments with three and a half years of hindsight from looking at its implementation.
• Buffett said the bill he was criticizing was still worth passing despite its imperfections. According to Politico, Buffett was asked on CNBC whether he would be in favor of scrapping the Senate’s version of the health care bill; he responded: "I would be." However, Politico also noted "that while he does not like the Senate bill, he’d vote for it in preference to doing nothing."
Buffett said in the interview, "If it was a choice today between plan A, which is what we've got, or plan B, … the Senate bill, I would vote for the Senate bill. But I would much rather see a plan C that really attacks costs."
It’s worth noting that in July 2012, just after the Supreme Court upheld the health care law, Buffett told Bloomberg TV that the court made the right decision.
Invoking the same metaphor, Buffett said health care is "the tapeworm, essentially, of the American economy, and we have not dealt with that yet." But he added, "Obamacare is a step in the right direction in many ways."
Shortly after we started looking into the blog posts, the Weekly Standard added an "update" to its post. It said, "It appears that Buffett made his anti-Obamacare comments in 2010, thereby showing that he, like most of the American people, has opposed Obamacare since even before it was passed — a point that Mark Hemingway addressed yesterday in response to USA Today’s implication that Americans’ widespread dislike of Obamacare is mostly attributable to Republicans’ efforts to fight it."
We sent inquiries to the Weekly Standard and Money Morning but did not hear back. We also sent an inquiry to Buffett and will publish a comment if he offers one.
A variety of blogs reprinted an item indicating that Warren Buffett recently said "Scrap Obamacare and Start All Over." However, the comments came from an interview in 2010, when the health care bill was still being debated, and are not based on the subsequent three and a half years of seeing the law implemented. If anything, comments by Buffett in 2012 suggest that he’s pleased to see the law being put into effect, despite the shortcomings he sees. The notion that Buffett had recently turned on a president he supported by souring on his signature health care law could have been easily debunked using Google searches. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.
Money Morning (blog), "Buffett: Scrap Obamacare and Start All Over," Sept. 13, 2013
CNBC, clip of interview with Warren Buffett, March 1, 2013
Politico, "Warren Buffett would scrap health care bill," March 1, 2010
Bloomberg, "Buffett Says Health Law Is Step to Fix ‘Tapeworm’ in Economy," July 13, 2012
Weekly Standard, "Warren Buffett: Scrap Obamacare and Start Over," Sept. 17, 2013
Wall Street Journal, James Taranto blog, Sept. 17, 2013
NewsBusters, "Warren Buffett Wants ObamaCare Scrapped, Will Media Report It?" Sept. 17, 2013
Email interview with Debbie Bosanek, assistant to Warren Buffett, Sept. 17, 2013
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