Commentary: The quotes of 2012

The Kansas City StarDecember 31, 2012 

Merry Cliffmas!

My compilation of quotes saved up over the year runneth over.

So I’m not even repeating the most-stupid quote ever made by a politician, or by anyone for that matter. You know the one.

But oh, the power of a re-elected politician: President Barack Obama warned Republicans ahead of the fiscal cliff talks, “I’ve been keeping my own naughty and nice list in Washington.”

SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son, full of moxie about buying Sprint to take on AT&T and Verizon Wireless: “It’s like the poor kids fighting against the rich kids. Sometimes, the poor kids have more guts to fight the uphill battle.”

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon wasted no adjectives describing how the bank lost more than $2 billion in hedge trading: The credit derivatives position was “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed and poorly monitored.”

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina had some sympathy for Dimon: “We can hardly sit in judgment of your losing $2 billion. We lose twice that every day in Washington.”

Hard-charging former GE chief Jack Welch was shocked by the backlash to this tweet on the surprisingly good September employment report: “Unbelievable jobs numbers … these Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate so change numbers.”

Warren Buffett kept up a steady patter trying to justify higher taxes: “Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea.… Would your reply possibly be this? ‘Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.’

“Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.”

Cliff Asness, who heads the AQR Capital Management Hedge Fund, said Buffett was just “patently wrong.” Of course you use after-tax income on spreadsheets evaluating investments: “Nobody who pays taxes … has failed (while sober) to use after-tax cash flows in this calculation. Somewhere in the spreadsheet there is a number, say 20 percent, or 28 percent, or a Gallic 75 percent, representing the taxes you’ll pay on the assumed cash flow — and you only count the amount you’ll get after paying this tax.…

“Discussing tax policy without acknowledging this fundamental reality is bizarre. Actually asserting the opposite is willful ignorance.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was just tired of ol’ Warren: “He should just write a check and shut up.”

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling didn’t think much those he polls: “The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid. I tell a client — trying to make sense of numbers on a poll that are inherently contradictory — that at least once a week.”

Alan Dlugash, who does financial planning for the wealthy at a New York accounting firm, sang a sad song: “People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress. Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

On global warming, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, put faith in engineers: “Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around — we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions.”

Thank heavens. Aubrey McClendon, now ex-chief of Chesapeake Energy: “We’re going to be able to say in the next 10 years, ‘To hell with OPEC.’ ”

White House press secretary Jay Carney should tip one now and then: “The notion that you can solve all problems over a cocktail, I think, is a little overrated.”

Just so you know. Kenneth Goldstein, Conference Board economist: “The economy that we had before the recession is gone. It’s not coming back.”

It’s fundamental. Andy Laperriere, senior managing director at ISI Group: “Prosperity does not come from spending: It comes from work, savings, and investment.” And Human Events columnist David Harsanyi: “Having a robust array of government services is a luxury, not an engine of growth.”

Economist Thomas Piketty leveled with us: “The United States is getting accustomed to a completely crazy level of inequality. People say that reducing inequality is radical. I think that tolerating the level of inequality the United States tolerates is radical.”

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor didn’t buy North Korea’s line that a rocket launch put a weather satellite in orbit: “North Korea doesn’t need to spend this kind of money on a weather satellite. Go to weather.com.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his proposed ban on big sodas by pointing to New Yorkers’ increased life expectancy, “Just before you die, remember you got three extra years.”

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson noted that Obama’s budget actually cuts discretionary spending: “The paradox is obvious, if unspoken: An avowedly liberal administration is gutting government because it lacks the political will to confront programs for the elderly.”

David Petraeus was all-in blunt about the affair that cost him the CIA directorship: “I screwed up royally.”

We’ll see. Hillary Clinton on whether she’ll run for president: “I have ruled it out.”

Gaffes made by the presidential candidates revealed their driving philosophies.

Obama: “The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.”

Mitt Romney: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

The aforementioned Norquist had the best analysis of the election, and thus had the quote of the year: “The president was elected on the basis that he was not Romney and that Romney was a poopy-head.”

To reach Keith Chrostowski, business editor of The Kansas City Star, send email to chrostowski@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/keithc3

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