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  • Warren Buffett cheered the Federal Reserve and Congress for responding quickly to the pandemic in the spring at a virtual event hosted by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses this week.
  • “They did exactly what they should have done because we were developing truly major problems in financial markets,” the billionaire investor said about the Fed.
  • Buffett also emphasized the challenges facing small businesses and highlighted the need for additional government support.
  • “If anybody asks my advice on it, I would recommend the Republicans, Democrats, whomever, go to work to help small businesses because they are the future of this country,” the Berkshire Hathaway CEO said.
  • The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses event was held to celebrate the graduation of 10,000 entrepreneurs from the program and to offer advice to alumni about navigating the pandemic.

Warren Buffett compared the COVID-19 pandemic to a “hurricane,” praised the Federal Reserve and Congress for moving quickly to offset its brutal impact and called for additional government support for small businesses during a rare appearance this week.

The famed investor made the comments at a remote event hosted by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a philanthropic initiative that provides education, funding, and support to small businesses and has graduated 10,0000 entrepreneurs to date.

Buffett sits on the program’s advisory council with Goldman CEO David Solomon, Bloomberg LP cofounder Michael Bloomberg, and General Motors CEO Mary Barra. They gathered virtually to celebrate the milestone of reaching 10,000 graduates and offer guidance to alumni.

Reacting to a crisis

“You’ve run into a headwind,” Buffett told the small-business owners from his Omaha office. “It’s more like a hurricane in a country that’s generally supplied a tailwind to entrepreneurs and to its citizenry in general.”

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO — who has kept an unusually low profile since his company’s annual shareholder meeting in May — also cheered the US government’s response to the pandemic as better than its reaction to the financial crisis.

“Large companies have been really enormously helped by the actions of the Fed in mid-March,” Buffett said. “They did exactly what they should have done because we were developing truly major problems in financial markets.”

“Chairman Powell and the Fed acted decisively and opened up credit markets just instantly, and we’ve had record volumes of money raised for big companies since that time,” he continued. “Also the Congress behaved fast and well on fiscal policy, they behaved better than they did in the 2008 period.”

Buffett is more than qualified to make that comparison. He famously swooped in when credit markets seized up during the financial crisis, plowing billions into companies such as Goldman Sachs and General Electric, and lending to the likes of Harley-Davidson.

“They’d seen the troubles that occurred back in 2008 and ’09,” he said about US government officials. “So they went to work very promptly.”

“And instead of being motivated by the hatred and assignments of blame as they were in 2008 and ’09, when they felt they were helping the people that had caused the trouble, it was obvious in the spring that this was really an extraneous event and that there was nobody to blame for it.”

Small businesses need help

Buffett’s conglomerate owns scores of small businesses including See’s Candies, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Borsheim’s. As a result, the investor is all too aware of how badly they’ve been hit by the pandemic.

“The small businesses generally need plenty of help now,” he said. “And because it’s so obvious, I think that the new administration will act promptly to extend help to small businesses.”

Buffett acknowledged that smaller companies have already received some aid from government programs. However, he asserted they have also been “somewhat disadvantaged” relative to larger rivals, because the latter have much easier access to credit following the Fed’s interventions.

“If anybody asks my advice on it, I would recommend the Republicans, Democrats, whomever, go to work to help small businesses because they are the future of this country,” Buffett said.

The Berkshire boss ended on a positive note. “The clouds will go away,” he said. “The government should help them go away and in a hurry.”

“But as long as I hear the stories of the people that talked a little earlier and the people I’ve met at the six graduations I’ve gone to, I can’t help but be an enormous bull on America.”

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