‘Nobody should be roadkill’
OMAHA: Warren Buffett likened unemployed workers to animals that are helpless to avoid car crashes, and said the United States must do more to help those displaced by competition from overseas and technology.
“Nobody should be roadkill,” said Buffett at the annual meeting of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc, here, on Saturday.
The billionaire faced several questions at the gathering about declining employment in the manufacturing sector — a key theme in the recent presidential race — and about job cuts at Kraft Heinz C, the foodmaker backed by Buffett and 3G Capital.
He reiterated his view that society at large benefited from both economic efficiency and free trade, often at the expense of individual workers who struggled to find new jobs.
He spoke of the plight of former employees at a Berkshire textile operation in New Bedford, Massachusetts, who lost their work to competition from cheaper locations decades ago.
Buffett said such shifts helped millions of people by providing necessities at a lower cost.
“Massive trade should be — and is actually — enormously beneficial to both the US and the world,” he said.
“Greater productivity will benefit the world in a general way, but to be roadkill, to be the textile worker in New Bedford” was a painful experience, he added.
“It would be no fun to go through life and say I’m doing this for the greater good, and so that shoes or underwear was all for five per cent less.”