Start the conversation
Famed investor Warren Buffett shocked investors at his annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Neb., when he issued a dire warning about America's economy.
"The tax system is not crippling our business around the world," Buffett claimed on May 6, with regard to the U.S. corporate tax rate being the highest among the world's industrialized nations at 35%.
Instead, Buffett blamed another threat much more ominous than corporate taxes looming over American businesses: healthcare costs.
According to Buffett, chief executives would be smart to shift their attention away from tax cuts and towards healthcare costs, which are swelling and swallowing profits.
America's Got a Healthcare Problem
Today's corporate tax rates are simply a distraction, not a true impediment to growth, according to Buffett.
Corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP is arguably the best way to measure the burden on businesses. And American businesses, in particular, are feeling the stretch.
Corporate taxes in the United States currently sit at about 1.9% of GDP. In 1995, corporate taxes were about 2% of GDP.
At the same time, healthcare costs as a percentage of GDP have skyrocketed more than 30% over the past 22 years – from 13.1% in 1995 to roughly 17.1% today.
Meanwhile, healthcare costs as a percent of GDP in Germany are only 11.3%; Japan's are 10.2%, and Britain's healthcare costs are only 9.1% of GDP. China, the world's second-largest economy after the United States in terms of GDP, only faces healthcare costs that are 5.5% of its GDP.
And in America, businesses bear a big share of these healthcare costs.
According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, U.S. corporations spend $12,591 on average for coverage of a family of four — up 54% since 2005.
"Medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness," said Buffett.
You see, the business magnate believes America should transition to a different form of healthcare…
Buffett's Healthcare Fix
According to a May 8 report by The New York Times, Buffett's longtime business partner Charlie Munger has advocated for a single-payer healthcare system in America, and Buffett is on board.
Under Munger's single-payer vision, the United States would enact a sort of universal coverage for all citizens, similar to the current Medicaid system, but with an opt-out feature that would allow the wealthy to still get "concierge medicine," wrote NYT.
"Our bloated healthcare system is a true barrier to America's world competitiveness as well as the single biggest variable where we keep getting more and more out of whack with the rest of the world," said Buffett.
And Buffett is not the only high-profile investor suggesting a change…
Others have touted their own fixes to America's healthcare crisis. Legendary investor and gold bug Peter Schiff touted his own healthcare plan in March, which proposed terminating Medicare and Medicaid programs. And later that month, billionaire businessman Mark Cuban unveiled a single-payer system of his own that would use "free market insurance" plans to set prices.
However, the healthcare crisis in America is not expected to be solved anytime soon, unless Washington finds a compromise.
"On this issue, both parties hate each other so much that neither one can think rationally, and I don't think that helps, either," said Munger.
Which States Will Legalize Marijuana Next?
In fact, data from last year revealed there are over 2,604,079 medical marijuana patients in the United States right now – and that number is growing, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
Money Morning has long been following the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, which now grosses more than $5.4 billion a year.
You see, there are investment opportunities aplenty in this growing market. Here's one our Defense and Tech Specialist – and pot stock expert – Michael Robinson really likes right now…
Pot Stocks Creating Historic Cash Windfalls: The $6.7 billion legal marijuana market is estimated to top $35 billion by 2020. And a few dozen tiny stocks are set to deliver potentially once-in-a-lifetime windfalls. Click here to learn more…