It's not really news that Warren Buffett is pleased with the job Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and
Chairman Ben Bernanke are doing. What would have been surprising is if he wasn't.
Buffett, one of the world's most revered investors and chairman and CEO of
, praised Geithner and said he couldn't see how the country could have done better than having Bernanke at the helm of the central bank, praising his decisive leadership in a series of interviews before his lunch with a Chinese investment manager who bid $2.1 million in a charity auction to dine with the Oracle of Omaha.
Financial companies, like Buffett holdings
, certainly couldn't have done much better.
These companies were among the biggest recipients of aid through the financial sector bailout orchestrated in part last fall by Bernanke and then-New York Fed President Geithner. As the intensity of the crisis waned early this year and financial companies wanted out from under the scrutiny attached to being wards of the state, all of the above but Wells Fargo paid back the government's investment made through the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Saving the banking system benefits everyone who uses the system, so Buffett's assertion is not without merit. But there's no denying that saving the banking system benefits the banks and their shareholders even more. Just ask an ex-
employee or shareholder if they wouldn't have minded a bailout.
, which has come under fire with fellow rating agencies Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings, also benefitted from the Obama administration's recent proposal to overhaul regulation of the financial industry. While the rating agencies have been roundly criticized for not being tougher graders on companies and securities impacted by the credit crisis and mortgage meltdown, the system would remain virtually untouched by the proposed overhaul -- benefitting the captive audience Moody's and the other ratings agencies have enjoyed for being the official arbiters of financial health.
That said, not all has been rosy for Buffett. He told
that all the reports he sees from Berkshire's retail, manufacturing and utility businesses show the economy has remained fairly flat.
Buffett joked that he had hoped the cataract surgery he had a couple weeks ago would help him see the "green shoots" of recovery others have talked about, but he still hasn't.
"There were a lot of excesses to be wrung out, and that process is still under way," Buffett said. "And it looks to me like that process will be under way for quite a while."
Buffett didn't weigh in on the wisdom of the new financial regulations, saying he first needs to see the details of what's included in the plan.
But Buffett said the government needs to do something to make sure the economy doesn't wind up in a situation similar to last September, when the level of borrowing threatened to cripple the economy.
But that will be hard to do, Buffett said, because it's hard to write rules to prevent excesses.
"It's in human nature to go to excess," Buffett said.
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Gannon joined TheStreet.com in March 2007, after spending more than six years as a reporter and editor for The Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y., most recently as an assistant metro editor. He earlier covered several political and government beats as a reporter, including the city of Yonkers. Earlier in his career, he covered venture capital, private equity and the IPO market for Thomson Financial�s Venture Capital Journal and advertising for Sales-Fax, a small, independent trade weekly. He earned a B.A. in history from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University�s Medill School.