OMAHA, Neb. -- With a line of people snaking around two city blocks as the sun rises in this Midwestern city, a passerby might mistake the mob as parishioners waiting to rush a revival tent.This first Saturday in May, however, it is over 12,000 shareholders waiting to rush the Omaha Civic Center for the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, a chance for disciples of Warren Buffett to catch a glimpse of the world's most celebrated capitalist and, if they're lucky, lob a question to Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger. For many, the confab is a near-religious experience, with shareholders viewing Buffett as an investing deity -- something he dismisses. "I think they're smoking something," Buffett joked when asked what he thinks of shareholders who migrate to Omaha because they equate his views on the market to God. Nonetheless, shareholders have once again packed this hockey-arena-turned-classroom to hear the sage opine and wax eloquently about Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A), the markets, his thoughts on corporate governance and life in general. And, of course, to chuckle and respond to the sharp wit and life lessons that Charlie Munger so skillfully provides.
With the weak economy, Buffett noted the "dramatic decline" in interest rates, saying he didn't think he would see such "low levels" in his lifetime. He hinted there may be more to come. "It
the Fed Funds rate might go even lower." Buffett also opined that the burgeoning budget deficit made current tax-cut proposals untenable. "We are going to spend $2.2 trillion this year; it's just a question of where it comes from," Buffett said. "And, frankly, I don't think enough of it comes from people like me and too much comes from people who work in our shoe factories."