Warren Buffett’s article “Better than Raising the Minimum Wage”, which was published online on May 21, 2015 in The Wall Street Journal, is the focus of this essay. The author argues that instead of raising the minimal wages for the low-income workers in the United States the federal government should provide them with an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. It means that a worker will only need to file a tax return, if his wages are moderate, and he will receive a check by the government with a refunded tax. Warren Buffettt sees this measure as a way to achieve virtually every American’s covet: the American Dream, when working hard and behaving well are sure premises for financial success. THESIS STATEMENT: Warren Buffett’s argument is weak due to the flaws in his use of ethos, pathos, and logos so that his successful use of kairos could not make up for the rest of the flaws.
For a start, Warren Buffett has issues with ethos in this article. In order for the author to establish his persona as credible and worthy of consideration by the audience of readers, he needs to demonstrate to the public that he is indeed an expert in the issue and will provide an informed and objective rendering of the issue. In other words, Warren Buffett was to use ethos in order to win his readers’ hearts and minds. However, if one scans his article and does some outside investigation, he or she will quickly find out that Warren Buffettt has little expertise and a clear biased attitude with regard to the problem of granting EITC. Specifically, in the essay Warren Buffett makes no references as to why we should believe his argument: although his is a household name, for an average reader it may remain unclear how a billionaire and magnate like this man can be so deeply concerned with making low-income workers happy via gaining higher economic status. Indeed, he makes no references to how he is related to the issue and this undermines the author persona credibility. To make matters worse even a several minutes Internet search allows anyone to see that Warren Buffett, aside from his philanthropic reputation, is a “corporate deity” and one of the richest men in the world. This rises a suspicion in his attempts to act so strongly on behalf of the low-income Americans. It may be said that Warren Buffett uses some ethos still, where he refers to the history of the nature of worker labor and how it was rewarded. Yet, his knowledge of history is not a great marker of his expertise in his authority as an EITC expert and sincere speaker on the part of those who live in modest economic conditions in the United States. Further investigation into the author’s use of pathos and logos will provide support for this assumption.
In terms of pathos, i.e. appealing to his readers’ senses, Warren Buffett does a better job than with regard to his use of ethos and, as it would be shown later, his use of logos. Specifically, he creates a feeling of a great contrast between what the have-nots are supposed to have within the American Dream ideology and what they in reality have or, better, not have. For example, the author vividly describes how the poor people are in need of a top-notch educational system and then explicitly shows that the growing number of the economically disadvantaged makes this an impossible aspiration. To stir people’s emotion, Warren Buffett uses such words and phrase as “a dismaying 14.5%”, “a depressing fact”, and “the American Nightmare.” His use of the emotionally loaded vocabulary prepares the reader for embracing his argument as a right solution to the issue. However, if to be fair, Warren Buffett fails to achieve adequate pathos here, for his use of vocabulary is not supplemented with a variety of stylistic devices and rhetorical figures that would create vivid pictures of the oppression or EITC in the audience’s minds. To illustrate, the text does not feature any colourful metaphors, except for American Nightmare, rhetorical questions, exclamation marks, etc.
Yet, the weakest point in the argument construction is Warren Buffett’s failure to appeal to his readers’ logics and rationality, for he persistently jumps from one claim to another diverting attention from the real solutions to the problem or real issues leading to what he calls the American Nightmare. In doing so, he leaves too many claims unsupported by evidence and lacking factual proof. Specifically, Warren Buffett’s correctly identifies that “a top-notch school system available to all” but then, without any factual support, claims that it would not resolve the problem of the low wages, because even with good education many people will continue “to earn no more than a bare subsistence.” For anyone even loosely acquainted with the U.S. job market reality, this statement would appear absurd. Indeed, even a community college diploma, not to speak of university higher education, is likely to bring its owner a much higher wages. With regard to the education that leads to a degree, the salaries are incomparably higher while the opportunities of finding jobs are immensely broader. Besides, the opportunities for career growth are virtually unrestricted as all necessary qualification has been gained. In this way, the author shifts the readers’ attention from the real solution to the one that only seems to be a solution but in reality will not increase the level of low-income individuals to the level of the American Dream. Likewise, Warren Buffett identifies the core evil of the economic instability and a key barrier to most low-income people failure to earn enough – the market system of the capitalist society. Yet, again, he does not offer to modify some foundations of this inhumane and devouring monster but shifts the burden of poverty on the state’s shoulders. This is illustrated by his saying that a handful of the rich deserve their riches because they were once fine managers or innovators whereas the only solution for the poor is to beg the state for a tax refund. Again, this claim is based on no conclusive evidence and cannot be taken seriously.
Finally, it is kairos that Warren Buffett’s article cab boast of. The article has published in the right time: right before the start of the pre-election hassle in the United States. It surely aims at adding a few pluses to the reputation of the Democrats who Warren Buffett represents.
In this way, Warren Buffett’s argument has been inconclusive and flawed, with major issue being logos and ethos, and, to a lesser extent, pathos. Even the use of kairos has not made it look less double-faced or hypocritical.
- Buffett, Warren. “Better than Raising the Minimum Wage.” The Wall Street Journal. 21 May 2015. Web. 6 Feb 2016.
- “Multi-Billionaire Warren Buffett Comes Out as a Democrat.” 2 October 2011. Web. 6 Feb 2016.
- “The World’s Most Powerful People: #13 Warren Buffett.” Forbes.com. N.d. Web. 6 Feb 2016.