Warren Buffett should explain Burger King deal, which looks to some like tax evasion

Warren Buffett might very well be America's favorite investor, but his latest deal may prove to be highly unpopular with his acolytes.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is putting up 25 percent of the financing - about $3 billion - for Burger King's acquisition of Canadian fast-food operator Tim Hortons. In doing so, he is wading deeply into the political debate over corporations and taxes.

This looming deal of food giants seeking a larger global footprint appears to involve what's called a tax inversion. The combined company would be headquartered in Canada, which has a lower tax rate than the U.S., though the Burger King operation would remain in Miami.

To many people, "inversion" sounds a lot like tax evasion. Congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama have been challenging such deals. The outcry, for example, may have recently caused the Walgreen Co. to change its mind about moving to Switzerland as part of the acquisition of a drug company.

It's hard to believe that this multibillion-dollar deal is solely dependent on the tax savings presented by a corporate flight across our northern border.

Buffett and Burger King executives on Tuesday said as much. Buffett should make himself very clear on the logic and appearance of this deal. Given his vast influence, he should do so quickly and convincingly.

—Kansas City Star, Aug. 27

 

Use discretion in arming our police

Police departments shouldn't be equipped like armies. But the Ferguson, Missouri, police department looked like one recently when officers in full body armor and military-style vehicles fired tear gas and trained assault weapons on people protesting after a police officer shot and killed black teen Michael Brown, whose funeral was Monday.

Armies wage war. Police are supposed to keep the peace. That distinction was blurred dangerously in Ferguson by the provocative display of military hardware, much of it made available by the federal government. Some protesters looted stores. A few threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. There was scattered gunfire. But the oppressive response by militarized police aggravated rather than cooled tensions.

Department of Defense programs have funneled more than $5 billion in weapons, vehicles and other hardware to police in the United States since 1997.

But the indiscriminate flow of military equipment should be reined in. President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the programs. Congress is gearing up for hearings and legislation. The type of equipment available should be limited. Do police really need 14-ton "mine-resistant ambush-protected" vehicles designed to withstand roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan? Police should have to document a clear need for the equipment they seek. And restrictions should be imposed on how it can be used.

Police shouldn't be outfitted for war. The people they are sworn to protect and serve are not the enemy.

—Newsday, Aug. 26