In 2008, Buffett begins his letter, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were forced into conservatorship, Lehman Brothers went belly up, and AIG (AIG) was at "death's door." With financing for companies disappearing, "all of corporate America's dominoes were lined up, ready to topple at lightning speed," Buffett writes. And it wasn't just the corporations, he adds, "300 million Americans were in the domino line as well," with their jobs, income, and 401ks at risk.
"Well, Uncle Sam," the CEO of holding company Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B) continues, "you delivered. People will second-guess your specific decisions; you can always count on that. But just as there is a fog of war, there is a fog of panic -- and, overall, your actions were remarkably effective."
Commenting about the housing crisis, Buffett called it a mass delusion that produced a bubble. "This bubble was a doozy and its pop was felt around the world."
Signing off as "Your grateful nephew," Buffett concludes: "In this extraordinary emergency, you came through -- and the world would look far different now if you had not."