Buffett, others say high US debt levels pose risks
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK Aug 22 (Reuters) - Warren Buffett, the billionaire co-founder of a top private equity firm and a prominent voice for U.S. fiscal responsibility, called on the United States and its elected officials to combat the nation's fast-growing, multi-trillion dollar debt load.
Buffett, Blackstone Group LP (BX.N: Cotización) co-founder Peter Peterson, and former Comptroller General David Walker were part of a panel that spoke Thursday night in Omaha, Nebraska following the national premiere of the documentary "I.O.U.S.A." The talk was simulcast in more than 350 movie theatres.
The film argues the country might face economic disaster if it can't find a way to pay some $53 trillion it has committed to spend -- and doesn't have now -- as the population ages, and Medicare and Social Security costs soar.
It also argues, and panelists agreed, that the United States has become too dependent on foreign investors to buy its goods and its publicly-issued debt. There was also agreement that many politicians fear making tough policy choices that have ramifications far beyond the current election cycle.
"Our politics have become so embedded and so partisan, with so many special interests, that they require a massive effort from the public telling them, 'we want something done'," Peterson said.
Buffett, who runs Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N: Cotización) (BRKb.N: Cotización) and turns 78 on Aug 30, was more sanguine than other panelists, though he said he doesn't want debt to grow as a percentage of gross domestic product.
"The prospects of being born in the United States are still better than being born anyplace else in the world," Buffett said.
Buffett, the world's richest person according to Forbes magazine, added: "It has not paid to sell America short since 1776, and the time to start is not in 2008." Continuación...