Jan. 19 (Bloomberg)
By Frank Connelly
The U.S. is facing an “economic Pearl Harbor” that has spread fear throughout the country, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told Tom Brokaw in an interview broadcast yesterday on Dateline NBC.
“We have a negative feedback cycle going on right now,” Buffett said, according to a transcript of the interview on CNBC’s Web site. “We have fear which leads to people not wanting to spend, and not wanting to make investments. And that leads to more fear.”
Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said Barack Obama is “the absolute right commander in chief” to guide the country through the financial crisis. Obama, 47, will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. president tomorrow in Washington.
He can “convey to the American people what needs to be done, not to expect miracles, that it’s going to take time,” Buffett, 78, said in the interview.
Buffett declined to predict how long the economy will remain under duress, except to say that he doesn’t expect a recovery to take five years. He contrasted the current economic crisis with the period “three or four years ago,” when “everybody lent you more and more on a house that kept going up, and you could keep spending money you didn’t have.”
Buffett said the economic slump is the worst since World War II, though not as severe as the Great Depression. He said “it’s never paid to bet against America,” and that the country would come through the crisis. “But it’s not always a smooth ride.”