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Published: Friday, 7/8/2011

Buffett says Congress 'playing with fire' over debt

Investor sees risk in contentious debate

Billionaire Warren Buffett calls impasse dangerous. Billionaire Warren Buffett calls impasse dangerous.

OMAHA -- Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said Thursday Congress is playing a dangerous game by considering not raising the U.S. debt ceiling.

The CEO and chairman of the conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said on the cable TV network CNBC that there is no way to tell what might happen if the debt limit is not increased, but it's a dangerous idea.

Mr. Buffett compared the debate over raising the debt limit to a game of "Russian roulette" with one bullet in a revolver.

He said refusing five times out of six to raise the debt limit might not be dangerous, but a sixth time could have catastrophic consequences.

"You're playing with fire when you don't need to play with fire," he said. Mr. Buffett was in Sun Valley, Idaho, at a conference hosted by investment banker Allen & Co. that attracts Wall Street and media moguls.

Congressional leaders from both political parties were scheduled to visit the White House Thursday to talk about cutting the deficit, so a deal can be made to raise the debt limit and avoid a first-ever default on U.S. financial commitments.

Mr. Buffett said Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times during President George W. Bush's administration, so it would be silly not to do so now. Berkshire Hathaway's top executive said he believes the global economy continues to improve slowly, as it has since the fall of 2009, based on reports he receives from all of his company's subsidiaries.

"Business has been getting better consistently in nearly every area except construction," Mr. Buffett said.

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