In an interview with Tom Brokaw for Dateline NBC, Buffett says there's a lot of fear everywhere as the country faces "an economic Pearl Harbor .. something it hasn't faced since World War II."
Buffett predicts that Obama's plan for a massive stimulus program will help, but not right away.
"We're gonna have a medicine coming in a dosage we've never seen before ... but it won't have immediate impact ... It takes time for it to hit the economy in real force. So people should not expect miracles in February or March or April. That isn't gonna happen."
Buffett thinks Obama will make sure the American people know that there will be some pain and sacrifices to be made. "That's exactly what he's gonna say, 'cause it's the truth. And he's smart enough to know it's the truth ... and he's the kind of person who's going to tell you the truth. So, I think he's the ideal president for it. But that's not because I think he can wave a magic wand."
While Buffett doesn't rule out the possibility that unemployment will rise to double digits before the end of the year, he doesn't expect the current economic downturn to be as severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s.
And he remains very optimistic about the country's ability to come through troubled times. "The truth is we've done it before and we'll do it again ... But it's not always a smooth ride."
"In the end," Buffett says, "since 1776 it's never paid to bet against America."
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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
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