Perot: U.S. risks being "taken over" if we don't fix economy

Ross Perot listens to a reporter's question during a news conference before accepting the Command and General Staff College Foundation's 2010 Distinguished Leadership Award Tuesday, April 20, 2010, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
AP Photo/Ed Zurga

(CBS News) In a rare interview with USA Today, Ross Perot, the 82-year-old former third-party presidential candidate, called for long-term solutions to the nation's ongoing economic woes - and warned that, barring substantive fixes, the U.S. could lose its sovereignty.

"The last thing I ever want to see is our country taken over because we're so financially weak, we can't do anything," he said.

Perot, who earned 19 percent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election, likely costing George H. W. Bush a second term, has declined to endorse a presidential candidate in this election, arguing that neither party is taking responsibility for the nation's growing debt.

"We're on the edge of the cliff, and we have got to start fixing it now. Otherwise, we're leaving a disaster to our children's and our grandchildren's future," he said. "Nobody that's running really talks about it, about what we have to do and why we have to do it. They would prefer not to have it discussed."

He likened the country's economic dilemma with that of an alcoholic.

"It's like the guy who's drinking -- sooner or later, he's got to put a cork on the bottle, right?" Perot says. "You have to have the will to do it."

In the interview, Perot noted with regret that despite his 1992 crusade to hold lawmakers accountable for the national debt, "I didn't get done what I hoped I'd get done."

"Whether I got elected or not, I hoped they'd all get busy and straighten it out. That hasn't happened yet, and this is my last big effort here," he said. Perot says he's "too old" to mount another political bid - but says he's supporting David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general who is on a national swing state tour aimed at educating voters about the economy, in his efforts.

He wasn't particularly optimistic about the future prospects of third-party candidates running for president.

"It's almost impossible to do it," he says. "It would be a very healthy thing if you could get it done and make it happen, but it's very difficult to do, and very few people would want to try. ... They know they're going to be butchered from day one for what they've done, and much of the media will participate actively in that."