Italy Has Choice of 'Two Clowns': Wilbur Ross
Producer, CNBC's "Squawk Box"
Italy may be less stable politically than Greece, private-equity billionaire Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Friday, adding that he's impressed with the reforms of new Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Ross said in a "Squawk Box" interview that he recently met with Samaras, who has packed his cabinet with business-people.
"I even met with the opposition parties [in Greece] and they weren't talking about leaving the euro and going back to the drachma," he said.
By constrast, in the wake of the unresolved Italian election, the WL Ross chairman said he's worried the next leader of the economically-troubled nation is a choice of two clowns — former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and comedian Beppe Grillo.
"One, an acknowledged clown, and one may be inadvertent clown. And until that gets resolved, there's a great danger that the nice reforms that Mr. Monti put in will just get rolled back."
Mario Monti, the technocrat, caretaker-leader for the past 15 months, came in a distant third. The European Commission supports Monti's policies and urged leaders in Rome to keep them.
As for politics in Washington, Ross said there's a private-sector solution in domestic energy that could offset the expected economic drag of the across-the-board spending cuts of the "sequester," set to trigger Friday.
He urged President Barack Obama to approve "16 applications pending for natural gas export terminals" and the Keystone Pipeline. "It would not take one penny of … federal contribution. And in fact, it would produce some taxes."
Another way to help deal with the debt problem, Ross said jokingly, is to pass a law barring the use of "euphemisms." Stop calling taxes, "revenues" and stop referring the slowing in the growth of spending as "cuts," he explained.