STAMFORD, CT (AP / CBSNewYork) – Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker says the nation’s growing debt level is an urgent issue, warning the country could reach a “tipping point” if debt gets too high.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau: 400 Turned Out For The Speech

The United States has seen its publicly held debt jump from 36 percent of the total economy in 2007, before the financial crisis hit, to 64 percent this year.

The 83-year-old said, “If we don’t begin dealing with this budget deficit, it’s going to be at 90, it’s going to be at 100 within a few years.”

The U.S. government forecasts that its publicly traded debt as a percentage of the total economy will reach 77 percent by 2020.

Volcker, speaking at a fundraiser in Stamford, says countries can get in trouble in some cases when their debt reaches 90 percent. He says the nation needs to show it’s dealing with the issue, which he says should be a central matter of debate for next year’s election.

Four hundred businessmen and businesswomen turned out for the speech.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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