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Posted Oct 26, 2012, 10:06 am
On the same day that former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama, 80 CEOs from America’s largest companies called for action on the deficit that sounds an awful lot like the Obama plan. In an open letter to the Wall Street Journal (behind the paywall) they debunked the notion that simply slashing government spending is a realistic or desirable deficit reduction plan.
The Journal explained it this way,
“Chief executives of more than 80 big-name U.S. corporations, from Aetna Inc. to Weyerhaeuser Co., are banding together to pressure Congress to reduce the federal deficit with tax-revenue increases as well as spending cuts.”
The companies represented include Alcoa, Allstate, AT&T, Bank of America, BlackRock, Boeing, Caesars Entertainment, Caterpillar, Cisco Systems and Corning.
In dismissing any plan that relies on cuts alone, they effectively called out Mitt Romney as a big, fat fibber. They derided any plan that relies simply on austerity to reform the deficit as unworkable. Romney’s plan does not include the actions these CEOs believe will work. In this, they agree with most all economists.
Mostly, the short letter is the usual pap we hear from titans of industry at banquets and annual meetings. But the CEOs, said that a fiscal plan "that can succeed both financially and politically" must include cost controls on health care and tax reform that "raises revenues."
Signatories also included Deere & Company, Deloitte FGS, Delta Air Lines, DIRECTV, Dow Chemical, Foot Locker, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Honeywell International, Humana, JPMorgan Chase, and Loews.
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, told the Journal,
"You can't tax your way to fix this problem, and you can't cut entitlements enough to fix this problem."
The letter from CEOs is in sync with Democratic plans for health reform, tax policy and war’s-end deficit policy. It also seems consistent with Obama’s “grand bargain” and it specifically mentions the Simpson-Bowles framework.
The CEOs also say any deficit reduction plan should “be enacted now, but implemented gradually to protect the fragile economic recovery.”
Also included were M&T Bank, Marriott International, Marsh & McLennan, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, NASDAQ, NYSE Euronext, State Farm, T. Rowe Price, Time Warner, United Parcel Service, Verizon and Walgreen.
Missing from the plan was any talk of corporate tax cuts, the “certainty” canard, capital gains tax cuts, or the misrepresentative notion of “job creators.” As my grandma might say, “Well, imagine that!” Also missing were calls for increased defense spending.
They end by saying, “The plan should be conducive to long-term economic growth, protect the vulnerable, include credible enforcement mechanisms to ensure that debt reduction is achieved and leave the next generation better." It’s notable that our captains of industry want to protect the vulnerable.
The Republican plan, of course, assumes that the vulnerable are simply lazy and that a good kick in the ass and an empty plate at mealtime is all that is required to make them safe and secure. Nobody gets to be the CEO of a Fortune 50 company without a certain level of ruthlessness. That’s not a jab; simply an observation. However it seems that Romney/Ryan is willing to go to a level of low where even these guys won’t.
To be fair, you’d be hard pressed to call the CEOs “liberal.” They’re not. But apparently, not all the “makers” want to punish all of the “takers.” That’s refreshing, hopeful, and even forward-thinking. Maybe that’s why this group of CEOs chose to speak up just now.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”