CEOs from more than 80 major U.S. corporations are not waiting to see which candidate is elected president to address the country’s growing debt. Instead, they have joined forces to press Congress to reduce the federal deficit in a rare show of broad corporate unity.
Organized by a group called “The Campaign to Fix the Debt,” the CEOs of companies including Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and Boeing, are urging Washington to set aside partisan differences.
The group is essentially a single-issue coalition and its leaders include big-name political and business figures from both parties, and former government officials, among them Robert Zoellick, former president of the World Bank, and Alice Rivlin, former head of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
While not specifically calling for higher taxes, the CEO group is endorsing the principle of a broader tax base that generates higher revenue.
The CEOs believe a comprehensive plan should:
- Reform Medicare and Medicaid, improve efficiency in the overall health care system and limit future cost growth
- Strengthen Social Security, so that it is solvent and will be there for future beneficiaries
- Include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.
However, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini warned that he and other like-minded CEOs would resist raising taxes unless accompanied by significant spending restraint.
“If someone were to make the argument, we just want to increase revenues so we can increase entitlements, the answer is no,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
They say if Congress can commit to a plan, it will restore business confidence in the economy and investment will follow. So far, the Fix the Debt group has raised about $30 million for digital, print and TV ads, as well as to open 20 to 25 state chapters of the organization nationwide. The campaign is working to add more CEOs, particularly in sectors that are not well represented like energy and technology.
This year, the United States deficit topped $1 trillion for the fourth straight year, pushing the national debt past $16 trillion. Both presidential candidates claim to have a plan to tackle the U.S. deficit, but budget experts say neither would get the job done.
Obama says tax increases on upper-income Americans, CEOs included, are an essential and fair element of any deficit-reduction program, while Republican candidate Mitt Romney is against raising taxes, but backs a tax overhaul that he says would spur economic growth.