US CEOs Demand Action on Deficit

Chief executive officers (CEOs) of more than 80 major US corporations, including Goldman Sachs, Cisco Systems and Boeing, have joined forces to lobby Congress on reducing the federal deficit, in a rare share of broad corporate unity.

Although the list largely excludes companies in the energy and technology sectors, an omission that organisers say they are trying to address, the participating CEOs said it was urgent to put in place a bipartisan plan to shrink the US debt load.

“We are one deal away from fixing the debt and putting our nation back on a stronger economic footing that can restore us to greater job growth,” Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini, said in a statement backed by 86 other CEOs. “If the Congress can commit to a plan outline as early as possible after the election, it will restore business confidence in our economy and investment will follow.”

The statement suggests that any fiscal plan “that can succeed both financially and politically” has to limit the growth of healthcare spending, make Social Security solvent and “include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.”

The signatories to the manifesto deem tax increases inevitable no matter which party succeeds at the polls in November. “There is no possible way; you can do the arithmetic a million different ways” to avoid raising taxes, said Bertolini. “You can’t tax your way to fix this problem, and you can’t cut entitlements enough to fix this problem.”

The CEOs’ statement was co-ordinated by a group called ‘The Campaign to Fix the Debt’, which is urging Washington to set aside partisan differences. The group is essentially a single-issue coalition and its leaders include major 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.

Billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson, who has devoted millions of dollars to raising public awareness of the deficit, has been the major underwriter of the coalition. Other trade associations and business groups, such as the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce, are also lobbying on the US ‘fiscal cliff’.

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