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CEOs urge ‘fiscal cliff’ action

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

It's less than two weeks until the election. Maybe when we get past Nov. 6, regardless of who's elected, we -- and by we, I mean the lawmakers in Washington, D.C. -- can start focusing on the financial problems we'll face Jan. 1, 2013.

Yes, I'm talking about the fiscal cliff, although the truth is that it's more like a fiscal slope.

The Bush-era tax cuts will officially kick back in when 2013 arrives, though we won't have to worry about them so much until we file our taxes.

And the automatic budget cuts to domestic and defense programs aren't kicking in all at once.

That means Congress and the president, either Barack Obama as a lame duck until the end of next January or Mitt Romney as the newly elected 45th president, will have some time to get things worked out. Because they have a terrible tendency to procrastinate, our lawmakers are masters at enacting laws that are retroactive.

But the better path would be to do their jobs now, before we're hanging off the cliff by our fingernails like some cartoon character. The sooner the fiscal cliff issues are at least addressed in a responsible manner, the better it will be for all of us.

That's the thinking of a lot of CEOs of some very big companies.

The problem, according to these captains of industry, is that the impending budget cuts and tax increases are keeping their companies from making plans for expansion and investment. Business and capital hates uncertainty and this potential financial crisis is chock full of uncertainties.

And that is keeping the economy flat.

So what do these high-powered businessmen (and yes, they're mostly men) think Capitol Hill should do?

Compromise.

That's right. They want the Democrats and Republicans to quit sniping at each other and trying to score political points and just do their dang jobs.

"Business leaders from all different industries are getting involved because, no surprise, they can't function in this environment," Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told CNBC.

The committee is the clearinghouse for the CEOs seeking Congressional action. And it and its member business executives agree that "some big changes" must happen. And while the committee doesn't expressly say it supports higher taxes, some CEOs aren't so shy about broaching the seeming inevitability of at least some tax increases.

"There is no possible way; you can do the arithmetic a million different ways" to avoid raising taxes, Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, told The Wall Street Journal. But he also emphasized that he and his like-minded CEOs will resist higher tax rates unless they also see significant spending restraint.

And what will that take, Congress? Compromise, that word that so seems to terrify Washington, D.C., these days.

Will our lawmakers who seem to turn a deaf ear to voters most of the time finally listen to the corporate interests, many of which contribute to campaigns?

I'm not a big fan of big business calling legislative shots, but right now I'll take any help we can get to spur representatives and senators to quit fighting amongst themselves and start fighting for our country's economic interests.

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3 Comments
Ray
October 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

Who cares what CEO's want! Is this the United States of America or the United Corporations of America? Yep, it's the latter, and that's the problem.