Obama Avoided Depression, Got ‘No Credit,’ Cote Says

Honeywell CEO David Cote
David Cote, chief executive officer of Honeywell International Inc. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Honeywell International Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Cote said President Barack Obama avoided a depression and has gotten little credit for doing so.

“I have never seen such panic consuming the markets,” Cote said today in a Bloomberg Television interview with Betty Liu. “It is like everyone forgets that stuff afterwards.”

Cote said he favored the $814 billion stimulus bill and other remedies to spur growth amid the worst economic slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The stimulus has been a topic of debate in the congressional elections, with Republicans calling it a failure because the economy remains weak.

“It’s bad now, but it would have been significantly worse if we hadn’t done anything,” said Cote, 58. “The president gets very little credit for avoiding a depression.”

Cote’s comments in support of the stimulus plan set him apart from CEOs faulting Obama’s economic agenda, including his peer at Procter & Gamble Co., the world’s largest consumer- products maker. Complaints include Obama’s efforts to overhaul rules for Wall Street, raise taxes on overseas income, tighten environmental reviews and rework pending free-trade agreements.

“The business community is about as alienated from a government as I have ever seen it,” Mort Zuckerman, the 73-year-old CEO of Boston Properties Inc., said in a Sept. 10 interview with Bloomberg Television.

Curb on Growth

Unemployment running at more than 9 percent, including 9.6 percent in September, continues to damp economic growth, even with the National Bureau of Economic Research concluding last month that the recession ended in June 2009. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said on Aug. 27 that the central bank “will do all that it can” to keep the recovery going.

“You would have to say there is a lot of trepidation in the business community,” Cote said. “It is an odd time.”

Honeywell, a maker of car turbochargers and aircraft parts, also has criticized the administration. In an interview last month with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Radio, Chief Financial Officer David Anderson said a bill signed by Obama to raise taxes on profits from the outside the U.S. is “absolutely counter to what we should be pursuing as a country.”

Cote has been CEO since 2002 at Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell. The company said Oct. 22 that third-quarter sales rose 9 percent as manufacturing rebounded.

The U.S. economy remains at risk from a rising budget deficit that threatens to push annual interest costs on the debt to $1 trillion a year in 2021, said Cote, a member of the National Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

“The seeds of the next recession have already been planted,” he said.

Obama’s deficit commission will make recommendations in a report due in December, after the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

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