CEOs Expand Ranks of Support for U.S. Budget Deficit Cut

CEOs Expand Ranks of Support for U.S. Budget Deficit Deal
David Cote, chairman and chief executive officer of Honeywell International Inc., speaks at a conference in New York. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

More than 80 chief executive officers of U.S. companies, including Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Loews Corp., are now supporting a campaign to reduce U.S. federal deficits through spending cuts and tax increases.

The Campaign to Fix the Debt announced its expanded list of CEO support today. Among the campaign’s leaders are Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen of President Barack Obama’s 2010 fiscal commission.

“What we’re trying to do is drive support for the radical middle,” David Cote, CEO of Honeywell International Inc., said on a conference call with reporters.

Congress has been deadlocked over deficit reduction. Obama wants a plan that combines some changes to spending programs with higher taxes on top earners. Republicans want cuts to entitlement programs and oppose tax increases.

“They are likely to be relatively successful in setting the terms of the discussion,” said Michael Linden, director of tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington group typically aligned with Democrats. “No amount of CEO pressure or any pressure, frankly, from sort of outside groups is going to make a difference if Republican congressional members simply won’t agree to new revenue.”

The CEOs contend that a long-term deficit reduction deal would encourage economic growth and that today’s uncertainty is limiting the U.S. economy.

“It’s stopping people from hiring,” said George Paz, president and chief executive officer of Express Scripts Holding Co. “It’s stopping the formation of new capital and new businesses.”

Taxes, Entitlements

The principles of the $30 million campaign call for a mix of policies like the ones that the Simpson-Bowles commission leaders supported -- changes to entitlement programs and a tax code overhaul that would reduce rates and bring in more revenue from individuals. The changes would total about $4 trillion over the next decade, enough to begin reducing the debt as a share of the economy.

That approach is at odds with some Democrats who said the Simpson-Bowles cuts go too far. It also runs counter to many Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who say tax increases should have no part in a deficit-reduction package.

Other companies with chief executives participating in the group include Merck & Co Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

The group says it wants Congress to set up a framework for long-term deficit reduction after the Nov. 6 election as it addresses the so-called fiscal cliff. If Congress doesn’t act, taxes will go up and spending will be cut in January, probably leading to a recession, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“It’s going to get harder as it gets more specific for everybody involved,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who is leading the effort.


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