Newt's Their Budget Man

Which political leader gets the most credit from Corporate America for trying to achieve a balanced budget? House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), according to a May 19-23 survey conducted for BUSINESS WEEK by Louis Harris & Associates. Gingrich got "excellent" or "pretty good" marks from 65% of 408 senior executives polled. Next came Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) at 55%, followed by Texas Senator Phil Gramm (38%), California Governor Pete Wilson (22%), and Texas billionaire Ross Perot (16%). Last of six politicians listed on the survey: President Clinton. Just 11% gave him positive grades, while 88% rated him as "only fair" or "poor."

The executives were also upbeat about the payoff of a balanced budget. Ninety-three percent believe the dollar would strengthen, 84% expect interest rates to fall, 81% predict the U.S. would be more competitive overseas and would attract additional foreign investment, 74% think their companies would be more prosperous, and 71% anticipate a rising savings rate. Still, the managers fret about potential downside effects of a balanced budget: Forty-nine percent said it could increase the risk of recession, 42% worried that steep spending cuts might ax many worthwhile programs, and 42% acknowledged that the cuts could have a disproportionate impact on the poor, elderly, and disadvantaged.

Would they support Medicare savings? By 4 to 1 the execs endorsed managed care, tax-deferred medical savings accounts, and higher out-of-pocket expenses for wealthy seniors.

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