Executives call for compromise to avoid fiscal cliff

A group of 158 CEOs who are members of the Business Roundtable last week sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders, urging them to compromise and avoid driving the federal government over the fiscal cliff.

Unless a deal is struck in Washington by Jan. 1, the Bush era tax cuts will automatically expire and severe cuts in federal spending will automatically be enacted, possibly throwing the nation into another deep recession.

The CEOs who signed the letter said they represent a combined $7.3 trillion in annual revenues and more than 16 million employees.

“…We write to express our belief that the United States will suffer significant negative economic, employment, and social consequences for going over the fiscal cliff. In many cases the damage will be long-lasting, if not permanent. But it does not have to happen. We urge you to step forward and demonstrate that principled compromise is once again possible and that the American political system that underpinned the economic success of our nation and others can function as designed. For far too long, political paralysis has fueled global uncertainty that discourages businesses from investing and hiring new workers. This paralysis must come to an end, and in a way that resists the temptation to declare winners and losers,” the letter stated.

The CEOs pledged their support for a compromise that includes “comprehensive and meaningful tax and entitlement reforms that result in market-credible spending reductions and revenue growth. The deal should be a balanced solution to the fiscal cliff and long-term deficit and debt issues. To address these challenges with the scale of response required, no options should be precluded from a potential solution.”

A compromise is needed to the American for “businesses to invest in new factories, equipment and employees,” they said. “You now have an opportunity to turn political swords into governing plowshares. This opportunity must not be squandered. The U.S. economy has been stalled on the road to greater prosperity. We believe it is primed for strong and sustained expansion. American businesses know how to create jobs and compete in a diverse global market. We are poised and ready to do so if the conditions for growth are set in a comprehensive agreement on the fiscal cliff.”

Several executives of companies with Wisconsin ties signed the letter, including: Paul Jones, chairman and CEO of Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp.; Stephen Roell, chairman and CEO of Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc.; and Keith Nosbusch, chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation Inc. Others included Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc.; Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc.; Alexander Cutler, chairman and CEO of Eaton Corp. PLC; Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric Co.;  and Thomas Quinlan III, president and CEO of R.R. Donnelley.

To view the complete letter, click here.

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