Top executives call on Congress to avoid fiscal cliff

Chief executive officers at more than 80 major U.S. corporations released a statement today to pressure Congress to reduce the federal deficit with tax increases and spending cuts.

The declaration differed sharply from those of many other business groups that are urging Congress cut spending, but are avoiding the issue of raising taxes to balance the budget.

The executives signing the statement included the CEOs of several of the nation’s largest companies, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Boeing.

Their letter was posted on the Wall Street Journal’s website.

If Congress fails to reach a deficit reduction deal by the end of the year, it will automatically trigger large spending cuts and tax increases in 2013. The so-called “fiscal cliff” could derail the nation’s economic recovery, the CEOs said.

The U.S. deficit in 2012 will top $1 trillion for a fourth straight year, pushing the national debt past $16 trillion.

The CEOs’ statement was organized by a campaign called “Fix the Debt,” which is urging Washington to set aside partisan differences to put the United States on a sustainable fiscal path.

“In order to develop a fiscal plan that can succeed both financially and politically, it must be bipartisan and reforms to all areas of the budget should be included,” the CEOs wrote.

The CEOs who signed the manifesto say tax increases are inevitable, no matter which party wins at the polls in November.

“There is no possible way; you can do the arithmetic a million different ways” to avoid raising taxes, said Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna Inc. “You can’t tax your way to fix this problem, and you can’t cut entitlements enough to fix this problem.”

The CEOs said the fiscal plan must include “comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.”

“Fix the Debt” a bipartisan effort largely inspired by Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, who chaired a 2010 deficit panel appointed by President Barack Obama and have been crisscrossing the country sounding fiscal alarms.

Several of the CEOs who signed the letter oversee companies with a strong Wisconsin presence, including: Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T Inc.; Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America Corp.; Douglas Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar Inc.; Kirk Hachigian, CEO of Cooper Industries plc; Alexander Cutler, CEO of Eaton Corp.; Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric Co.; Michael McCallister, CEO of Human Inc.; and Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

For an online video analysis about the proposal, click here.

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