As proponents of big business, Republican leaders should pay attention to what the nation’s CEOs have to say, and what many are saying is that raising taxes must be a part of the solution in reducing the deficit. None of these individuals are among the free-loading 47 percent that former CEO turned politician Mitt Romney referenced in his speech to Boca Raton campaign donors and they are decidedly realistic about what the nation must do to return to fiscal health.
More than 100 CEOs, including the leaders of Bank of America, Aetna, AT&T and Motorola, urged Congress last week to reach a bipartisan agreement to address the debt by cutting spending and raising taxes. The group, brought together by the nonpartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt, is essentially following the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission, whose logical deficit reduction recommendations, which spread the pain around fairly, have been lost among partisan Washington political squabbles.
It is not clear when raising taxes under any possible circumstance became such an absolute in the Republican ideology, enforced by tea party true believers, or why Republican officials demean themselves by groveling before the likes of Grover Norquist, he of the no new taxes pledge. Today’s tax burden is not historically high by past U.S. standards, or even close to it, and it is a fact that under President Clinton, tax hikes among the highest tax brackets, combined with responsible spending, led to a budget surplus and growing economy. Similarly, tax cuts and reckless spending on wars of aggression under President George W. Bush produced a record deficit and a recession. As Mr. Clinton would say, it’s just arithmetic.
The CEOs in the Campaign to Fix the Debt can clearly add and subtract, and they don’t put political ideology before reality. Reducing the deficit cannot be done solely on the backs of the poor, the middle class and seniors, which is in essence the strategy of Republican vice presidential candidate Representative Paul Ryan. The pain must be spread around fairly, and increased revenue must be part of any responsible deficit-reduction strategy. That means GOP legislators must put aside their political pledges and their rigid ideology, stand up to tea partiers, and do what is right for the nation.