“Who ARE You People??!?”

By James Schaefer.

Outraged by partisan gridlock, corporate CEOs have become central players in the fiscal cliff negotiations — and the far larger effort to tame the nation’s deficits and debt.

Friday’s Wall Street Journal (“Honeywell CEO in the Middle of Cliff Standoff”, Monica Langley, December 14, 2012) gave a behind-closed-doors look at the key role of David Cote, CEO of Honeywell, who started in 2010 with the President’s Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission.

Mr. Cote was assigned by President Obama to be one of the many representatives from the private sector on the debt reduction commission.  The commission’s assignment was to come back with recommendations to the president on how to address the nation’s burgeoning debt.

Monica Langley writes, “After months of partisan warfare . . . Mr. Cote took off his coat and told the group: ‘Who are you people?  Is this the way you do the nation’s business?  I’d fire all of you.'”

Analogies of Nero fiddling while Rome is burning come to mind, or of Three Mile Island’s management group, during the middle of that nuclear crisis, spending their meeting time discussing what they were going to tell the media instead of managing the meltdown (note: only the threat of Congressional subpoena brought those minutes to light).

“We’re not confident that our guys can govern anymore,” says the Honeywell CEO.  “I meet people on both sides I like and find reasonable, but they aren’t working together.”

Rome is burning. Government is spending 46% more than it is taking in as tax revenue; and tax revenue has never exceeded 20.9% of GDP (table 1.2).

President Obama, while a U.S. Senator in 2006, described the problem well, and came out against profligate government spending; see John Lumbard’s post on these pages, “The Bipartisan Debt Machine”, Oct 4, 2012, for the full text of Mr. Obama’s speech.

We have an obligation to address and resolve the debt issue; we cannot continue to pass it down from one generation to another, to be solved later.

Where is the national resolve that so defined our parents’ and grandparents’ generations?




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