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The fiscal cliff as an opportunity

Dec 3, 2012
Carter Wood

Business Roundtable-member CEOs are using the word "opportunity" to talk about the fiscal cliff.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini appeared on Bloomberg TV's "Capitol Gains" programs on Sunday in an interview segment entitled, "Can Business Bridge the Budget Divide?" Excerpt:

At this moment, we have a huge opportunity to make sure we have entitlement programs that last for generations. We have the opportunity to get the economy back to work, if we do this right.

Now, we need a mix of revenues, entitlement reform and spending cuts. There aren’t a whole of different permutations that you can use to get this fixed. I think people know what those issues are, so that’s the opportunity.

On CNBC last week, Chevron CEO John Watson sat down for a lengthy interview with Maria Bartiromo that began with a discussion of the higher taxes and across-the-board spending cuts that accompany the failure to deal with the fiscal cliff:

There’s great anxiety in the business community, waiting for something to be done.

There’s big concerns about structural deficits going forward and there are concerns about tax increases that would be coming absent some sort of a deal on the fiscal cliff.

Still, Watson noted, Chevron will is still investing, spending $34 billion this year on energy projects around the world and potentially even more next year.

All we need is the opportunity to invest. We need to have access, we need permits, and we need a tax structure that supports what we do. There will be a tremendous opportunity to create jobs and government revenue …

Yes, without the kind of economic growth produced by the private sector, it will prove next to impossible to address our long-term deficits problems.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris said a resolution to the fiscal cliff would restore consumer and business confidence, From Bloomberg, "Fiscal cliff resolution would build confidence, Dow Chemical CEO says":

“We’re living in a world of uncertainty and volatility,” Andrew Liveris, CEO of the Midland-based company, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Inside Business television program, according to a transcript. “Rebuilding confidence even with a mini deal and a version of the cliff I think will start to trigger what politicians are desperately looking for, which is the beginning of confidence and therefore a consumer and investment cycle.”...

There was a “better-than 50 percent chance” that a partial deal will be reached in the next three to four weeks and that a “full blown” agreement may be concluded in six to nine months later, he said. “Averting the fiscal cliff in my view is driving this president and the Republicans to come to the table with compromise.”

Video of the nearly 12-minute interview is available here.

Finally, although the fiscal cliff is only contextual in this interview with CNBC's Jim Kramer, SAP's co-CEO, Bill McDermott describes a world of opportunity in broadband and technology. Enthusiasm!

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): Ford CEO Alan Mulally is enthusiastic, as well, as the company unveils its reinvention of the Lincoln brand. As for the fiscal cliff, here's what he had to say on MSNBC's Morning Joe today:

The most important thing is we really deal with our current reality. I mean, our budget deficits and our debt are not sustainable. We need to work both the revenue side and the expense side and we need to come together.

What we're talking about is the economy of the United States of America and we're only expanding around 2 percent right now. It needs to be considerably higher to bring more people off unemployment. The most important thing is to listen to each other and work toward common solutions always on the eye of creating an environment where businesses can grow and provide great jobs and great careers going forward. I think that's the most important thing, is to stay focused on what the job is at hand.

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