The PJ Tatler

Simpson-Bowles 'Fix the Debt' Drive Gathers Steam with CEOs' Help

A deficit-reduction group founded by the leaders of President Obama’s deficit-reduction task force — Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) — today released a pledge from more than 100 business leaders to back the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

The campaign, which is chaired by former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange with Honeywell Chairman and CEO and Campaign Steering Committee member David Cote, Marsh & McLennan Companies President and COO Dan Glaser, World Fuel Services Corporation Executive Chairman Paul Stebbins, Express-Scripts Holding Company Chairman and CEO George Paz, Airlines for America CEO and President Nicholas Calio, and more.

“We’re headed to a situation like the European countries have found themselves in, where they simply can’t pay their debt back. And that threatens the economy as a whole,” Gregg said on a conference call.

“If you’re going to be attacked from the left or from the right, because you make a tough decision which actually improves this country’s fiscal situation, you need somebody that’s going to stand behind you and say, ‘You’re doing the right thing,'” he continued. “And that’s what the Fix-the-Debt group is about, and that’s why the CEO Council is so important, because it brings the resources and the people to accomplish that, show the support for policymakers who are willing to make tough calls.”

Other prominent business leaders on the CEO Council include BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, Aetna Chairman, CEO and President Mark Bertolini, Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

“The U.S. has an opportunity to not only fix our debt issue and have an economic recovery,” said Cote, “but we can also be a model for the world in how to deal with debt. What it really comes down to is if we still have the political will to be a great country.”

The nonpartisan campaign has raised about $30 million a national campaign that includes online efforts, paid advertising and an aggressive grassroots mobilization in 25-35 states to turn up the heat on policymakers.

Self-avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) charged that many of the companies involved in the effort have avoided taxes, sent American jobs overseas and took taxpayer bailouts.

“There really is no shame,” Sanders said. “The Wall Street leaders whose recklessness and illegal behavior caused this terrible recession are now lecturing the American people on the need for courage to deal with the nation’s finances and deficit crisis.  Before telling us why we should cut Social Security, Medicare and other vitally important programs, these CEOs might want to take a hard look at their responsibility for causing the deficit and this terrible recession.”