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CEOs try to help Republicans and Democrats be trustworthy and do the right thing

Thu, December 20, 2012 6:30 AM | Deleted user

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Even before Wall Street Banks were found complicit in the melt down which would be recorded in history books as “the global financial crisis,” measures of trust in business and CEO credibility were in decline. One of the few groups with lower trust scores was the U.S. Congress in which only about 10% of Americans currently say they have a great deal of confidence. Now CEOs are trying to step in to fix the government’s gridlock and dysfunction as we near the fiscal cliff. Their message is about in competitiveness and jobs something they argue both Democrats and Republicans should care about.

The Wall Street Journal captured this dynamic in a profile about David Cote the CEO of Honeywell. Similarly General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt weighed in during a Dec 10 interview with Charlie Rose. While these and other CEOs are criticized by some groups as being motivated by self-interest and a desire to grow their profits, this development brings some very positive dynamics to a political and regulatory system that has lost all credibility and trust. First, business leaders can credibly create a common and practical platform for compromise between ideological combatants: jobs and competitiveness! A major root cause of dysfunction in Washington is a lack of common values that form the basis for governance. CEOs understand that you cannot run a large organization without a common mission. The November election proved that competitiveness and jobs is the common ground for governance and CEOs (along with groups representing labor) have a place at the table in this conversation. Second, business leaders help expose the dysfunction of the U.S. government relative to our global competitors. As Jeff Immelt said on Charlie Rose, the Chinese government has a long-term plan and they get things done. David Cote, after hearing the warring ideologists and lack of pragmatic results, said to a Washington group: “Who are you people? Is this the way you do the nation’s business? I’d fire all of you.” An essential dimension of American competitiveness is a trustworthy partnership between business and government to establish regulatory, taxation and other elements of a growth-friendly environment. While business earned the scorn heaped on them during the global financial crisis, a number of scholars have suggested that of the two partners, it is the government in the U.S. that has been the most dysfunctional from a governance and regulatory standpoint.

Finally, with Warren Buffet leading the way, many CEOs have expressed willingness for shared sacrifice to solve our fiscal crisis and many other pressing problems of society. It is refreshing to see business people doing the right thing. Too often it seems that business scandals like money laundering and Libor appear on the front pages but the good news never gets reported. Congratulations to some business leaders who are helping to restore trust in business and in government. Without competent trustworthy leaders and institutions, there will surely be more cliffs ahead that put Americans at risk.

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