Company CEOs to Congress: Get It Together
The federal shutdown combined with uncertainty over whether Congress’ indecision might push the U.S. into default is making the country a bad place to do business, CEOs are saying.
Global aluminum giant Alcoa’s CEO Klaus Kleinfeld accused lawmakers of acting like children.
“(The) last thing we need is those types of disruptions,” Kleinfeld told CNN. Kleinfeld warned that it’s not the right time to be in a political crisis especially since the U.S. economy is just in the process of recovering.
He said lawmakers should open a “serious discussion on fiscal reform,” but first raise the debt ceiling, which will increase the nation’s ability to borrow more to cover what it owes.
“I think with grownups — that typically happens,” Kleinfeld said.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz entered the conversation by posting a letter on the company’s website saying he was “utterly disappointed by the level of irresponsibility and dysfunction we are witness to with our elected political leadership.”
He said that he had talked with other corporate leaders who agree it is “our responsibility to address the crisis of confidence that is needlessly being set in motion.”
Popular social news website Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian pointed out that “Congress has a lower approval rating than colonoscopies.”
He told CNN: “It’s very clear that we as citizens are frustrated.”
Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO Warren Buffett compared the fight over raising the debt ceiling with using nuclear weapons, saying the debate “just make no sense, so it ought to be banned as a weapon.”
“I mean it should be like nuclear bombs, as basically too horrible to use,” said Buffett in an interview with Fortune magazine.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein warned there’s no precedent for defaulting on U.S. debt, after meeting with the White House last week.
“We’re the most important economy in the world. We’re the reserve currency of the world. Payments have to go out to people,” Blankfein said.
Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said he was optimistic that lawmakers should find a way forward through “flexibility” and “compromise.”
“I believe that’s what we deal with every day in our business lives. And we expect the same will happen with the political architecture,” Kent said.
And Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric also compared lawmakers to misbehaving children.
“Both sides deserve a spanking for this,” Welch said. “The fact they they’re not talking, haven’t been talking for the last six months is terrible.”
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that the U.S. will run out of “extraordinary measures” it’s now using to pay its bills by Oct. 17.