America’s CEOs Want the Rest of Us to Pay For Their Folly

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Felix Salmon has a righteous rant about a group of CEOs who have written a manifesto insisting that “growing debt” is a serious threat to the well-being of the United States. But as Felix points out, “debt” has actually decreased in the past few years:

So when the CEOs talk about “our growing debt”, what they mean is just the debt owed by the Federal government. And when the Federal government borrows money, that doesn’t even come close to making up for the fact that the CEOs themselves are not borrowing money.

Money is cheaper now than it has been in living memory: the markets are telling corporate America that they are more than willing to fund investments at unbelievably low rates. And yet the CEOs are saying no. That’s a serious threat to the economic well-being of the United States: its companies are refusing to invest for the future, even when the markets are begging them to.

Instead, the CEOs come out and start criticizing the Federal government for stepping in and filling the gap. If it wasn’t for the Federal deficit, the debt-to-GDP chart would be declining even more precipitously, and the economy would be a disaster. Deleveraging is a painful process, and the Federal government is — rightly — easing that pain right now. And this is the gratitude it gets in return!

Later, after reviewing the blather that passes for a proposal, Felix translates:

In other words, the letter basically just says “please cut our taxes, raise taxes on everybody else, and cut the benefits they get from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which are programs we individually don’t rely upon”. It’s gross self-interest masquerading as public statesmanship.

To summarize: the economy is in bad shape, corporations are refusing to expand, the federal government is taking up some of the slack to keep the economy afloat, and 80 of our nation’s CEOs are outraged and insist that the solution is to eviscerate the middle class. Very nice. If it weren’t forbidden, I’d call this class wa — um, well, you know. Rich guys vs. the rest of us.

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