Fix the Debt exists for one reason: to argue for less U.S. government debt. It is an organization explicitly founded on the idea that lots of government debt is bad, there is already too much of it, and more is worse.
To help push the economically dubious idea that debt is going to cripple the U.S. government, Fix the Debt coats its core mission in the usual content-free D.C. catchphrases ― “bipartisan plan,” “common belief,” “long-term challenges,” “people all across America.” The group also enlists a platoon of former politicians to sit sternly on panels and say that the only way forward is tax reform along with cuts to Social Security and Medicare. There’s also a Fix the Debt CEO Fiscal Leadership Council, which is a 22-person steering committee made up of 22 men.
Surely now that there is a businessman in the White House and his two top economic advisers, both ex-Goldman Sachs executives, have rolled out a rudimentary tax plan that slashes taxes for corporations, heirs and heiresses, investors, and rich people ― while increasing the national debt by somewhere between $3 trillion and $7 trillion and making no serious attempt to offset the cost elsewhere ― these CEOs are issuing outraged statements, right?
Haha, of course not.
HuffPost asked every single member of Fix the Debt’s CEO council for a response to the president’s tax outline, and as of press time, not a single one of the executives denounced it.
Why won’t executives who want less government debt condemn a proposal that dramatically increases government debt?
Most of the executives on Fix the Debt’s CEO council either declined to comment or did not respond to HuffPost’s requests. But the executives who were willing to go on the record are pretty clear-cut about what is going on: It’s a corporate tax cut, so they think it’s good.
For instance, a Deere & Company spokesman said on behalf of CEO Samuel Allen that the company “supports efforts to improve the corporate tax code to make U.S. business and investment more competitive in today’s global marketplace.” That’s a not-even-well-disguised way of saying “it’s a tax cut, so it’s good.”
Trump’s plan is not real tax reform, and anyone who says it is is trying to sell you a tax cut. Like, for instance, the CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt. A GE spokesman referred HuffPost to a comment from the American Made Coalition, an industry group the company belongs to, that lauds the White House for its “commitment to move forward on comprehensive tax reform.”
Some of the responses were even more direct. The spokesman for Airlines for America, the main airline industry group that is headed by former Citigroup executive and Bush administration official Nicholas Calio, said, “Generally speaking, we support reducing the corporate tax rate and implementing additional reforms needed to simplify the tax system.”
So what’s the point of Fix the Debt’s CEO council if its members won’t criticize a tax plan that increases the national debt? They don’t seem to care enough about national debt to say anything critical when what’s at stake is a tax cut for themselves, their companies and their descendants. That, at least, is instructive silence.
For years, progressives’ critique of the fiscal hawk movement ― which Fix the Debt’s founders Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson as well as funder Pete Peterson sit at the center of ― has centered on the argument that all this worrying about the debt is a stalking horse to cut social programs and taxes for the rich.
While Fix the Debt put out a tepid statement about Trump’s tax plan, calling for responsible legislation, and a related group called the Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget was harsher, the refusal of Fix the Debt’s CEO council members to denounce Trump’s tax outline in any way is proving the group’s critics right.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated Trump’s tax plan would increase the national debt by $3 billion to $7 billion. The correct figure is $3 trillion to $7 trillion.