Eaton CEO Cutler: 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' Our Debt

When Eaton Chairman/CEO Alexander "Sandy" Cutler played football at Yale, winning wasn't about who was a Republican or Democrat, it was about pulling together as a team.

Meeting in Washington for the Campaign to Fix the Debt's National Fly-In on July 17th, were members of state chapters at 73 congressional offices.

Sandy Cutler, co-chairs the non-partisan, national Campaign to Fix the Debt for the state of Ohio, along with Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic (D), and former Ohio Gov. George Voinovich (R). Cutler addressed a City Club of Cleveland Friday forum as a prelude to National Fly-In Day.

"Today, it's not safe for those in the Senate and House to compromise within their own party. If they do, they can be unelected by their own party. We need something to give them cover. To help educate the American public on how the national debt can be fixed so they can compromise without sacrificing their seats." That cover according to Cutler, is the bipartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt at Its motto: "Inaction is not an option." They hope the Obama admininstration will provide some cover, too.

A Milwaukee native, who nows calls Cleveland home, Sandy Cutler urged the luncheon crowd to get educated through the nonpartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt website, and then armed with this newfound knowledge, to weigh in with their representatives in Washington. To become knowledgeable about the specifics so they can challenge their legislators.

"Don't ever believe your voice doesn't count if you are articulate and well-educated on the subject. When those in Congress don't hear from you, they fall prey to the small extremes on both ends of the equation who are pulling them in different directions." He encouraged those present to become informed citizens and to express themselves to their legislators who will respond. To fill up their email inboxes. Telephone them.

"Nothing can be more fundamental to being an American than fixing the debt. We must get all policymakers to recognize this is a serious problem that can not be put off. We can't keep postponing it."

"We need a plan that hits both revenues and expenses. Both have to be in the game. It must be enacted now. We are in a very fragile economic recovery. We need job growth. We need good jobs. Growth is critical. But growth is not enough by itself. We won't grow ourselves out of this."

Besides Cutler, other members of the Steering Committee of the CEO Fiscal Leadership Council of the Campaign to Fix the Debt include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and PricewaterhouseCoopers Chair Robert Moritz. Just a few names on a long list.

This non-partisan group has been working on getting others to join them and get this done. Co-founders of the group are former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY). Anyone can join. There are some 345,000 members and growing.

"If we start now, and the time is now," maintains Cutler, "We can get it done in 10 years. But everyone has to be willing to give a little. We are working at finding the mechanisms to do this on a gradual basis. It can't be all done in a year. Done over a ten year time period allows us to get the debt down to acceptable levels in 2023." Start by everyone getting to the middle of the table and being willing to compromise, says Cutler. Instead of proceeding from the extreme ends.

"Scare tactics by both political parties are non-constructive," cautions Cutler. Such as talk of jumping off a fiscal cliff. Think instead, Cutler offers, of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their jump off a cliff memorialized by actors Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the 1969 film. Pointing out the pair survived their jump, Cutler talks of a jump into opportunity.

He emphasizes the Campaign to Fix the Debt, has no set agenda. No ironclad plan. They are willing to listen and incorporate ideas from all comers, regardless of background or political affiliation.

Eaton's CEO urged, "Stand up and take it head on and solve the problem. Otherwise, we become the first generation of Americans to let our children live in a country that doesn't have the prospects we did. That is unconscionable."

He closed with these words: "The time to act is now. The person who can act is you. The power comes from all of us."

Reminding us of pioneering Cleveland talk radio powerhouse, WERE-AM Radio in the '70s, "WERE the talk of Cleveland." "People Power, People Power." WERE's slogan.

Changing the world for the better. Our generation promised we would.

Lonna Saunders may be reached at An attorney, she has co-anchored "The Stock Market Observer" on Chicago's WCIU-TV. As Business Editor of Cleveland's WJW-AM Radio, she first interviewed Sen. George Voinovich when he was Cuyahoga County Auditor.