But the organization has an ongoing problem: convincing skeptics that it represents more than the self-interest of its chief executive members, whose companies have provided nearly all of the group’s $43 million budget.
Several top corporate executives have been pressing for changes to the tax code that would cut the taxes multinational companies pay on overseas profits. Dave Cote, the chief executive of Honeywell and a leading figure in Fix the Debt, has been a prominent advocate of this tax change.
At the same time, companies represented in Fix the Debt also belong to a coalition that has sought to cut corporate tax rates, even though many of the companies pay low effective rates.
The corporate tax agenda has been criticized by some within the business community, especially small firms and partnerships that pay taxes based on individual income tax rather than corporate rates. They fear that the chief executives in Fix the Debt may be comfortable with a rise in individual income tax rates, knowing that it could create flexibility for cutting corporate taxes during tax-reform deliberations next year.
Fix the Debt officials say they back broad principles espoused by Erskine Bowles, who was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, and former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), who were on hand for Wednesday’s events. In 2010, the men led a commission to reduce the debt, drawing bipartisan support.
Still, liberal as well as conservative groups are circulating reports alleging that the chief executives who make up Fix the Debt run companies that have been promoting a “rash of corporate tax breaks” in the name of pro-growth tax reform. Beyond that, the group’s chief executive members have been criticized by the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies for seeking cuts in Social Security and Medicare “while sitting on an average of $9 million each in retirement funds.”
Fix the Debt has said it is not backing any specific plans for raising tax revenue or cutting government spending. Still, the chief executives received a warning Wednesday from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
“One thing Republicans won’t be party to is a deal that protects big businesses and preserves special-interest tax breaks while raising tax rates on the small businesses,” Boehner said in a statement issued after he met with the business leaders. A spokesman for Fix the Debt said the organization received a warm reception at every event Wednesday and described Boehner’s comment as consistent with the organization’s approach.