On the same day that the CEOs of more than 80 major U.S. corporations pushed for a federal-deficit-reduction plan that would rely on lower tax rates but a "broader base," a poll revealed that a majority of small business owners believe that those CEOs should pay higher taxes.
The Wall Street Journal broke the news this morning that the big business CEOs issued a "manifesto" urging Congress to immediately pursue gradual "pro-growth tax reform." Their 225-word statement petitioned for a comprehensive plan that, among other measures, "broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit." The CEOs pointed to the recommendations of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, which calls for a combination of budget cuts and increased tax revenue, as an "effective framework for such a plan."
The statement urged bipartisan action and reforms to all areas of the Federal budget, and seemed to suggest that neither Presidential candidate's tax plan goes far enough. But the CEOs' proposal to lower rates while raising revenue is presumably in closer agreement with Mitt Romney's strategy to reduce tax rates across all income levels while maintaining federal revenue through elimination of many (as yet unspecified) tax deductions and loopholes.
But small business owners have a different idea. More than half believe the Bush-era tax cuts that those CEOs enjoy should be allowed to expire at the end of this year, according to a survey released today. The subheadline of a Small Business Majority report on results of a "scientific telephone opinion survey" of 500 small business owners today announces: "Entrepreneurs agree no one likes to raise taxes, but because of budget crisis 52 percent believe we should let tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent expire at end of year." Survey respondents "overwhelmingly oppose letting tax breaks for the other 98 percent of Americans lapse."
Media reports on the CEOs' manifesto—signed by headline grabbers including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankenfein, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer—call the statement variously hypocritical, self-serving, and perfectly rational albeit weirdly timed.
Reuters' Felix Salmon accuses the big business leaders of saying,"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." Says Salmon, "It's gross self-interest masquerading as public statesmanship."
But are the small business owners any better? Only 5 percent of those surveyed by the Small Business Majority reported earning a household income exceeding $250,000. In other words, 95 percent of those small business owners believe that wealthier CEOs, not they, should shoulder a tax increase to address the debt crisis.