* Marriott CEO: 'balanced' approach is essential
* Goldman Sachs chief says low marginal rates preferable
* Executives describe meeting with Obama as constructive
By Jeff Mason and Pedro da Costa
WASHINGTON, Nov 28 Chief executives from
corporations such as Goldman Sachs and Deloitte LLP met
with President Barack Obama on Wednesday and offered support for
resolving U.S. fiscal problems with an approach that included
higher tax rates for wealthy Americans.
Some fourteen business chiefs from companies such as Yahoo
Inc, Comcast Corp, and Marriott International
Inc met with Obama at the White House to discuss
solutions to the "fiscal cliff" - a series of tax hikes and
spending cuts that will go into effect next year if lawmakers
and the president cannot come up with a deal to stop them.
Obama's outreach to business was meant to garner support for
his proposal to extend tax cuts for middle income earners, while
raising them for households making more than $250,000 a year.
Republicans oppose raising tax rates, saying that would hurt
job growth at a time of still high unemployment.
Executives who attended the meeting said leaders from both
sides needed to compromise, and they indicated backing for an
increase in rates for high earners like themselves.
"The president and his team were resoundingly reasonable in
what they had to say. They came into the meeting wanting to
communicate that revenue increases are a significant part of a
deal, but not the only part of a deal, and that they were also
committed to an entitlement reform and spending focus," said
Marriott Chief Executive Arne Sorenson.
"I think generally people had the view that, if it's
balanced, if there are revenue increases that are part of it,
that's fine, but don't only talk about revenue increases. Make
sure we're talking about both."
Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, speaking to
CNN after the meeting, said he did not "preclude" tax rates
rising for wealthy Americans to raise revenue and fight the
federal budget deficit.
"I've said in the past that the numbers would drive you to
more revenue," he said on CNN. "I think it's better to have as
low a marginal rate as possible because the incentive is the
marginal rate, but if we had to lift up the marginal rate I
would do that."
Other executives slated to be at the meeting included AT&T
Inc CEO Randall Stephenson, Archer Daniels Midland Co
chief Patricia Woertz, Coca-Cola Co chief Muhtar
Kent, Caterpillar Inc's Doug Oberhelman, and Pfizer
Inc's Ian Read.
A White House spokeswoman declined to discuss the meeting in
Deloitte LLP Chief Executive Joe Echevarria said the
executives agreed on the need for higher tax rates for the top
tier of U.S. earners.
"There needs to be some revenue element to this, and (Obama)
started with rates. And he started with rates on what we would
define (as) the upper two percent. ... That we have to pay our
fair share. And I think everybody was in agreement with that
notion," he said.
Obama has not always had friendly relations with the
business community, but Echevarria said the meeting was
constructive. "The president clearly wanted to embrace business.
... He solicited input from all of us, and he took it all with
open arms," he said.
Obama met with small business leaders on Tuesday and plans
to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Friday to showcase
Corporate chief executives also met with leaders on Capitol