No Labels Co-Founder Lisa Borders, 9/6/11: What we're after is America moving forward, which means you've got to work with everybody on the team. There's no "I" in "America."
No Labels Co-Founder John Avlon: Well... [shrugs]
Borders: Oh, uh, there is a vowel, but it's not a capital letter.
What do you get when you gather the CEO of the Starbucks corporation (Howard Schultz), an advisor to the McCain for President campaign (Maya MacGuineas, a director of Berkshire Partners and Goldman Sachs (Robert S. Kaplan) and Rudolph Giuliani’s former political speechwriter and senior fellow at the pro-deregulation Manhattan Institute (John Avlon) together for a conference call?
Are you surprised that you get a call to listen more to the business community and to cut corporate tax rates?
John Avlon: What do you think that government can do? What kind of bipartisan plans are out there, do you think, that could stimulate job growth in the private sector?
Howard Schultz: Let’s outline the problem, in addition to the facts that have already been told. It’s about a trillion dollars sitting on the balance sheets of public companies in America, that is sitting idle. There’s way over a trillion dollars sitting overseas because of the 35% tax rate that exists, in which CEOs of those companies do not want to bring that money over. And let’s just dissect those two subjects. The first subject is the crisis of confidence in which business leaders do not want to invest in an environment in which they don’t know the direction of the country, and that’s why a trillion dollars is sitting on the balance sheets of public companies. And that is directly linked to the debt ceiling debacle. The second thing is, at a 35% tax rate, if the government would recognize that public companies would bring that money over and invest in the United States if the tax rate was lower, it would be significant.
Robert S. Kaplan: If we could all agree on that, then go back to spending cuts, entitlement reform, some revenue increases, and probably some investment in infrastructure, maybe a repatriation tax cut that Howard talked about, if we could agree on a vision for building the middle class and strengthening it and not being wedded to any individual tactics that we promised an individual constituency, I think that’s the kind of thing Howard’s talking about.
Maya MacGuineas: I have to say that one of the voices that has been missing, and it’s changing now from this discussion, has been business.
You shouldn’t be surprised. But you might be surprised when you found out the conference call was held by No Labels, a 501c4 corporation that hides the identity of its funders while telling the world it has no positions and represents no special interest community:
Our starting point is not an issue platform but a movement built upon the overwhelming dissatisfaction with ideological extremism and with the gridlock and crisis of governance that seems to get worse and worse. We are the common ground where Americans of all walks of life can come and work together.
First and foremost we are clearing a path for a new voice in American political life — a voice for people who want a less partisan, less ideological, more common sense approach to the nation’s problems and crises. In order to create that new channel and voice we don’t want to prejudge or lock ourselves into a given position on any issue when there is a much bigger cause that can unify us as Americans.
Start backing away slowly when someone in politics tells you it’s time for you to take one for the team, that there is no “I” in “America.” Start running the other direction when in the next breath they tell you that corporations sitting on a trillion dollars of wealth need a break.