February 15, 2013
9 CEO Responses To The State Of The Union

Hitting The Mark

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Burson-Marsteller CEO and former Clinton speechwriter Don Baer acknowledged that the president set a strong agenda, but he was unimpressed with several facets of the SOTU address.

“I didn’t hear anything there when it comes to fiscal issues that I think are looming and are going to be really critical . . . I think, if anything, he has tried to sort of minimize the impact and importance of the deficit. He says a deficit reduction plan is not an economic plan alone, which of course, no one has ever suggested.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary to deal with the deficit, which I’m afraid he’s trying to fuzz a little bit.”

And while Baer seemed hopeful for reform in many areas, he emphasized political gridlock as the major barrier.

“I think the business community wants to believe in these kinds of investments . . . but without a real commitment to what those cuts are actually going to be and how we’re going to get there—especially on entitlement reform—it’s hard to understand or see how we move forward . . . This is about the serious details of getting down to business and making this work. Not about speeches. It’s about rolling up one’s sleeves and really getting down to it . . . And with a political climate where our leaders are not finding common ground and quickly coming together, business people are generally saying, ‘Not so sure. I know what Ican do produce, but I’m worried about what they won’t produce.’”

After crunching the numbers, President of Pew Research Center Alan Murray, told The Wall Street Journal that Obama’s address was much more in line with what the public wants to hear talked about than in the Inaugural Address last month.

“What all our research shows is that the top of the public’s list is fixing the economy, creating jobs, dealing with the deficit, dealing with Medicare, dealing with social security,” Murray reported. “Those things all get over 50 percent. A lot of the other things like immigration, guns and climate change are well below 50 percent.”

And though Murray admitted the president spoke about the economy, he also noted that the leaders of “dysfunctional Washington” failed to suggest solutions for the fiscal issues that really sit “at the center of the economic conundrums.”

On the other hand, James Reynolds, CEO of Loop Capital Markets LLC, was more approving of Obama’s speech during an interview with Bloomberg.

“Four years ago, [Obama] sort of walked into that office like say, a new quarterback on a football team, and he’s going to revolutionize the game, he’s going to run, he doesn’t let his first receivers finish their routes. Last night he sounded like a seasoned professional . . . When I look at what he did and what he stated, the content I thought was spot on . . . We’re seeing a slow recovery. Now we’re not seeing robust demand by any measure, but we’ve stopped going down and we’ve stabilized . . . It seems like we’re moving in some positive directions.”