CEO Think Tank Decries American Policy Short-Sightedness

“America’s incentive system for long-term investment is broken,” the influential Aspen Institute said in a report released this morning.

Among the report’s signatories are past and present CEOs or chairmen of Shell, Pfizer, Unilever, PwC, Aon, Medtronic, Cardinal Health, General Dynamics, WPP and Levi Strauss & Co.

The report quotes OECD figures showing the U.S. now ranks 10th in the world for R&D spending. The quality of its infrastructure, meanwhile, now ranks 25th, according to the National Association of Manufactures.

“Companies are well served by patient capital that allows long-term strategy and investments to pay off.

To address the situation, the paper makes several recommendations that chime with some of Donald Trump’s pledges on the campaign trail. The president-elect, for example, wants to boost infrastructure spending. Similarly, the Aspen Institute highlights a need to spend between $200 million-to-$260 million on infrastructure each year.

The Institute also agrees with Trump that the corporate tax code needs to be simplified to unlock business investment. This could include lowering the corporate tax rate, encouraging companies to repatriate income from overseas and eliminating loopholes that allow some companies to pay very little tax, it said.

It’s unclear, however, how well some of its other recommendations will go down in Washington.

To curb excessive speculative trading—which the Institute said funnels capital away from productive long-term investment—it proposed a financial transaction tax of “a fraction of 1%” similar to the 0.1% tax currently being considered by the European Union.

“Companies are well served by patient capital that allows long-term strategy and investments to pay off,” the report said.

The Institute also backs the introduction of a carbon tax, something that may be at odds with Trump’s statements refuting the existence of man-made climate change and pledges to boost the fossil fuel sector.

At the corporate level, the Institute would like to see more policy that makes it easier for CEOs at public companies to act long-term. Measures it recommends include discouraging the issuance of short-term earnings guidance and encouraging more transparency of long-term corporate value.

“The goal is a better deal for Americans working to support their families and communities—and the restoration of public trust in capitalism itself as an economic system that works for all,” it said.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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