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Chief Executives Tell What’s on Their Mind this Election Year

War Takes Top Place, Energy Policy Jumps Ranks and Healthcare Drops Down

As the nation nears the critical Philadelphia primary, following a stormy month in the financial markets, Chief Executive magazine’s survey among 321 top executives reveals that the single most important issue for the nation’s chief executives this election year is the “War on Terror and homeland security.”   

This paints an interesting contrast with the findings of the 2004 election year survey, in which chief executives collectively voted healthcare (now ranked # 6) as the single most important issue. 

The issues that follow the Iraq War and homeland security are, “energy policy and cost reduction” and “corporate tax policy,” which almost ties with energy policy.  In a rather remarkable move, energy policy and cost reduction leaped three spots this election year, as rising oil prices and the nation’s dependency on foreign oil has proven to damage consumer confidence and the overall economy.  Tax policy maintained its third spot in the rankings. 

“The opinion of CEOs is of utmost importance when creating a sound economic policy,” said Edward M. Kopko, CEO and Publisher of Chief Executive Magazine. “Their ability to provide jobs and grow their businesses is paramount to the success of America’s economy, and presidential candidates are well-advised to consider their policy priorities.”  

According to the CEOs surveyed, a potential success in Iraq goes hand-in-hand with success in energy policy and cost reduction, as Michael A. Zeher, CEO of Zeher Global Associates, explains, “The most timely and effective way to keep the price of oil restrained within the current $100 per barrel range is to score big wins on €˜The War on Terror’ while strengthening all aspects of our homeland security.”            

With regard to the remedies for a faltering economy, CEOs believe that “tax policy for corporations and business incentives,” are key: “The fastest and the best method of ensuring health and growth in the economy is a reduction in taxes, both corporate (first) and individual (second),” as one CEO wishing to remain anonymous reckons. 

Heavy corporate taxes are cited as one of the main reasons why many corporations prefer to do business elsewhere, and CEOs fear a potential win by the Democratic Party in the election will only worsen the situation. “Raising corporate tax rates will chase corporations overseas to low tax havens such as Ireland and will have a very negative impact on the economy,” says Daniel Dykens, CEO of Norbury Financial Systems.   

The U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates among all OECD countries-almost 40 percent. Ireland, which has the lowest corporate rate-12.5 percent-collects 3.6 percent of GDP from corporate revenues. By contrast, the U.S. collects 2.5 percent.           

The CEO Index polling was conducted among 321 executives between March 11th and March 26th.  For additional information regarding the confidence of public- and private-company CEOs, details about CEO attitudes on employment, investment and business conditions.

 Rank 2004 Election Issue 2008 Election Issue
 1 Healthcare  Iraq, War on Terror, Homeland Security
 2 Terrorism/Homeland Security  Energy policy and cost reduction
 3 Taxation

Tax policy for corporations, business incentives

 4 Job creation  Federal debt reduction
 5 Energy

Tax Policy for individuals

 6 International trade  Healthcare reform
 7 Global labor sourcing  Immigration
 8 Tort Reform  Regulation and Government reform
 9 Education  International trade policy (NAFTA, etc.)
 10 Other  Education Policy
 11

Social Policies (crime, drugs, abortion, gun laws, etc.)

 Social Security reform
 12 Social Security

Social policies (abortion, gay marriage, gun-rights, etc.)

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Chief Executive magazine provides global economy coverage, business and technology news, information on upcoming events, and executive life.