Capitalism Under Siege

Capitalism-3R.R. Donnelly, a 150-year old print, digital and supply-solutions company, which “has survived the telephone, the telegraph, the radio [and] the TV,” has had to consider inversion as a strategy, given that 26 percent of its revenue comes from outside the U.S., said CEO Tom Quinlan. “We work for the shareholders. There are rules that we’ve [been] given that we play within. Those are the rules. We’re not going outside the rules. The tax code needs to be changed.”

“We need to stop fighting, because if we put our heads together, we could be a much more formidable force.”

Participants also agreed that, taxes aside, lawmakers of both parties and heads of businesses have to start working in partnership to make the U.S. a friendlier place for business. “We need to stop fighting,” said Gregory Cappelli, CEO of the Apollo Education Group, “because if we put our heads together, we could be a much more formidable force.” It’s a problem, he added, that other countries continue to court business much more aggressively. “There’s something wrong with dozens of other governments saying, ‘Come in and make investments. Build our infrastructure. Put in technology. Put it online. We’ll help you. Educate our people.’ Our government isn’t saying that.”

The country may have to wait for the next generation to take the helm, suggested Tom Harrison, chairman emeritus of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group. “The Millennials are a very collaborative group of individuals. They are very co-creative, they are very digitally hooked up and they are very participatory. When we get a Millennial, or Millennials, beginning to run the country and run the government, I think we’re going to have a much more collaborative, open-minded participant of government that we’re not going to get to with anybody [who] now walks the halls of Washington.”

Despite the challenges of cronyism and a hyperregulated, overtaxed climate, participants agreed that the fundamentals of U.S. capitalism will prevail. “Things actually do work in this country,” Wilderotter said. “That’s why we are still muddling along. I mean, we are talking about some fairly major issues here. I think the resilience of business in this country is [that] we go make it work no matter what we’re faced with.”