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Debating tax policy

Should the top 2 percent be taxed more? That’s the big debate in Washington these days, and you might be surprised as to what some big business people are saying about it.

On Tuesday, FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith, an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, said that the notion that tax hikes on the richest Americans would kill jobs was simply “mythology.”

And on Monday, a gathering of the nation’s top defense executives took a surprising turn when they endorsed tax rate increases on the wealthy and cuts of up to $150 billion to the Pentagon’s budget. Top executives from Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, TASC and RTI International Metals appeared at the National Press Club at an event organized by the Aerospace Industries Association, the top defense contractor lobbyist.

David Langstaff, CEO of TASC, said that the executives were speaking out because so far leaders of the defense industry were “talking a good game, but are still unwilling to park short-term self-interest.” After the event, he told a defense reporter for Politico that tax rates need to go up.

“In the near term, [income tax rates] need to go up some,” Langstaff said. “This is a fairness issue — there needs to be recognition that we’re not collecting enough revenue. In the last decade we’ve fought two wars without raising taxes. So I think it does need to go up.”

David Hess, head of Pratt & Whitney, said his parent company, United Technologies Corp, believed personal income tax rates should be on the table; Dawne Hickton, CEO of RTI, said he would back a rate hike if it led to a deal.

The CEOs join other high-profile executives who are willing to chip in more. Following a meeting with President Barack Obama last week at the White House, executives emerged to endorse higher rates. “There needs to be some revenue element to this, and [Obama] started with rates,” said Joe Echeverria, CEO of Deloitte LLP. “And he started with rates on what we would define [as] the upper two percent … that we have to pay our fair share. And I think everybody was in agreement with that notion.”

With the end of the election, more people are willing to call out the absurdity of Republican dogma. Basically, it’s silly to argue that behavior will be affected at all by top rates going from 35% to 39.6%.

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