AT&T CEO: To reduce income inequality, spur business investment

Top strategy for stimulating the economy is to cut the tax rate for businesses, says AT&T chief Randall Stephenson, who joined Business Roundtable president John Engler at a recent Monitor Breakfast. An invigorated economy would help narrow the rich-poor gap, he adds.

Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor
Randall Stephenson (r.), CEO of AT&T and chairman of the Business Roundtable, and John Engler, Roundtable president, speak with reporters at the St. Regis Hotel on Jan. 15, in Washington, D.C.

Corporate leaders Randall Stephenson (r.) and John Engler head the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of major corporations. Mr. Stephenson is Roundtable chair and chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T. Mr. Engler, a former governor of Michigan, is Roundtable president. They spoke at the Jan. 15 Monitor Breakfast.

Why tax reform is essential:

Stephenson: "If you asked us to identify one issue that could stimulate growth [it would be] business tax reform.... [M]ost studies say [if] you drop the tax rate 1 percent, you can drive half a percent in growth in GDP within a year."

The charge that businesses favor tax reform – but not if it raises their own tax bill:

Stephenson: "If there were ... reforms put in place that stripped key preferences ... and replaced them with a lower rate ... and either way AT&T's taxes go up ... significantly by billions of dollars, I will ... pledge our support to that because it is such a good thing to do for economic growth and driving investment."

How to reduce income inequality in the US:

Stephenson: "If you are not investing, you are not hiring.... Investment and growth ... is the best recipe to begin to address income inequality."

The impact of government regulation:

Engler: "Over time, [it's getting] harder and harder to get approval to do things."

Where phone records used by the National Security Agency should be held:

Stephenson: "Where the data is housed probably isn't that important as long as the rules are clarified and we know exactly what we are looking at."

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