A Framework for Fixing Our System of Long-term Investment: Business Leaders Advance American Prosperity Project

December 19, 2016

CEOs and other leaders of complex business enterprises issue a call for action for a comprehensive approach to reinvesting in the long-term health of the nation —better infrastructure, R&D, basic science and worker training.

NEW YORK, NY, Dec. 19, 2016 – Today, CEOs and other leaders of complex business enterprises, including multi-nationals and large employers such as AON, Pfizer, WPP, Royal Dutch Shell, General Dynamics, Levi Strauss & Co., McKinsey, Unilever, and many others, issued a call for action for a comprehensive approach to reinvesting in the long-term health of the nation—better infrastructure, R&D, basic science and worker training. The 30 signatories to date also recommend a smarter tax policy to pay for these needs and to fix our system of long term investment.

The Aspen Institute’s American Prosperity Project is a nonpartisan framework for policy action and has the endorsement of individuals deeply concerned with short-term decisions in both the private and public sectors that allow vital infrastructure to deteriorate—including tax and decision rules that keep capital off-shore and undermine critical, ongoing investment in R&D, worker training and basic science—all of which are key to innovation and long-term growth.

With a new Administration on the horizon, the time is ripe for a national conversation about long-term investment and the sources of revenue to pay for it—plus curbing short-termism in both business and government. While these ideas enjoy support across party lines, breaking gridlock and taking action will require a coalition of leaders from the private and public sectors who are committed to the health of the commons and America’s future. The statement reads, “Neither business nor government can shoulder this responsibility alone; both are required.”

The following leaders have stepped forward as signatories of this framework:

  • George Barrett, Chairman & CEO, Cardinal Health
  • Dominic Barton, Managing Partner, McKinsey
  • David Berger, Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC
  • Chip Bergh, CEO, Levi Strauss & Co.
  • Stanley Bergman, CEO, Henry Schein
  • Sally Blount, Dean, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
  • Eli Broad, Founder, The Broad Foundations
  • William Budinger, Chairman, The Rodel Foundation
  • Greg Case, President and CEO, AON
  • Jim Cheek, Member, Bass Berry & Sims PLC
  • Thomas A. Cole, Partner and former Chair of the Executive Committee, Sidley Austin LLP
  • Samuel A. Di Piazza, Jr., CEO, PwC International LLC (retired)
  • Karl Ege, Senior Counsel, Perkins Coie LLP
  • Ambassador (ret.) Norman Eisen, Fellow – Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution
  • William George, Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School; Former CEO, Medtronic
  • Janet Hill, Independent Director, Carlyle Group, Wendy’s, Dean Foods
  • Chad Holliday, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
  • Walter Isaacson, CEO, The Aspen Institute
  • David Langstaff, Former CEO, Veridian
  • Martin Lipton, Founding Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Bryan Lourd, Co-Chairman, Creative Artists Agency
  • Phebe Novakovic, CEO, General Dynamics
  • John Olson, Partner, Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP
  • Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
  • Ian Read, CEO, Pfizer
  • Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies, The Brookings Institution
  • Damon Silvers, Associate General Counsel, AFL-CIO
  • Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP
  • Paul Stebbins, Chairman Emeritus, World Fuel Services Corp.
  • Leo E. Strine, Jr.

Affiliations are for identification purposes only.

The American Prosperity Project is a policy framework rather than a detailed prescription. The signatories acknowledge the need for comprehensive solutions and policy changes that serve the long-term interests of the nation over the short-term benefits to individual enterprises—to reposition America to lead the world in long-term investment, innovation and economic opportunity in the 21st century.

Once a global leader, the US now ranks 25th in infrastructure quality per the National Association of Manufacturers. Despite record profitability, fixed capital investment by American corporations is the lowest since 1952 and employer-paid skills training declined 28% between 2001 and 2009.

Martin Lipton of Wachtell Lipton, a key advisor to Boards and expert in corporate governance, who has been out-spoken about short-term pressures on public companies, said the Project is a step towards “restoring the country’s infrastructure, discouraging short-termism, [and] encouraging company investment in research and development…” in his recent interview in The New York Times.

This policy framework and document were produced by a Working Group convened by the Aspen Business and Society Program in the fall of 2015 that included experts in tax and regulation, business management and investment, labor, finance and corporate governance. Close attention has been paid to ideas that have resonance across party lines.

Judith Samuelson, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program and convener of the policy working group states, “Not everyone agrees with everything written in the Framework. This is what the signatories have in common: first, they have an abiding faith in both democracy and the system of capitalism that has brought us great wealth as a nation, and second, they have a bias towards action. Accepting the status quo—tax policy and business decision rules that undermine the future health and opportunity for workers, communities and the environment—is a recipe for failure,” she said.

To download the Policy Framework, please visit our website: www.aspeninstitute.org/american-prosperity-project

The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program (Aspen BSP), founded in 1998, works with business executives and scholars to align business decisions and investments with the long-term health of society—and the planet. Through working groups and focused dialogue, Aspen BSP challenges conventional ideas about capitalism and markets, to test new measures of business success. The Business and Society Program is most known for dialogue on curbing short-termism in business and capital markets, and for fresh thinking about the Purpose of the corporation. For more information, visit www.aspenbsp.org.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.  The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

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