Last month a Wall Street Journal editor asked a room full of CEOs to raise their hands if the corporate tax cut being considered in Congress would lead them to invest more. Very few hands went up. Attending was Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s economic adviser and a friend of mine. He asked: “Why aren’t the other hands up?”
Allow me to answer that: We don’t need the money.
Corporations are sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion. That figure has been climbing steadily since the recession ended in 2009, and it’s now double what it was in 2001. The reason CEOs aren’t investing more of their liquid assets has little to do with the tax rate.
CEOs aren’t waiting on a tax cut to “jump-start the economy” — a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company — or to hand out raises. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised. Had Congress actually listened to executives, or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that.
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