More than 100 chief executives of large companies gathered at The Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council conference to discuss today’s pressing public-policy and business issues.
The CEOs divided into six task forces to debate priorities about doing business in China and what governments can do to help; how public companies can stay focused on the long term; the future of health care; dealing with disruptive technology; balancing energy security with environmental sustainability; and how to expand middle-class jobs. Each task force presented its recommendations, and the full conference then voted these five as the top overall priorities:
1. 21st-Century Workforce
A competitive work force requires action on all fronts, from expanded early childhood education to reform of funding mechanisms. Involve business in the education system, including curriculum development, to help students prepare for available job opportunities. Encourage schools and parents to sign up for programs engaging businesses. Improve focus on STEM and technical training.
2. Pro-Growth Fundamentals
Focus on pro-growth fundamentals including corporate income-tax reform and free trade. Promote smarter regulation by eliminating constraints on starting and growing businesses to generate additional jobs quickly. Expand H-1B visa program and grant a visa to every technical graduate. Allow immigrants who already received a STEM degree (or are pursuing one now) to stay.
3. Modernize Infrastructure
The market needs clear rules to spur private investment in a range of infrastructure, including modernizing and expanding the electric grid, pipelines and transportation sector. Streamlined permitting is especially needed. Investment would also help electrify the transportation sector. Establish a national infrastructure bank, aimed at professionalizing public infrastructure investment and being a model for states. Also use public-private partnerships for funding. Establish independent, nonpolitical leadership with a structure similar to the Federal Reserve system.
4. Taper Capital-Gains Tax
Structure the capital-gains tax to create an incentive for investors to hold their shares for an extended period, reducing the tax rate as time goes on. It would discourage traders and attract investors, and help align executives’ interests with shareholders’. This would help U.S. companies grow, hire and compete in the global marketplace.
5. Empower Health-Care Consumers
Give consumers more information to make smart economic choices and promote wellness. Cost, quality and outcome data must be made available in a way that will advance paying for quality and value. Shift more accountability to consumers, but make sure they’re informed. Allow insurance companies and employers to provide consumer incentives.