Trump and Biden make dueling pitches to business leaders

Trump and Biden make dueling pitches to business leaders

Both the Trump campaign and the Biden administration are offering an outreach to the business world Thursday with dueling events that crystallize their different promises to corporate America should they win the election.

Both are, in a sense, offering carrots, just of a different flavor.

Donald Trump, who is set to meet Thursday morning with a group of prominent CEOs in Washington D.C., is supremely focused on tax cuts as well as cutting government regulations.

The promise from Biden’s team is that a second term would be focused, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is set to say in a Thursday speech to New York business leaders, on “public interventions to create a supportive environment for business and fuel private sector investments.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Sunday in Las Vegas. (Madeline Carter/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) (Las Vegas Review-Journal via Getty Images)

It remains to be seen which approach resonates with both the overall business community and with the public at large.

But many CEOs have signaled a close focus on taxes in the coming year ahead of the expiration of key provisions in the 2017 Trump tax cuts coming at the end of 2025.

Trump is meeting Thursday with members of the Business Roundtable, an association of top business executives currently chaired by Cisco (CSCO) CEO Chuck Robbins.

Ahead of the Trump meeting, officials at the Business Roundtable laid out detailed priorities for taxes and announced a willingness to spend over $10 million to get their message out that tax reforms are needed for global competitiveness.

It would be the largest campaign in the group’s history as it aims to maintain the current 21% corporate tax rate, improve the international tax system, and also add new incentives for companies who spend on research and development in the US.

In a back and forth with reporters, Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten downplayed Trump’s less business-friendly ideas — such as his determination to impose a 10% tariff on US trading partners.

“We’re not looking at it as a package deal,” he said. “We think that taxes ought to be low and we think unjustified tariffs ought not be put into place.”

Biden was invited to address the gathering alongside Trump but is currently in Italy for a G-7 conference and is sending White House chief of staff Jeff Zients, a former business executive, in his stead.

Yellen’s message Thursday in New York will also include a stick of sorts as she is set to reiterate Biden’s overall plan to ask the business world to pay their “fair share” in taxes if he is re-elected.

President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Brindisi Airport in Italy to attend the G7 Summit. (PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images) (PIERO CRUCIATTI via Getty Images)

The plan Trump has outlined publicly would center on an extension of his 2017 tax cuts that cut costs for many individuals and businesses. He is promising to extend those cuts and also potentially make new ones, including an idea to further lower the corporate tax rate.

During his visit to Washington, Trump is set to attend a series of closed-door meetings. He will meet first with House Republicans, then with Business Roundtable CEOs, then with Republican Senators to plot strategy and try to garner support around taxes and other issues.

On Thursday morning, Trump was met by protestors as his meetings began on Capitol Hill. The former president first met with House Republicans where, according to a variety of accounts given to reporters, he touched on a wide array of issues from taxes to tariffs to abortion to recent primary results.

“When he comes in, we’ve got to have a very aggressive first 100 days agenda,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday ahead of the visit.

Johnson and other lawmakers are making plans — if their party sweeps the House, Senate, and Presidential elections this fall — to quickly push an extension of those tax cuts through Congress using a process known as reconciliation.

The maneuver requires only a simple majority in the Senate but requires unified control of government by one party.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) (Tom Williams via Getty Images)

A question for the meeting with CEOs is whether Trump’s meeting will follow a similar pattern of private Trump pitches in recent months where the former President, according to some experts, has neared the line of making campaign finance violations by linking his tax and regulation plans with campaign donations.

A recent Washington Post report found Trump met with oil executives and told them they should raise $1 billion for his campaign, telling them it would be a “deal” because of the money they would save.

Biden’s emerging pitch to business is focused on more government support for business.

With the President in Europe, it is falling to Secretary Yellen to offer that message.

She is set to speak to the Economic Club of New York Thursday where she will focus on how a second term for Biden could include more government help for businesses — while also standing firm that tax cuts would likely end.

It’s a speech that, according to excerpts released in advance, will focus on what she calls “modern supply-side economics.”

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen speaks during the Financial Stability Oversight Council Conference at the U.S. Treasury Department on June 6. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) (Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images)

Yellen will say that “traditional supply-side economics wrongly assumes that policies such as tax cuts for those at the top and deregulation will fuel growth and prosperity for the nation at large.”

Her speech will instead lay out a plan for additional collaboration and say “this broad-based approach brings benefits not just for American workers and families but for businesses and the economy as a whole.”

Biden has indeed had notable successes using government power to spur strategically important sectors.

The 2021 CHIPs and Science Act spawned a wave of new semiconductor activity and put the US on pace, top officials said, to produce 20% of the world’s most advanced semiconductor chips by the end of the decade. The U.S. currently produces 0% of these chips.

And just this week, the White House announced that an electric vehicle tax credit in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act has now saved consumers over $1 billion since taking effect in January.

The question, at least when it comes to how the message is received by CEOs, is whether business leaders will only be interested in the tax issue, where Biden is offering little for them to like.

“The last thing we wanna do is go backwards on tax,” said Cisco’s Robbins during this week’s discussion with reporters.

Other speakers at the event also offered criticism of Biden’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, saying it would make America one of the least competitive places on the globe to do business..

Trump is promising a move in the opposite direction, down to 15%.

Biden’s team says his message may be less welcome in C-suites, but it’s a message that will nonetheless resonate with voters.

It was a point underlined in a new White House memo released Thursday where Lael Brainard, Biden’s top economic advisor, pointed out that Trump’s promise of tax cuts does not include a plan of how they’d be paid for.

Trump, she wrote, would balance the books by “making hard working Americans pay—whether by taxing household purchases, severely cutting Social Security and other programs hard working Americans count on, or ballooning our national debt.”

In her own call with reporters, Brainard maintained that it was a winning issue and that people don’t think billionaires and big businesses aren’t paying enough so “the President is on firm ground when he talks about tax fairness.”

Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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