CEOs from twenty of the nation’s largest companies spent Wednesday at the Washington, discussing ways to boost the economy with Pres. Barack Obama. Google, Cisco, and Intel were represented, as was John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins. Conspicuously absent was Apple’s Steve Jobs, but the White House pointed out that he had met with the president during Obama’s visit to the Bay Area in October. Also absent was Carol Bartz from Yahoo, but then again, she just laid off 4 percent of her employees, which can hardly be considered a job builder.

As with any meeting about business and investment, the talk inevitably turned to taxes, with Cisco CEO John Chambers leading the charge. He repeated the message of his October Wall Street Journal article, coauthored with Safra Catz of Oracle, that U.S. companies have an estimated $1 trillion overseas, which they would happily repatriate to the U.S., were it not for the 35 percent tax rate. If it was in the U.S., that money could be used to invest in “jobs, capital assets, research and development, and more,” they wrote. Their conclusion: “By permitting companies to repatriate foreign earnings at a low tax rate—say, 5 percent—Congress and the president could create a privately funded stimulus of up to a trillion dollars,” and that, “Such a program could help put more than two million Americans back to work at no cost to the government or American taxpayers.”

As the president walked to the meeting, he told reporters: “I am looking forward to getting good ideas from them, but I am definitely going to talk to them about how we can get more hiring out there.” Once the holidays wind down, we will find out if he accepted any of their ideas.
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