News and Commentary

Top CEOs Wary Of Biden Tax Hikes, New Coronavirus Variants
US President Joe Biden speaks, flanked by White House Chief Medical Adviser on Covid-19 Dr. Anthony Fauci (R) during a visit to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, February 11, 2021.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

American executives are wary of tax hikes and new variants of COVID-19.

As discovered by the Business Roundtable’s fourth-quarter CEO Economic Outlook Index, managers expect higher levels of sales, capital investment, and hiring. Nevertheless, Business Roundtable President Joshua Bolten warned that “tax increases on employers would create headwinds for business investment and innovation and impose economic risk at a time when American families are already experiencing the impact of rising inflation.”

“We urge Congress to reject harmful tax increases like those included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act, which would be a shift in the wrong direction for our economy, American businesses and workers,” said Bolten, who also lauded the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as “an important investment in the long-term health of the economy.”

“This quarter’s survey reflects the encouraging signs we’re seeing with the economic rebound as consumers begin to resume travel and spending,” added Business Roundtable Chairman Doug McMillon, who serves as CEO of Walmart. “Continued progress in defeating the pandemic, including new variants, will be necessary to sustain strong growth into the second half of 2022.”

The survey — taken between November 3 and November 22 — projected 3.9% economic growth in 2022. The report also said that 48% of executives identified labor costs as a top cost pressure, while 20% identified supply chain disruptions, and 17% identified material costs.

However, the survey was taken before South African researchers identified the Omicron variant of the coronavirus — which will likely place downward pressure on business leaders’ optimism.

According to the World Health Organization, the strain is a “highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations … some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.” But a prominent doctor in South Africa who first alerted the nation’s vaccine advisory committee about the variant has sought to put things in perspective.

“It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well,” South African Medical Association Chair Dr. Angelique Coetzee told The Telegraph. “So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer the loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home.”

She described one case in which a six-year-old girl had “a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better.”

“What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe [form of the] disease,” she added.

Nevertheless, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the United States should “be prepared to do anything and everything,” including lockdowns, to reduce the spread of Omicron.

“We just really need to, as I said so often, prepare for the worst. It may not be we’ll have to go the route people are saying,” Fauci said. “We don’t know a lot about this virus. So we want to prepare as best we can, but it may turn out this preparation, although important, may not necessarily push us to the next level.”

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