CEOs want Biden to restore trust in government

January 28, 2021, 10:36 AM UTC

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Good morning.

What does business want from the new U.S. administration?  We asked that question in our latest CEO survey, done in collaboration with Deloitte. We allowed each CEO to choose their top three issues (which is why the percentages below don’t add up to 100%.) Their responses:

Restoring trust in government:            59%

COVID relief and economic recovery: 55%

Infrastructure:                                         33%

Climate change:                                       32%

Education/workforce training:             30%

Trade policy/tariffs:                                 21%

Reducing national debt/deficit:            20%

Health care affordability/coverage:    20%

Racial equity:                                            19%

Foreign policy:                                          17%

Immigration policy:                                 5%

Corporate tax policy:                               4%

A number of interesting things about these responses. A decade ago, reducing the national debt was the favorite policy hobby horse of business. Since then, the federal debt has grown substantially, passing the 100% of GDP benchmark. But business leaders clearly recognize that in today’s economy—where capital is plentiful and interest rates close to zero—other priorities deserve more attention.

Tax policy, meanwhile, has dropped to dead last on the list. That’s less surprising. These folks know if this administration addresses corporate taxes, it will only be to push them up.

But what I find most interesting is that—after addressing the nation’s political, economic, and health crises—the CEOs have their collective sights set on three critical areas for collaboration with government:  infrastructure, climate change, and workforce training. Let’s hope the new administration doesn’t exhaust its political and financial capital on the economic recovery bill, so it can work with business to address these three critical areas for building a better future.

We’ll be discussing these priorities later today, when members of Fortune’s CEO Initiative gather virtually (in lieu of our annual dinner in Davos.) Among the roughly 100 CEOs attending will be CEOs of Pfizer, CVS, Marriott, GM, Verizon, L’Oreal, Bank of America, Dassault, FedEx, Northrup Grumman, Ikea, Workday, Hyatt, Occidental, Albertson’s, Nestle, PayPal, Edward Jones, Bridgewater, Progressive, HP, HPE, Levi’s, Kohl’s, UPS, Sanofi, Henry Schein and more. Also on hand, His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, to discuss his “Terra Carta” initiative for the environment.

More on the CEO survey in Fortune Analytics, here. Other news below.

Alan Murray


Environmental action

The fossil fuel industry has reportedly been surprised at the speed with which the Biden administration is moving to fight climate change, by yanking the Keystone XL permit, committing to the most aggressive carbon cuts the U.S. can manage, and suspending new oil and gas leases on public lands. Canary Drilling Services CEO Dan Eberhart: "The industry is aghast at these changes…They are more direct, more fierce and quicker than what folks expected." Biden: "We've already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis." Bloomberg

Market turmoil

Against the backdrop of the /WallStreetBets madness, large cap indexes struggled yesterday. As Fortune's Anne Sraders and Bernhard Warner write, the two may be connected. S3 Partners MD Ihor Dusaniwsky: "There are probably a bunch of hedge funds that are looking at their...longs and shorts, and saying, ‘I have to change the makeup of my portfolio because I have a handful of stocks that are costing me tremendous amounts of money for using the prime broker’s balance sheet'." Fortune

Apple boost

Apple became the world's largest smartphone brand again last quarter, according to Canalys. The market researchers say the iPhone 12 has been a hit, pulling Apple ahead of Samsung and Xiaomi in terms of shipments. In the previous quarter, when the latest iPhone's launch was being delayed by pandemic realities, Xiaomi had the lead. Fortune

Tesla results

Tesla's first results as an S&P 500 company disappointed analysts, leading its stock to fall as much as 7.6% after-market. Still, it was a sixth consecutive quarter of profit, and the company is promising annual average delivery growth of 50% going forward. CNBC


Trump trial

With almost all Republican senators having now indicated their unwillingness to convict former President Donald Trump over his incitement of sedition, some Democrats and Republicans are working together on an alternative to a full-blown trial: bipartisan censure. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is still aiming for a trial. Fortune

European vaccines

As the EU and AstraZeneca continue their standoff over deliveries, Politico has a good history-so-far of the European vaccine situation. It essentially comes down to the question of whether European unity, better liability protections and the quest for low prices have been worth the relatively slow EU rollout. Politico

Vaping conundrum

China's biggest e-cigarette maker, Relx Technologies, had a successful NYSE IPO last week. But its regulatory environment in China is hazy, as Beijing is yet to decide whether e-cigarettes are tobacco or tech. That means different rules in different parts of the country. Fortune

Free speech

Social media platforms’ creation of free-speech rules on the fly could lead to abuse of power, warns Yuval Shany of the Federmann Cyber Security Research Center Cyber Law Program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a piece for Fortune: "Now that online platforms are evolving from republishers of third party information…to gatekeepers of democracy and defenders of the public interest, legal and political checks over their newly exercised power need to be reevaluated." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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