America’s top business leaders have given Washington a “much-needed reality check,” said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. The CEOs of more than 80 major companies, including General Electric, Microsoft, and Verizon, sent Congress an open letter urging immediate action on the $16 trillion national debt, which they rightly called “a serious threat to the economic well-being and security of the United States.” The corporate chieftains actually put their “reputations on the line” by endorsing a nonpartisan combination of spending cuts and tax reforms that would set the country on a more sensible fiscal path. Now it’s time for Congress to follow suit and stop “putting off tough budget decisions,” said the Los Angeles Times. The sooner Washington listens to this bipartisan alliance’s recommendations, the better.

“This is ridiculous,” said Felix Salmon in Reuters.com. The CEOs’ manifesto is nothing more than “gross self-interest masquerading as public statesmanship.” These 1 percenters say they want to fix America’s debt, but they’re certainly not advocating that Congress raise their taxes. No, they want taxes raised on everyone else, and they’re pushing for cuts to programs they don’t need, like Medicare and Social Security. Their hypocrisy is galling, said Steve Goldstein in Market Watch.com. They haven’t identified a single tax change they’d support, nor have they pledged to stop supporting political candidates who stubbornly oppose tax hikes. And everyone knows these companies maintain an “army of lobbyists” to fight tooth and nail for beneficial loopholes that save them “hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars each year in tax.” Until these executives “put their money where their mouth is,” consider this letter little more than an empty gimmick.

It’s not as if anyone is really listening anyway, said Heidi Moore in Guardian.co.uk. These executives are completely correct in pointing out that “the tax math we’ve been hearing on the political stump doesn’t exactly make sense,” and that Congress needs to act urgently if the fragile economic recovery is to survive the fiscal cliff. But since the “credibility of corporate leaders is not exactly at an all-time high,” and with just days to go before the election, this “perfectly rational” plan will no doubt fall on deaf ears. That’s a crying shame, because America is definitely headed for a major tax and debt crisis. And the truly sad part is that ultimately, “average American households will pay the price.”