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David Cote

Honeywell CEO David Cote “is the business executive most in the middle of the fiscal cliff debate,” said Monica Langley in The Wall Street Journal. Cote talks with or emails White House adviser Valerie Jarrett several times a day, and also regularly visits Republican congressional offices, “bringing along other corporate titans and a newly funded CEO campaign for a deficit compromise.” Cote says he’s willing to pay a top marginal income tax of 39.6 percent, instead of today’s 35 percent, and to sacrifice deductions, “provided significant cuts are made in entitlement programs such as Medicare.” Critics scoff that Cote, who earned $25 million last year, “can afford to be magnanimous.” He counters that “a robust economy” is best for his shareholders, and that can’t exist “if the country is gridlocked over debt.”

Cote’s “passion for compromise is admirable, but it’s not as if Honeywell doesn’t have some skin in the game,” said Max Nisen in BusinessInsider.com. Government contracts account for 10 percent of Honeywell’s annual sales, so the company would take a big hit if the country fell off the fiscal cliff. Cote can only do so much, though. “I can keep talking about a market-credible fiscal plan,” he says. “But it’s time to say, ‘You are the leaders—lead.’”

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