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AT&T CEO: To reduce income inequality, spur business investment

Top strategy for stimulating the economy is to cut the tax rate for businesses, says AT&T chief Randall Stephenson, who joined Business Roundtable president John Engler at a recent Monitor Breakfast. An invigorated economy would help narrow the rich-poor gap, he adds.

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Randall Stephenson (r.), CEO of AT&T and chairman of the Business Roundtable, and John Engler, Roundtable president, speak with reporters at the St. Regis Hotel on Jan. 15, in Washington, D.C.

Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor

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Corporate leaders Randall Stephenson (r.) and John Engler head the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of major corporations. Mr. Stephenson is Roundtable chair and chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T. Mr. Engler, a former governor of Michigan, is Roundtable president. They spoke at the Jan. 15 Monitor Breakfast.

Why tax reform is essential:

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Stephenson: "If you asked us to identify one issue that could stimulate growth [it would be] business tax reform.... [M]ost studies say [if] you drop the tax rate 1 percent, you can drive half a percent in growth in GDP within a year."

The charge that businesses favor tax reform – but not if it raises their own tax bill:

Stephenson: "If there were ... reforms put in place that stripped key preferences ... and replaced them with a lower rate ... and either way AT&T's taxes go up ... significantly by billions of dollars, I will ... pledge our support to that because it is such a good thing to do for economic growth and driving investment."

How to reduce income inequality in the US:

Stephenson: "If you are not investing, you are not hiring.... Investment and growth ... is the best recipe to begin to address income inequality."

The impact of government regulation:

Engler: "Over time, [it's getting] harder and harder to get approval to do things."

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Where phone records used by the National Security Agency should be held:

Stephenson: "Where the data is housed probably isn't that important as long as the rules are clarified and we know exactly what we are looking at."