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What I Want to Hear From Obama: Honeywell CEO

Honeywell CEO David Cote wants President Obama to talk about the national debtand how he'll shrink it in his State of the Union address later Tuesday, he told CNBC.

President Barack Obama
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President Barack Obama

Cote said he would like to hear an "American competitiveness agenda" from Obama in his speech.

"Over the last 20 years we’ve gone from a global economy that had a billion active participants to one that has four billion active participants," including China, India, and other countries, Cote said. "We still act like we did 20 years ago."

The $15.23 trillionnational debt "is going to consume us," he warned. "As bad as we think it is today, it gets significantly worse over the next 10 years as the baby boomer generation retires...That’s the biggest thing the business world needs to see addressed or it will kill GDPresults."

Thenational debt, particularly the growing costs of Medicare and Medicaid, is not the only issue. Cote said the administration needs to deal with energy policy, math and science education, infrastructure, free trade, and tort reform.

Cote, a Republican who voted for Obama and has been on a number of administration panels, including one on the deficit, said the president "gets it" intellectually that business "has been the source of productivity and our standard of living in the country. [But] how that understanding translates into policy is something different."

The Honeywell executive said business in the U.S. "seems to be going OK," but Europe "is clearly in recession" and it "can't avoid having an impact" on the U.S., China, and India.

"We just see order trends in Europe," he said. "Everything is falling off."

Honeywell has been cautious in hiring since August because of concerns about the economy, he said. "There's always attrition that you need to hire back for, but I think in general we’ve been trying to be very careful how quickly those people get added back."

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