Everything Must Be Touched in Fiscal Debate: Blankfein
Special to CNBC.com
Both spending cuts and added revenues should be part of a final agreement to the "fiscal cliff" battle raging in Washington, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said Wednesday, echoing the "balanced approach" rhetoric embraced by President Barack Obama.
Blankfein was among a group of corporate titans visiting Capitol Hill and the White House on Wednesday as both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue debated spending cuts and revenue hikes.
(Read More: Goldman CEO Headed to White House.)
"You don't want to burden the people who are least able to afford it, [but] at the same time you don't want to disincentivize the economy and be too restrictive, and cut off growth," the Goldman Sachs chief said.
"It would be easy if there was a right and a wrong, everything is right here, so it's a matter of judgment what proportion will come back in these things," he said, adding that there should be no sacred cows in the dash to avert more than half a trillion dollars worth of tax hikes and spending cuts before January. (Read More: Alarm on Wall Street Grows as 'Fiscal Cliff' Nears.)
"I think both sides have to be touched in this," he said. "Entitlements have to be touched and revenue has to be touched."
In a news conference following a meeting with congressional leaders, Aetna Chairman, President & CEO Mark Bertolini said the country was "one grand bargain away from leading the world out of its recession and dominating the world's economy for the next 50 years."
Bertolini stopped short of endorsing any specific proposal, but warned that going over the cliff would send the economy reeling into recession and put upward pressure on an already elevated jobless rate.
"The good news is that everybody understands the urgency of what needs to be done and how quickly it needs to be done," Bertolini said. "The bad news is we are running out of time."
Ace CEO Evan Greenberg told CNBC that kicking the can down the road needs to stop. "We need a solution that is going to call for sacrifice on the part of all Americans," he said. "We're going to have to raise revenues and we're going to have to reduce spending about a three-to-one, which is in line with the Bowles-Simpson framework."
Greenberg, who was not in Washington, said there needs to be a framework for a solution and a downpayment to avoid the immediate fiscal cliff. After the new Congress is sworn in, the ACE CEO said, a more comprehensive long-term solution to the problem can be hammered out.
Union leaders were also in Washington on Wednesday. While there have been calls to include entitlement reform as a part of any deficit and debt fix, Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, pushed back in an interview on CNBC.
She said that entitlement reform should only be discussed once the economy improves and there are more middle class jobs. "We think the top priority is to have the wealthy pay their fair share and get jobs created so we can spur the economic recovery and restore the American middle class," she said.