U.S. business leaders 'concerned' about rise of populism and nationalism worldwide

"I think there are other ways to get negotiations. Shows America doesn’t have its act together," said one prominent CEO about the government shutdown.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Stephanie Ruhle and Michael Cappetta

As the United States enters its 33rd day of a partial government shutdown, business and political leaders participating in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, are not surprised that President Donald Trump is staying home.

The summit's agenda is to address a growing number of global crises — and attendees could argue that close to a million federal workers going unpaid is a crisis in itself. But what has so many participants concerned is that Washington's inability to resolve the stalemate is indicative of America's declining role as a world leader.

"It's 800,000 workers not getting paid," said Andrew Liveris, former chairman and chief executive officer of Dow Chemical, and a member of Trump's short-lived American Manufacturing Council. "I don’t know if you should use people's lives to make a point. I think there are other ways to get negotiations. Shows America doesn’t have its act together."

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

"Since World War II, the U.S. government has played a leadership role," echoed Microsoft President Brad Smith. "It worries us a lot. The world needs American leadership. Think about cybersecurity and nation state attacks — this is a problem that begs for American leadership; there is no way for a company to fill in the gap of government."

Others described the direct impact on their business due to Trump's hard line on immigration: Marriott has seen a 20 percent drop in business since the start of the government shutdown, CEO Arne Sorenson told NBC News.

"Trade issues and travel issues are restraining people from traveling because of nationalism rising," he said. "It’s easy for countries to say we don’t want others to come. Typically, that’s done in the context of immigration, not in travel, but the line between immigration and travel can be blurry."

Liveris told NBC News that while he is "very concerned" about the government shutdown, he still supports some Trump policies, saying that Trump was elected for, and by, the American worker.

However, economists would argue that many of Trump’s policies have not helped the American worker — such as the $1.5 trillion corporate tax cut, which Republicans said would raise wages and spur hiring, but which instead funded a record stock buyback and dividend spree, benefiting investors and company executives over workers.

Liveris cited low unemployment and record job openings as the direct result of tax cuts and deregulation. But with so many job openings, undocumented workers are clearly not stealing American jobs, as Trump has claimed.

Sticking to that argument could prevent the president — and the nation — from moving forward.

Hopefully Davos is the start of the conversation, even if the U.S. government shows up late.