AMEX CEO touts "Small Business Saturday"

NEW YORK - With our elected officials so far unable to solve the country's economic problems, CBS News has been consulting with the CEOs of some of America's most successful corporations.

Monday, CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley sat down with Ken Chenault of American Express. Fortune Magazine called American Express one of the world's 20 most-admired companies. Chenault was Fortune's choice as CEO of its "Fantasy Executive League."

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Pelley asked Chenault what the failure of the supercommittee would mean.

Kenneth Chenault: I think our country is a very resilient country. And I think we will go on. But it will be an incredible missed opportunity. And I think that our leaders need to be held accountable.

Scott Pelley: Well, the Democrats believe that they have it right. The Republicans believe that they have it right. And this is a battle of ideology to see who wins.

Chenault: I think what's very important, and we really do have something that we can follow, and that's the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which I think was a real example of principled compromise.

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Pelley: Is it your opinion that there has to be compromise on cutting and tax increases? There has to be some of both in order to move the country forward?

Chenault: I don't see how you can have absolutist positions on either side. And that's what Bowles-Simpson was all about. And if we simply have both sides go to their respective corners, the fight never takes place and no one wins. So we need principled compromise.

Pelley also asked Chenault how to create jobs. One idea, he said was to support small business. American Express is promoting something it called "Small Business Saturday" on Nov. 26. Chenault says everyone should do their holiday shopping in small community stores that day - mom and pop shops.

Chenault: Small businesses create half of the jobs in the private sector. And in fact, have created 65 percent of the net new jobs over the last 17 years. And so, what small business is all about, is where the individual can help our economy because we need to create jobs. And if people support independently owned small businesses in their community, they can make a difference.

Pelley: Your message to Washington then is what?

Chenault: My message to Washington is very simple. Face reality. Be leaders. Demonstrate accountability. Engage in principle compromise. And understand your job is to find solutions. The stakes are too high, and failure is not an option.

Chenault says he hopes "Small Business Saturday" will become as important as Black Friday, which is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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