JetBlue CEO to Washington: FAA shutdown "criminal"

NEW YORK - Top executives of some of America's biggest companies say they plan to cut back on hiring. In a report out Thursday, just 36 percent of the CEOs surveyed said they plan to hire in the next six months.

CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley has been speaking recently with some of the country's top CEOs, asking them how to get America back to work.

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In a conversation with David Barger, CEO of JetBlue, Barger points out that it has taken a last-minute Congressional resolution to keep the FAA funded 22 times in a row.

This past summer, when the money didn't come through, the FAA was forced to furlough 4,000 workers.

Barger says businesses don't hire when there's that kind of uncertainty.

David Barger: Take a look in the airline industry - the FAA being partially shut down. I mean that's criminal.

Scott Pelley: What do you mean that's criminal?

Barger: When I use the word criminal, our elected officials are really, they're in office working on behalf of the citizens of our country. And so I just use this micro example within our industry - don't shut us down. Help support us, help fund us. Don't put 4,000 jobs on the unemployment line. Work together.

Pelley: When you saw the country teetering on the edge of defaulting on its debts, what did you think?

Barger: What a shame. Embarrassed. That's not who we are.

Pelley: How do you create jobs in this country?

Barger: We've gotta have people out of Washington that are willing to work together and talk with each other as opposed to not crossing the aisles. So I think that's the No. 1 issue that's really holding us back at this point in time.

Pelley: How do you get us off 9.1 percent unemployment?

Barger: As we build a budget, you have to balance the budget. You have to spend that which is within your limits.

Pelley: The Republicans want to do it with cuts, the Democrats want to have tax increases. What's the answer?

Barger: I think there can be a combination, I truly do. I don't think it has to be a win-lose situation.

Pelley: That seems to be what they think in Washington. That it has to be one or the other.

Barger: That's absolutely right. I don't think it has to be that way. I really don't. We could disagree, but let's at least meet. And it can't be a hostage situation. It can't be win-lose. It has to be win-win.

Pelley: What's the solution?

Barger: In the airline industry, new airplanes? They're going to China, India, and the Middle East. They're not coming to the United States.

Pelley: What does that tell you?

Barger: The real growth, the jobs that are being created - they're offshore. They're not happening here - and so we have to change that.

Pelley: Unemployment has been at 9 percent and above for right about two years now.

Barger: Right.

Pelley: Where are things going?

Barger: I think we're in a little bit of a holding pattern right now because we're back into this election cycle.

Pelley: Another recession headed our way?

Barger: Don't see it. Don't see it. Could there be a double dip? Could. But we're not seeing it.

Pelley: And your message to Washington would be what?

Barger: I think the number one message to Washington from the airline community is help us be a further enabler to the economy. But most importantly: Talk to one another.

  • Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"