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Deere CEO: Political debt rancor could shock economy

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Corporate America is nervous about the nation's debt problems, and one chief executive warned that the deficit debate in Washington could destabilize the shaky U.S. economy.

Samuel Allen, CEO of Deere & Co. (DE, Fortune 500), the world's largest maker of farm equipment, said the economy is in "precarious shape."

In an interview with Bloomberg's Chicago bureau, Allen suggested that forecasts for economic growth in the range of 3% to 4% for 2011 may be overly optimistic.

One of the main risks to economic growth, he said, is the uncertainty surrounding the nation's debt. "From a long-term standpoint, the debt is a tremendous issue," Allen told the news service Wednesday.

Allen said the "dialogue and discourse" about America's debt can have "a near-term shock implication on the economy" that is potentially larger than others have estimated.

"Sometimes people in Washington lose sight of how much the rest of us go into paralysis when you don't know what's going to happen or both sides start so far apart," Allen said in the Bloomberg interview

The comments came amid an increasingly noisy debate in Washington over how to bring down the nation's long-term deficits, which many economists and policymakers say are unsustainable.

In a sign of what's at stake, Standard & Poor's said Monday that there is a one-in-three chance the United States could lose its pristine AAA credit rating if the government fails to come up with a credible deficit-reduction plan within two years.

That would make it much harder for the U.S. government to borrow the money it needs to fund its activities and further undermine the nation's currency.

President Obama outlined his deficit-reduction plan last week, after Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House budget committee, issued the Republican proposal on April 5.

Congress is expected to take up the issue when lawmakers return from recess next month. Obama has put Vice President Joseph Biden in charge of overseeing the effort, with the goal of producing a legislative framework by the end of June.

But Allen and other business leaders are not convinced that policymakers will see eye-to-eye on key issues of spending cuts and tax hikes. As a result, they are bracing for a period of uncertainty.

Given the lack of clarity on the nation's fiscal future, "we may have to cut back from record levels of capital expenditures if all of a sudden the economy goes south," he added.

Meanwhile, many economists believe the two deficit-reduction plans currently on the table are flawed.

In an exclusive CNNMoney survey, eight out of 18 economists polled this month said that neither the Obama nor the Ryan plan is in the best interest of the nation's economy.

Another six economists sided with the Republican plan, while four supported the president's proposal. To top of page

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