Silicon Valley CEOs Park an Elephant in the Oval Office

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    MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Eric Schmidt (R), Google Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, interviews Democratic, then Presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) during a town hall meeting at Google headquarters Nov. 14, 2007 in Mountain View. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama is often called the most digital president in American history.

    His tech savvy was on display once again as the president invited 20 CEOs from the country's leading companies to meet with him at the White House Wednesday.

    Heavily represented in that contingent were the heads of some of Silicon Valley's biggest companies, including Google, Cisco and Intel. Noticeably missing from the round table was Apple CEO Steve Jobs but Mr. Obama met with him on an October visit to San Francisco.

    On the agenda in the president's meeting with the heads of American industry was a plea to hire more unemployed Americans and a conversation about how to build a stronger economy. The assembled CEOs represent more than 80,000 workers and have a market cap of $52 billion.

    One Silicon Valley CEO in the room has an idea on what Mr. Obama can do but Cisco Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Chambers' idea may not be the most popular with the president.

    He proposed a change to U.S. tax policy in an article in the Wall Street Journal that he says keeps American companies from re-investing money they make overseas because they are heavily taxed.

    “One trillion dollars is roughly the amount of earnings that American companies have in their foreign operations—and that they could repatriate to the United States," he wrote in the article titled "The Overseas Profits Elephant in the Room" and co-authored with Oracle President Safra Catz.

    But for U.S companies such repatriation of earnings carries a significant penalty: a federal tax of up to 35 percent. This means that U.S. companies can, without significant consequence, use their foreign earnings to invest in any country in the world—except here.”

    Chambers argues that if the tax rate was reduced, U.S. companies would be more inclined to keep overseas profits -- that he estimates are over $1 trillion combined -- in the country.

    But tax cuts for the wealthy has not been a popular stance for a president who already has a popularity issue.