The head of Boston insurance giant John Hancock Financial Services blasted political leaders in Washington yesterday for battling one another, instead of working to slash the nation’s deficit and revive the ailing US economy.
“We need to tell the folks in Washington to put politics aside and fix the economic fundamentals,’’ Jim Boyle, president of John Hancock, told a breakfast meeting held by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Boyle, a certified public accountant who became John Hancock’s president in May 2009, recommended Congress use the proposal by the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission as a blueprint to cut trillions of dollars from the deficit through a mixture of spending cuts, tax increases, and benefit reductions in entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.
In 2010, President Obama created the bipartisan group, chaired by Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator, and Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff in the Clinton White House, to identify ways to improve the country’s fiscal situation in coming years. A bipartisan congressional committee is now developing its own recommendations to trim the deficit.
“We need to insist on shared sacrifice,’’ Boyle said. “Everyone’s been affected, so everyone is going to have to feel some pain.’’
Boyle also criticized Washington for increasing regulation through laws like the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill, saying the stricter rules will unnecessarily impose huge costs on the financial industry and stifle growth. He insisted government officials simply need to do a better job administering existing rules - even though many Democrats and academics say the financial crisis and housing bust show the need for tighter regulation.
“We need the regulatory burdens eased,’’ Boyle said. “The pendulum has already swung too far.’’
Boyle said increased regulations are especially burdensome to companies like John Hancock, which are regulated by both state and federal agencies.
“We spend more money on compliance than we do on health care costs for our employees,’’ said Boyle, noting that Hancock pays 75 percent of employee health insurance premiums.
After the speech, Boyle was asked why he believes politicians haven’t been able to forge a compromise to cut the deficit, despite agreements by bipartisan commissions.
“It stuns to me to think the answers are so obvious and yet politics is getting in the way,’’ Boyle said. “It seems many times too many people are worried about themselves personally and the next election and not doing the right thing for this country and it’s very discouraging.’’
Hancock is a unit of Toronto-based Manulife Financial, which bought the Boston insurance company in 2004. Boyle said Hancock remains committed to Boston, noting it continues to sponsor the Boston Marathon, repurchased the Old John Hancock Building five years ago, and has maintained its employment in the area. The company has 3,800 employees in Boston, up from about 3,660 in November 2010.
“Our presence in Boston is as strong as it has ever been,’’ Boyle said.
Boyle, who graduated from Boston College, worked for Coopers & Lybrand before joining Manulife in 1992.
‘We need to tell the folks in Washington to put politics aside and fix the economic fundamentals.’
John Hancock, one of the country’s largest life insurance firms, has also built significant operations in long-term care insurance, mutual funds, 401(k) plans, and annuities.Todd Wallack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @twallack.