Jeffrey Immelt (G.E.) and Jobs

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            “The ‘science’ of economics … has become a form of madness, a dream of human imagination we mistake for a pattern of the world.  It is a path not merely to serfdom, but to death.   We do have an alternative, though.  We can believe what we see with our own eyes.” – Barry C. Lynn, “Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction,” John Wiley & Sons, 2010, p. 252.  

          I’ll be using this quotation a lot.  Lynn identifies in detail the kinds of business practices that G.E. and all the large industrial firms are using today, and we have talked about that in connection with G.E.’s zero tax burden in 2010.  G.E., which just spent its $3.2 billion tax credit in France to acquire a manufacturing company, may be engaged in financial processes Lynn calls the “shopping spree” and the follow-up “strip mining” of corporations. 

           In such financial profiteering, jobs and employees are of little concern and, indeed, are frequently wiped out for profit.  Sadly, the G.E. that was once grateful to its workforce and cared about its employees is long gone.  Through my in-laws in Pittsfield MA, for example, I have learned that there have been no COLAs in G.E. pensions for years.     

          So I couldn’t agree more with this letter I just received today from Russ Feingold at Progressives United calling for Jeffrey Immelt, G.E.’s CEO, to resign from his position as chair of Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness (talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse!): 

          Michael, It’s everything that’s wrong with corporate power today: 

          News broke last week that General Electric, America’s largest corporation, made $14,200,000,000 in profits last year and paid $0 in taxes — that’s right, zero dollars in taxes. At the same time, C.E.O. Jeffrey Immelt saw his compensation double. Now I hear that GE is expected to ask 15,000 of their unionized workers to make major concessions in wages and benefits.

          But what really adds insult to injury is the prestigious and influential position Jeffrey Immelt holds as chair of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

          That’s wrong. Someone like Immelt, who has helped his company evade taxes on its huge profits — and is now looking to workers to take major pay cuts after his compensation was doubled — should not lead the administration’s effort to create jobs.

          We cannot stand by and watch while we are led down this road. Mr. Immelt must step down from the president’s jobs panel -and if he won’t, President Obama needs to ask for his resignation.

          How can someone like Immelt be given the responsibility of heading a jobs creation task force when his company has been creating more jobs overseas while reducing its American workforce? And under Immelt’s direction, GE spends hundreds of millions of dollars hiring lawyers and lobbyists to evade taxes.

          All of this at a time when Fox News and the right wing are demonizing public workers, like teachers, as the cause of our economic problems.

         It’s time for policymakers to stop coddling corporate interests, and get to work creating jobs and wealth for Main Street. We shouldn’t reward wealthy CEOs and Wall Street for behavior that undermines the nation’s economy.

         President Obama has been talking about how we must ‘win the future,’ and I agree with him in that goal. Jeffrey Immelt is not the person for that job.

Russ Feingold
Progressives United

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