General Electric head Jeffrey Immelt is the new fox in the Obama henhouse. The President's recent appointment of Immelt to head up the newly-established Council on Jobs and Competitiveness makes a mockery of the vital work that Council could and should be doing. This appointment is already an embarrassment, and will prove to be even worse than it appears at present. Most of us realize that President Obama feels the need to cozy up to corporate leaders, but while it is truly said that politics makes strange bedfellows, this is a case of "sleeping with the enemy."
Jeff Immelt's worldwide General Electric Corporation has more than half of its employees outside of the United States. Immelt is a master at combining outsourcing and downsizing to cut GE's costs, while taking multi-billion Federal bailout dollars for the company's finance subsidiary. Indeed, while criticizing American laws which encourage production in this country, Immelt has blithely accepted comparable statutes in China and elsewhere which require GE to produce locally.
But there is considerably more to cause concern. Jeff Immelt has personally criticized and indeed mocked our President, with comments that Obama dislikes business and business dislikes Obama. He has been a loud and frequent critic of most of this President's signature initiatives, including taking cheap shots at many of them. He opposes anything which might cost employers some money, such as decent health care for all Americans. Indeed, Immelt is the poster boy for nearly every policy which is contrary to those of the Obama Administration.
All that, however, does not prevent General Electric's lobbying for a new military fighter plane which the Pentagon says it neither wants nor needs, but which would be powered by GE's jet engines. Speaking of lobbying, in response to questions about conflicts of interest at the announcement of Immelt's appointment to head the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, it was revealed that GE's lawyers see no conflict of interest between his working as a key White House advisor and pressing that same White House on behalf of General Electric's corporate interests.
America's corporations and their leaders are vital to our economic success, and surely deserve to play a role in the Obama Administration. Proper and well-considered outreach to such leaders might well be a wise policy. Putting this particular fox in charge of such a vital henhouse as the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, however, is not corporate inclusion, it is total capitulation.