In case there existed any doubt that Barack Obama (D., Goldman Sachs) is Big Business’s man in Washington, he has named General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to a key economic position: head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, successor to Paul Volcker’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
GE, you will not be surprised to know, spent $32 million on lobbying in the last year and is a big political donor. Like its colleagues in most Big Business sectors, it heavily favors Democrats: It was a large contributor to Barack Obama’s senatorial and presidential campaigns, and the single largest recipient of GE money in 2009–10 was, you will not be surprised to learn, one Barack Obama.
Many in President Obama’s union-goon constituency are disappointed with the decision: Mr. Immelt, they complain, is an “outsourcer,” sending their jobs (“their” jobs) to China. Case in point: GE is shutting down two U.S. factories that made incandescent lightbulbs; the replacements will be made in China.
But hold on: Those incandescent lightbulbs are going the way of the dodo and the pro-life Democrat not because of nefarious plotting by the infernal Chicomms, but because the United States is banning them. Who banned them? The Democrats did, as part of their first-100-hours push upon assuming the majority in Congress. (And who lobbied the Democrats to ban them? GE, of course, for its own Machiavellian reasons.)
Having been the target of a Teamsters picket, I can attest that organized labor is not full of the brightest bulbs in the great American light show. But: How do you give your money and your votes to the party that plans to ban your product and then turn around and whine when they ban your product? Keep up with the news, geniuses.
Speaking of Chicomms, GE was in the process of signing a bunch of deals with them even as Mr. Immelt’s appointment was percolating. Which must have put him in a sweet negotiating position.
GE is the poster child for corporate welfare, having encouraged the supersizing of Obama’s stimulus lard-loaf as a prelude to chasing after its green-tech and energy giveaways. Immelt tagged along with Obama to India, where the president acted as vice president of marketing for the gaggle of CEOs he had in tow.
GE’s cozy relationship with government is paying off: The company has been given a multibillion-dollar contract to build an engine for the Joint Strike Fighter — which already has an engine, built by another company. Having two companies building redundant engines for the same plane was enough to get defense secretary Robert Gates’s attention; he called it a “wasteful boondoggle.” The Pentagon doesn’t want it. But GE got the deal, all the same.
In truth, I can’t think of a more appropriate adviser for an overreaching, arrogant, big-government administration than the head of GE, an overreaching, arrogant, big-government corporation. If we can have a tax cheat overseeing the IRS, why can’t we have a corporate-welfare case telling us how to get productive?
— Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, just published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.