By Myron Ebell and Brian McGraw
President Barack Obama’s choice of Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, to head his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness demonstrates once again how clueless the president is about the economy. Having not caused enough damage in the past few years, Obama is doubling down on policies that are slowing the still fragile economic recovery. If the president really wanted to help the economy and create jobs, he would do the opposite of what Jeffrey Immelt has done at General Electric and has advocated for national policy.
As head of General Electric since 2001, Immelt has spent a decade driving what was once one of the greatest companies in the world into the ground. Under legendary CEO Jack Welch, General Electric’s stock rose from $5 a share in 1991 to over $40 per share when Welch retired in 2001. As Welch’s successor, Immelt has halved the value of General Electric over the last ten years, whose stock value has not exceeded $20 per share since late 2008. Despite his unsuccessful tenure at General Electric, President Obama is now giving Immelt free-rein to do the same to the American economy.
On broader issues of economic policy, Immelt is the perfect model of a crony capitalist. Instead of building his company to succeed in a competitive free-market, he has devoted most of his efforts to securing handouts, special deals, and subsidies for various General Electric businesses in Washington D.C. This is clearly what attracts President Obama to Immelt, a savvy political operator despite being a bust as the head of General Electric
Even more, Immelt, along with James Rogers of Duke Energy, has been among the biggest business promoters of cap-and-trade legislation. Cap-and-trade is now dead, but had it been enacted it would have been the biggest hit on the U.S. economy and on working Americans ever perpetrated by the U.S. government. Cap-and-trade would benefit many of General Electric’s businesses at the expense of American workers and consumers. This was no secret. As then-candidate Obama said in 2008, “electricity rates would necessarily sky rocket” under the proposed legislation supported by both Immelt and Obama.
Though cap-and-trade is dead, the Obama administration has decided to ignore Congress and pursue harmful energy-rationing policies through regulatory fiat. The EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will bring higher energy prices and less money in consumer’s pockets to spend, causing an immense strain on the fragile budgets of American families during a recession. Higher electric rates will also make American manufacturing even less competitive with its foreign rivals, leading to the mass export of America’s manufacturing jobs.
In short, Immelt has put into practice at General Electric policies that are hurting his company, his shareholders, and his workers. He has advocated national economic policies that would do the same for America. As a reward for all of this, President Obama has selected Immelt to head yet another PR effort that will do nothing to roll back any of the job-killing policies enacted by the Obama administration.
This piece will be featured in the print edition of The Tea Party Review (teapartyreview.com).