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Hullabaloo


Monday, February 07, 2011

 
GE and the Rocky Road

by digby

I'm watching Obama talk about Roosevelt calling on big business to help the country when WWII started and describing how they all worked together in the name of patriotism. (Does he know something we don't?)

He described FDRs previous relationship with business during the Great Depression as "rocky." Yes it was. But Roosevelt took a different tack when it came to dealing with the economy:

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.
This was after Roosevelt's winning re-election campaign so perhaps he felt more able to speak his mind. Or, alternatively, perhaps he was able to speak the truth because he was reelected by convincing the American public that he was on their side.

Obama does has to worry that these petulant little princes of today's business and industry will have a temper tantrum and hold their breath until they turn blue, but I honestly don't think it's a huge risk. The last I heard, business still wants to make money and the idea that they are sitting on their cash because the president hurts their feelings means that they are so incompetent that business is doomed anyway. (Sadly, I suspect that what's risky for Obama is that he might not be able to collect campaign money from some of these people.)

He also mentioned the hiring of their good friend Jeff Immelt, which reminded me of this post I wrote about Immelt some time back:
There seems to be something of a misapprehension among Americans about the influence of Big Business in our politics began in the 1980s. It's true that this gilded age really took off when the Reagan Revolution hit and they instituted their frenzy of deregulation and tax cuts. But it had long been in the works.

This comes from a speech by GE Chief Jeff Immelt at the Ronald Reagan centennial celebration, which GE is helping to sponsor:

Mr. Reagan walked every assembly line at GE. Every single one. He had lunch with employees in the cafeteria. He listened. He wowed managers and impressed our customers. He hit the Rotary, the local Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis, and the Elks.

Our CEO at the time, Ralph Cordiner, told Mr. Reagan: “I am not ever going to censor anything you say. You are speaking for yourself. Say what you believe.”

And so he did, writing and delivering the message that would become known as “The Speech,” his testament of faith in the virtues and abilities of free people and the great country they
had built. In 1964, he gave a famous version of that speech before a national audience on behalf of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and began one of the most successful American political careers of the 20th century.

GE saw his roving ambassadorship as a way to engage with its workforce. Mr. Reagan saw it as an education.


He had been interested in politics long before that, of course. He was a union leader. But when GE hired him they were grooming him. And he delivered.

Go poke around at that site for a while to get a sense of just how entwined General Electric and Reagan really were. It's very creepy.
Creepy indeed. Even more creepy is the fact that FoxNews was apparently able to successfully scare Immelt into forcing MSNBC to stop insulting Fox news hosts by telling their nutcase followers to stalk him. Remember this?
Frustrated by the refusal by NBC’s chief executive, Jeffrey Zucker, to halt the attacks on Mr. O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, personally instructed Mr. O’Reilly’s program to aim at Mr. Immelt, people familiar with the situation said.

Peace talks, such as they were, resumed in the spring between G.E. and News Corporation executives. At a lunch in April, Mr. Ailes and Mr. Immelt agreed to tone down the attacks. It was not visible to viewers until after Mr. Immelt and Mr. Murdoch shook hands at an off-the-record conference sponsored by Microsoft in May and word of a cease-fire trickled down to both news divisions.

That didn't work out as I recall, but Ailes did pull back his stalking instructions. Why don't i feel good about this guy being a member of Obama's team?

Update: CNN just showed an interview with Tom Donohue of the Chamber giving Obama his marching orders. He feels confident that Obama will do something about the extreme over regulation and taxation in the American economy, particularly when it comes to capital markets and health care. Poppy Harlow indicates they still have a few details to iron out.

.

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