The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

GE’s Reagan Revisionism

Photo of Matt Kibbe
Matt Kibbe
President, FreedomWorks

President Ronald Reagan, who would have turned 100 on Sunday, was a bold and inspirational conservative visionary. His ability to effectively communicate both the failures of bureaucratic central planning and the virtues of a free market are unparalleled in modern American political history. To commemorate Reagan’s birth, General Electric is sponsoring the two-year Reagan Centennial Celebration, which coincides with GE’s release of a short documentary on the anniversary of Reagan’s famous “A Time for Choosing” speech.

In addition to the millions spent in promoting the Reagan Centennial, GE will provide $5 million in the form of 200 college scholarships for students “who embody the vision and values personified by President Reagan.” At first glance GE’s involvement seems commendable, but given the present state of the company in our political discourse, it would be more aptly described as tragically ironic.

In “A Time for Choosing,” delivered at a televised Goldwater for President fundraiser in 1964, Reagan praised conservative nominee Barry Goldwater and bemoaned the wastefulness of big government. The rhetorical juxtaposition of the speech was powerful: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny,” Reagan said in closing. “We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”

Reagan spoke in anecdotes about that “last step,” expounding on how government had slowly crept into our free society. He spoke of how one in six of the nation’s workers were employed by the government, how the need for government programs never lessened but always grew, and how the creation of new programs was duplicating, never replacing, existing ones. While this speech could not get Goldwater elected president, it successfully launched Reagan’s own political career, one which would take him to California’s governor’s mansion in 1967 and eventually to the White House.

But what is less well known is that much of the content of “A Time for Choosing” had been presented dozens of times before 1964 by Reagan as an address simply known as “The Speech.” While employed by General Electric as an ambassador and host of General Electric Theatre from 1954 to 1962, Reagan gave this speech in banquet halls, Rotary Club meetings and at local chambers of commerce.

Some of the content of the speech, however, proved controversial for GE, in particular Reagan’s opposition to the Tennessee Valley Authority. In The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism, author Thomas Evans reveals that a government official had complained to GE CEO Ralph Cordiner about Reagan using the TVA as an example of government waste, suggesting that a $50 billion government contract might go elsewhere. GE pressured Reagan to remove any reference to the TVA from his speeches. It was the first of many conflicts of interests that led to GE firing him in 1962. After leaving GE, Ronald Reagan switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

While it’s hard to blame GE for looking out for the bottom line, their fearfulness is a classic example of the problem our democracy faces when the government has the wealth, power and influence to force companies to capitulate to its demands. GE’s rent-seeking, as it’s called in economics, is based on the belief that business should align closely with government to exploit favorable legislation, exemptions and contracts for ill-gained profit. Or as GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt told The Atlantic, business and government should “work in concert.”

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  • bigdave

    GE…NBC…MSNBC…SAME-O SAME-O SAME-O. GE, RECIPIENT OF BILLIONS OF STIMULUS DOLLARS…ANYONE KNOW WHY? ONE REASON, TO SPEW OBAMAISMS AROUND THE WORLD, PAID FOR BY OBAMA, WITH OUR MONEY! DID YOU OK THIS CRAP? OF COURSE NOT. YOU JUST SIT THERE AND LET IT HAPPEN. FOOLS. HITLER AND MAO DID THE SAME THING. YOUR(?!) GOVERNMENT AT WORK…KINDA DEVIOUS AINT THEY? BY THE WAY, EXACTLY “WHO” WRITES THE NEWS SCRIPTS FOR ABC, CBS AND NBC AND CNN ? THEY ARE ALL THE SAME, USING THE EXACT SAME WORDS AND AT THE SAME TIME! NO WONDER FOX IS CLOBBERING THEM, ITS THE ONLY PLACE YOU CAN SAY…”NOW YOU KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY”!!!!!

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  • Buckoux

    There is more to General Electric’s political activities than just canceling the GE Theater on CBS. GE had considerable ownership interest in NBC by the 1960′s and the, “NBC Nightly News” with John Chancellor as the anchor, was notably biased in its reporting during the 1964 election. At the Republican Convention then held at the Cow Palace, San Francisco, in 1964, NBC News vans brought in their own protesters and filmed them against the Cow Palace background. This was later aired on “NBC Nightly News” as a “mass demonstration” against Barry Goldwater. NBC, CBS and General Electric have long been in the Democrat Party’s bag. GE should be broken-up and sold off to the Chinese. At least all American’s would then know that General Electric Corporation is really a communists “corporation”. “Young Republican’s for Goldwater” found out about NBC/GE almost 50 years ago. I don’t buy “GE” if I can help it.

  • JohnS14

    Mr. Kibbe is very deliberate and intelligent. A great piece.

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