The chairman of President Barack Obama’s job council has endorsed China’s style of crony capitalism, saying “state-run communism may not be your cup of tea, but their government works.”
Jeff Immelt is the dual-hatted chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and of General Electric, a huge company with businesses in many domestic and international sectors, including China.
He used a Dec. 10 television interview to suggest that China’s type of state-run capitalism has been great for business while lamenting the state of the American economy.
“As an American business guy, you say Europe probably has zero percent growth for a long time, Japan has had zero percent growth for probably 20 years [and] the U.S., you’re sitting at 1 and a half, 1.7, maybe 2.0 percent GDP growth,” he told host Charlie Rose.
“If you’re not willing to get off your butt and go to every corner of the world, you’re going to get fired, so we’ve got to sell all over the place,” he told Rose.
China’s government consists of a communist-style elected dictatorship that overlaps with Chinese-style family networks and nepotism, regional power centers and many influential graduate-school bureaucrats who oversee the nation’s five-year economic development plans.
China’s government is now spending huge amounts of money to build up the country’s infrastructure. The spending is buying coal-fired and nuclear power plants, electricity transmission lines, and railroads — all of which G.E. builds for export.
Chinese politicians and bureaucrats choose which companies — such as G.E. — get contracts. The plans ”typically makes sense in the Chinese context … they’re driving environment, they’re driving company reform, they’re driving consumer reform,” he told Rose.
“They get things done,” Rose responded.
In the United States, Obama’s management of the economy has included pushing to enormously increase spending on welfare and Obamacare, while also aiding Democratic constituencies including immigrants and unmarried people.
But Obama has also spent tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars on green-tech energy programs, and his environmental regulations have also forced companies to buy new generations of energy products manufactured by General Electric and other companies. Those regulations can stop or spur sale of GE’s products, such as banking, medical equipment, locomotives and aircraft engines.
Over the next few years, the U.S. economy will be aided by the natural gas energy sector, the housing sector and exports, Immelt told Rose.
But he also criticized the state of the American economy, saying “we’re going to need more to get unemployment to the level where society believes it should be.”
He didn’t say what extra is needed, but added that “we will sell more [energy producing gas-turbines] in Algeria than the United States,” over the next three years, he said.
In the United States, Immelt’s two jobs allow him to provide Obama with poll-boosting support from industry leaders, and in exchange, to ease General Electric’s access to federal dollars and help company lobbyists gain access to shaping federal environmental, energy and tax regulations.
For example, GE and its subsidiaries won at least 19 direct contracts or grants from the 2009 stimulus, according to the federal website, Recovery.gov.
Immelt’s support for Obama has changed over time.
He supported the Sen. John McCain’s run for president in 2008, then backed Obama after his election.
By the spring of 2012, Immelt was reportedly telling friends that Obama had moved too far left.
In 2012, Immelt did not actively support Obama during his re-election campaign.