GE CEO Geoffrey Immelt is nobody’s idea of a free-market capitalist. He’s taken crony capitalism to the hilt being on President Obama’s Council on Jobs and competitiveness, and figuring out how his company can avoid paying corporate income taxes (I wonder why the Occupy Wall Street dorks aren’t protesting in front of GE’s U.S. HQ). There, I got that out.
As reported by Ezra Klein, Immelt was the keynote speaker at a conference of what were apparently mostly CEOs at the Cleveland Institute. Klein took down some notes and put it in a post. Here are some of the key takeaways:
– Business types really hate Barack Obama. Everybody sort of knows that, but it’s hard to get a sense of it if you’re not in the room listening to them laugh bitterly at questions like, “Does Obama understand the damage regulations are doing to business?”
– This is the sort of audience that makes you think the White House is going to have a lot of trouble meeting its fundraising goals next year.
– “When you criticize Wall Street, they don’t care. You’re hurting the guy in Illinois who wants to build a factory.”
– “Everyone in this room should spend a week in India. Even more so than in China.” What India has, Immelt says, is a health-care sector with no insurance system to speak of and thus a strong market incentive for innovations that make health-care services radically cheaper. Smart companies will watch those innovations, he says, and bring them back here. Also, “there are not as many lawyers in India.”
Now, I wonder if Klein, a shill for Democrats, actually understands what these points mean. In fact, the last bit about India not having as many lawyers is quite telling. Which is why Republicans having been pushing caps on court-ordered awards for health care lawsuits, while Democrats ignore it as trial lawyers are some of Democrats’ biggest campaign contributors.
But even the last point about India should determine the choices in Klein’s first note where he discusses Immelt’s comments on health care:
– Immelt likes equations almost as much as I like graphs. For health care, it’s “cost = usage x price(inflation).” Implication: To tackle cost, you either need to get usage down, by making people healthier or restricting access, or get prices down, either through price controls or innovation.
It’s apparent Klein just doesn’t get it. His last note has to do with how India appears, at least as how Klein reports it, to use real free-market capitalism to control its health care costs and expand innovation. And yet, Klein is supportive of Obamacare and even changing to a government-controlled single payer system, and his smattering of comments in the post don’t show anything different.
Another point Klein notes seems to indicate he kinda/sorta wants to get it, but really doesn’t want to:
– I should say that this is more a comment on the conference and some of the other panels than on Immelt himself, but these folks really, really feel persecuted and unappreciated. The common response to this, of course, is that corporate profits have hit record levels in recent years and the top 1 percent has never been richer. But if you need more evidence that money doesn’t buy happiness, you should sit with some CEOs for an hour.
First off, the reason corporate profits are up is because companies have cut costs, largely payroll costs. They aren’t going to increase those costs until such time that their businesses can get a return on those increases, not likely in the present environment where regulations will increase non-payroll business costs and the lack of a long term settlement on taxes remains in place. Second, the top 1 percent being richer is a non sequiter. While many if not most of the CEOs of major corporations may be within the top 1 percent, they actually have jobs running those corporations. The corporations they run still have to answer to the shareholders; if the corporation has losses, the CEO is often shown the door (granted, departing CEOs often benefit greatly when let go, but that is besides the point). Not only should Democrat shills like Klein, and Democratic politicians like “Turban” Durbin, listen to what these CEOs are saying, those like Klein absolutely need to take their ideological blinders off to understand what these CEOs are saying.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I base this off the following note from Klein, which quotes Immelt in part:
– In fact, this audience is so down on Obama that Immelt, who you have to assume is one of the more pro-Obama CEOs out there, is not willing to defend him or his policies before this audience. At all. Even a little. His only comment is that people need to roll up their sleeves and help rather than complain. And his answers to Maria Bartiromo’s questioning slyly suggest sympathy with the audience. Asked by Bartiromo how he’ll make the White House listen to him and the business community, his answer, with a smile, is “repetition.” Everyone laughs. “Our job is to make our ideas his ideas,” Immelt says.
This is a problem, and what makes Immelt such a rotten representative of capitalism. It is also a problem I have with Obama. He is the President of the United States, not the ruler of the United States. Sure, everyone laughs. But as implied by Immelt, we’re supposed to suck up to Obama in order for him to grant we mere subjects our rights. Naturally, I wouldn’t expect President “Constitutional Scholar” to know how wrong this is. That last sentence says a whole lot more about Obama and sycophants like Immelt than it does about CEOs.
Kevin Drum links to Klein and has the world’s smallest violin out for the persecuted CEOs. He laments that many blue-collar workers have given up on the Democratic Party because Democrats don’t do much for them anymore (which is true; look how “Turban” Durbin screwed debit card users). Then Drum comes out with this whopper:
Corporate CEOs are a different story. For decades, Republicans were the pro-business party and it made sense for business executives to vote for them. But what about now? Republicans are formally dedicated to blocking anything that might even remotely have a chance of improving the economy and thereby improve business prospects as well. And yet, CEOs show no sign of wavering loyalties. Just the opposite: they’ve largely bought the austerity/regulation/deficit fable hook, line, and sinker even though it makes not the slightest sense.
Did Drum read Klein’s post? Did he conveniently forget that Democrat supporter and Obama sycophant Geoffrey Immelt was the keynote speaker at the conference Klein attended? He also seems to conveniently forget that there are tons of corporate CEOs who support Democrats and their policies, even as Democrats trash these CEOs. And speaking of fables, Drum assumes that anything Obama and Democrats want passed will actually improve the economy. I thought Democrats like Drum believe in science; yet, there isn’t any evidence showing anything passed by the Democrats and signed by Obama over the last couple of years improved the economy. It sounds like Drum is being very anti-science by pressing for policies that have been empirically shown as failures. Furthermore, he seems intent on spreading the lies other Democrat economists have been perpetrating.
It makes sense though. Like his hero Obama, Drum refuses to take the ideological blinders off because seeing the world as it really is messes up the narrative.
Cross-posted at Scipio the Metalcon.