Monday, October 17, 2011

Obamanomics and Economic Nationalism

By Timothy Carney

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt -- who is also the chairman of President Obama's Jobs Council -- thinks all Americans ought to be cheerleaders for his multinational industrial conglomerate.

"I want you to root for me," Immelt said on "60 Minutes" last weekend. "Everybody in Germany roots for Siemens. Everybody in Japan roots for Toshiba. Everybody in China roots for China South Rail. I want you to say: win, GE." (Disclosure: I am a paid contributor to MSNBC, part of NBC Universal, which is owned 49 percent by GE.)

Americans from Left to Right derided this notion. Liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in his typical acerbic style, called Immelt "rich and clueless," while conservative website Newsbusters called Immelt's argument "stunning." The reaction confirmed half of Immelt's point: Americans don't really do economic nationalism. We don't see Boeing as the U.S. Olympic Jumbo Jet team or General Motors as carrying the stars and stripes into the world automaking championships.

Immelt has long lamented this stubborn individualism of the U.S. economy, compared with the more cooperative Asian and European economies. At last year's annual conference of the Export-Import Bank of the United States -- a federal agency that subsidizes U.S. exporters like GE and Boeing -- Immelt had a rather dour description of the free market in the United States.: "For so long, we've said, 'It just doesn't matter. Let whatever happens happen.'"

"Germany is the model," Immelt has said, because it has more "public will" and national "vision." He explained: "The companies roam as a pack. They stick together. And the government supports the companies to be exporters." He enviously described China's "incredible unanimity of purpose from top to bottom."

Again, Americans bristle at the suggestion that we should all march under the GE flag. But Immelt isn't some lone wolf here: He's basically articulating Obamanomics.

Immelt's fondness for government-business cooperation and his belief in a robust national industrial policy were well known when Obama tapped him to head the Jobs Council. The council's findings included a "National Investment Initiative." Liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein described it well, saying the initiative "might as well be called 'winning the future.'"

"Winning the future" is President Obama's hokey phrase for a national industrial policy. "We need to outinnovate, outeducate and outbuild the rest of the world," Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union. This use of "we" invokes Immelt's notion of U.S.A. Inc., in which all Americans are shareholders. Nowhere does Obama use this "Go, Team!" talk more than in "green energy," where GE, with its "ecomagination" initiative, is a huge player.

Read the rest here.


  1. GE has a boondoggle in the making, as few will be buying solar panels in the soon coming downturn, better said economic collapse.

    The Denver Post reports GE Set to Build $300 Million Solar Panel Plant in Colorado. General Electric is set to announce plans to build one of the country's largest thin film solar panel plants in Aurora creating an estimated 350 jobs, according to sources. The $300 million plant will be located in a 200,000 square foot former L'Oreal Worldwide warehouse in the Majestic Commerce Center northeast of I-70 and Tower Road. One source said this morning that the plant will go to Aurora and the city will provide about $20 million in incentives with the state providing roughly $2 million.

  2. Yikes! Immelt's words reveal so much in themselves that I am almost rendered speechless. Especially this one, "And the government supports the companies.." I can only imagine what kind of support he has in mind.

  3. American socialism. Its always been there but like many other US issues it remains a blind spot in the psyche of the people and its leaders.

  4. Have Chinese and German corporations exported as many jobs abroad as GE has, I wonder? Do German and Chinese exporters pay taxes, I wonder?

    Immelt, like his boss, is an idiot!

  5. I've seen evidence of this type of thinking even at a local level here in SC. One person I was having a discussion with on it, as business owner to business owner was describing how we need a "joint partnership" between gov't and business.

    I said, "You mean fascism." He paused, "I mean corporatism".

    I said, " I see, well next time you don't have to go on explaining the details of such to me-just say "I'm for fascism" and it will save us both some time". I could tell he grew uncomfortable. "It's OK, we can discuss the merits of it without offending each other. It didn't seem to work so well in Germany or Italy, did it?"

    Unfortunately, the conversation ended abruptly....