Greg Sargent writes: “[Former Sen. Russ] Feingold’s new group, Progressives United, is set to launch a new campaign to pressure General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to step down as the head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competiveness. Feingold’s campaign — which I’m told will be joined by Move On later today — is based on two pieces of news that, Feingold says, render Immelt unfit for the gig of Obama jobs chief: GE paid no American taxes in 2010; and Immelt’s compensation doubled.”
The left seems to think that accounting for massive losses from GE Capital (on the tax front) or paying a chief executive of a major international corporation more money is inherently evil. But the point the left is making is essentially the same as the argument that those on the right have been making: It simply isn’t appropriate for a corporate mogul who is still employed in the private sector to be hawking the president’s agenda.
Immelt’s defenders would say that GE isn’t getting any free rides from Obama, pointing to, for example, the Defense Department’s cancellation of orders for the F136 Joint Strike Fighter engine, which GE Aviation manufactures. But it’s hard to change the perception that Immelt is providing cover for Obama while the president does nothing to remove regulatory strangleholds on business (e.g. the financial reform legislation), continues to defend Obamacare and plays coy on the budget and entitlement reform.
Moreover, shouldn’t GE’s shareholders have the peace of mind of knowing that their GE investment isn’t being compromised by the desire to cuddle up to the president?
If Obama values Immelt’s advice and Immelt can prod Obama to make better economic decisions, then Immelt should cash out of GE and join the administration. Then the conflict of interest ends. For now, however, forcing an end to the current arrangement should be a cause that conservatives can get behind.