General Electric Chairman Reginald Jones called on President Carter today to fight inflation with a "block-bluster" strategy in the wake of the administration's weakening wage-price program.
Speaking to reporters prior to G.E.'s annual meeting here, Jones urged Carter to display the same boldness and command in the domestic market he showed last November when he moved to strengthen the dollar on international markets.
At that time, the president announced a broad range of monetary actions, a mixed bag of substance and symbolism, which has since resulted in bolstering the dollar abroad.
"I would like to see something like the Nov. 1 blockbluster," Jones said. "The same thing could be done on inflation."
The G.E. chairman, a chief spokesman for the business community, outlined a set of similarly dramatic anti-inflation moves Carter could make. Among them:
Significant changes in agricultural policy, involving a release of stockpiled food, lifting of imports on beef, a reduction in meat purchases by the armed forces and an increase in cutting on federal timber lands.
A moratorium on new regulations for 30 days or so.
Changes in monetary policy such as raising the federal funds rate or modifying the amount banks must keep on deposit with the Federal Reserve system.
But Jones also voiced some skeptcism about whether Carter could succeed, whatever he might do next to bring down an inflation that has pushed into double digits. Pointing to the fact that consumers are saviing less and consuming more, Jones said that people may have become too accustomed to inflation to stop it.
"There's so much psychology built into these things," he remarked. "I seriously question whether the American people will have the restraint and self-discipline to do what's necessary to curb inflation."
Looking several months ahead to June 30, when G.E.'s contracts with the electrical workers and other unions expire, Jones said the chance of avoiding a strike and settling within Carter's existing wage guidelines was "difficult to predict." He added, "It appears the guidelines on the compensation front are evolving."
General Electric, meantime, appears to be riding out the nation's economic bumps moderately well. Sales last year rose 12 percent to $19.7 billion, earnings were up 13 percent to $1.2 billion. First quarter results this year showed a 14 percent increase in sales and a vigorous 22 percent boost in earnings.
At the same time, Jones said G.E.'s prices for the past three years have lagged considerably behind the rise in the consumer price index. He told the more than 400 shareholders here, "you can feel confident your company has not been an inflationary force in the economy."
General Electric is the second largest maker after Westinghouse of nuclear reactors in the U.S. and, naturally, several shareholders asked about the future of G.E.'s nuclear division in the aftermath of the accident last month at Three Mile Island.
Jones said that even prior to the accident, officials in the nuclear industry had expected few new reactor orders for the next couple of years at least. It is still too soon, he said, to determine the full effect the accident will have on the industry. Jones said G.E. is continuing to explore a wide range of future energy sources, from coal gasification plants and solar panels to seaweed and windmills.
In other shareholder business, 19 of General Electric's 20 directors were re-elected to the company's board. Frederick L. Hovde, one of last year's directors and president emeritus of Purdue University, did not stand for election this year for health reasons.
Several shareholders criticized the fact that most of G.E.'s directors did not attend today's meeting. In recent years G.E. has split its annual meeting into two sessions-a statutory one in the spring and an informational session in the fall. Company directors have been attending the fall meeting which tends to be less disruptive because shareholders there submit questions in writing.
Though a shareholder proposal to merge the two sessions back into one was overwhelmingly defeated today, Jones promised to reconsider the practice during the year.
Four other shareholder proposals were also defeated. They included a motion to stop G.E. sales to communist countries, publication of a list of G.E. officers who have served in government within the last five years, the appointment of an hourly employe to the board of G.E.'s pension fund, and the scheduling of future annual meetings within 300 miles of St. Louis, Mo.