New York Post:
Bam’s angry adviser
Immelt appalled at O’nomics
Back when he agreed to advise the Obama administration on economics, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt told friends that he thought it would be good for GE and good for the country. A life-long Republican, Immelt said he believed he could at the very least moderate the president’s distinctly anti-business instincts.
That was three years ago; these days Immelt is telling friends something quite different.
Sure, GE has managed to feast on federal subsidies, particularly the “green-energy” giveaways that are Obamanomics’ hallmark.
But Immelt doesn’t think he’s had anywhere near as much luck moderating the president’s fat-cat-bashing, left-leaning economic agenda of taxing businesses and entrepreneurs to pay for government bloat.
Or, as one friend recently put it to me, “Jeff thought he could make a difference, and now realizes he couldn’t.”
Immelt’s conversion from public Obama supporter to a private detractor is important: It shows how even businessmen who feast off his subsidies worry about his overall economic agenda and its long-term impact on the economy.
Don’t expect Immelt to say anything publicly about the downside of president’s economic agenda anytime soon: He’s still serving as what is considered the top outside economic adviser to the White House. (A GE spokesman insists that the reports I’m sharing here about Immelt’s private criticism of Obama are “ludicrous.”)
GE has too much to lose for Immelt to publicly ’fess up to his disdain. The president now routinely talks up his desire to tax businesses that create jobs overseas, and GE overseas expansion is well-documented. Nor does the company want to put all its green subsidies at risk.
And of course the last thing Immelt or his shareholders need is for the president to turn his class-warfare fire on them, as he did to his erstwhile pals in the banking business.
Yet friends report that Immelt’s displeasure with the president’s economic policies is real and palpable in private settings.
Back in 2008, the GE boss gave both to GOP presidential nominee John McCain and, in the Democratic primaries, to Hillary Clinton; he’s said that he voted for McCain. But GE as a whole was one of candidate Obama’s top donors. As noted, Immelt joined the new president’s team, first as a member of Obama’s Economic Advisory Recovery Board and later as head of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Yet even as Immelt continues to dispense advice to the president, friends tell me, he’s privately rooting for Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination and defeat Obama in the fall.
A GE spokesman says simply, “Mr. Immelt has not decided to support Gov. Romney.” OK — but the GE “community” sure has. In 2008, GE execs (who often take their giving cues from the guy at the top) gave over five times more to Obama than to McCain. This time around, GE executives have raised nearly twice as much for Romney as for Obama, and Romney isn’t even the nominee yet.
I’m told a clue to Immelt’s disenchantment with the president can be found in GE’s annual letter to shareholders, in which the CEO laments, “We live in a tough era in which the public discourse, in general, is negative . . . American companies, particularly big companies, are vilified,” when “we need to work together to find a better way.”
Sure doesn’t sound like an Obama booster to me.