Ed Driscoll

No, That's Not Creepy At All

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GE takes the notion of human capital seriously.

Having bet the ranch on electing President Obama (twice) and supporting ObamaCare, not the least of which through its ownership until recently of NBC and MSNBC, General Electric is now running ads promoting its healthcare software starring Hugo Weaving as the sinister Agent Smith from The Matrix.

I know Agent Smith is a beloved baddie, much like Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies; as James Lileks once quipped, Smith, as portrayed by Weaving, is akin to the characters portrayed by Tony Roberts in Woody Allen’s earlier, funnier movies such as Annie Hall and Play it Again, Sam — the only non-neurotic in the film; the only character having any fun. But given how deeply GE is plugged into the Obama Gleichschaltung, that’s quite an…interesting choice for GE’s healthcare spokesman.

Beginning around 2007, strange messages started emerging from GE and the television networks it owned at the time. First GE, which makes it’s money selling, among other things, light bulbs, told us that we all needed to turn ours off, for the good of the planet. The following year, the large conglomerate got deeply into bed with first candidate and then President Obama; NBC and (particularly) MSNBC are essentially a de facto propaganda wing of the administration, to the point where the White House has emailed in “corrections,” which were read on the air by the latter network.

At the beginning of the Obama administration, GE CEO Jeff Immelt was appointed to the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, presumably helping to see the administration’s now annual “Recovery Summer” debacle, leading near monthly “unexpected” bad economic news. Regarding Obama and Immelt, in January of 2011, Timothy P. Carney of the Washington Examiner wrote:

Since his party’s November shellacking, President Obama has worked hard to show America that he is not anti-business, notably by picking General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and Chicago banker Bill Daley for prominent posts in his administration. But their selection does not mean Obama is “pro-business,” at least as the term is commonly understood. The president is no champion of open markets and free competition. His idea of being friendly to business means more government subsidies and corporate-government cooperation, both of which are mother’s milk to Immelt and Daley.

Obama joined Immelt on Friday at a GE plant in Schenectady, N.Y., to announce his appointment as chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Like Obama’s pick of Daley as White House chief of staff, the selection of Immelt sparked applause from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, in the eyes of the media, defused the Republican charge that Obama is anti-business.

But the anti-business charge against Obama was always off target. “Anti-free market” was — and is still — more accurate.

Immelt and Daley don’t represent a new side of Barack Obama — they represent the unhealthy collusion of Big Business and Big Government that has always been the essence of Obamanomics.

Around that time, the Clarion Advisory blog asked, “Remember the outrage over Haliburton & Cheney? So where’s the outrage over GE and the Obama Administration?”

I remember for much of the Bush Administration, hearing how evil it was for all the ties that Cheney had with Haliburton and how it was wrong for a company to have so much access in the White House so where did that outrage go when it comes to how cozy GE is with Obama?  It’s the same thing, actually even worse.  GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt was just named to chair new White House Economic Group after already having had a position in the White House when he served on Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.  Funny it was evil for Cheney to have ties to Haliburton and not actually have a position at Haliburton but it’s O.K. to actually have a company chairman to chair a group in the White House and the MSM response is crickets chirping and a lot of nodding of heads?

GE has gained much with this administration.  The banning of incandescent lightbulbs?  GE has got you covered with their CFLs.  Wind turbines?  GE has got you covered.  High speed rail?  GE wants that action too.  Electronic health records?  Oh yeah, GE’s Health Division is all over that.  Clean coal technology?  Check.  GE has got that too.  Smart grid?  Another check.  GE is ass deep into that!

It also seems that now whenever Obama needs to highlight something economic, there’s GE always ready with some kind of news.  Just in time for China’s visit, GE announces a turbine deal, a Chinese railway deal, and a airplane deal with China.  That’s just this week.  Remember that trip to India in November?  Well looky here.  Another deal and guess who with?  GE of course!  India and GE sign power equipment deal.  The article even states that it was timed to coincide with Obama’s arrival.  How’s that for coordination?

More recently, when the Obama administration decided to punish those who support the Second Amendment (concurrent with, as we’re seeing now, the administration’s deep antipathy towards the First Amendment), GE was happy to lend a hand. In April of this year, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, “GE Capital Cuts Off Lending to Gun Shops:”

This month, Glenn Duncan, owner of Duncan’s Outdoor Store in Bay City, Mich., said he received a letter from GE Capital Retail Bank in which the lender said it had made “the difficult decision” to stop providing financing services to his store. Other gun dealers have received similar notices.

GE is at least the second big financial firm to retreat from the gun business following the school shootings, which claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six adults in December.

Days after the killings, private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP said it would try to sell the gun company it owns—Freedom Group Inc.— which makes brands including Remington, Bushmaster, Marlin and H&R.

The moves highlight how companies, closely attuned to the concerns of investors and employees, have reacted to public horror caused by the attacks, even as complicated political considerations doomed new gun-control legislation in the Congress.

GE is based in Fairfield, Conn., and many of the GE’s employees live around Newtown, and several have children in the Sandy Hook elementary school, where the shootings took place. Peter Lanza, the father of Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza, is an executive at GE Capital. GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt held a town hall meeting with affected employees after the shooting, and the board has been updated on efforts to help staff, a person familiar with the matter said.

“Industry changes, new legislation and tragic events” led GE Capital to reexamine its policies on financing firearms, spokesman Russell Wilkerson said.

I think Agent Smith would approve of all of GE’s actions during the past six years or so; no wonder he was chosen to be a spokesman for what is arguably America’s most corporatist conglomerate.