Against BS, GE edition

In his bizarre sit-down with the editors of the New York Daily News — Jamie Kirchick provides an entertaining retrospective in “Is Bernie Sanders your stoner college roommate?” (with full audio) — GE was about the only company Bernie Sanders was able to identify as committing the malefactions that drive him onward. The editors had asked Sanders to name a company exemplifying “corporate greed at its worst.” According to Sanders, GE is “destroying the moral fabric of America.”

I would say that GE can be cited as a good example of crony capitalism. You won’t be hearing anything about that from Senator Sanders. Crony capitalism is a station on the way to Sanders socialism.

GE chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt talked back to Sanders in the Washington Post. I’ve quit checking the Post because of its paywall, but the Post publicist sent us the full text of Immelt’s column by email. I especially enjoyed the Vermont angle to Immelt’s column; Immelt has certainly got a good story to tell and some talented writers in his stable to help him tell it.

“GE has been in business for 124 years,” Immelt writes, “and we’ve never been a big hit with socialists. We create wealth and jobs, instead of just calling for them in speeches.” I’ll drink to that.

He continues: “We take risks, invest, innovate and produce in ways that today sustain 125,000 U.S. jobs.” Good point. Most of us would like a GE plant in town.

This isn’t bad either: “Our communities are proud of our company. Our pride, history and hard work are real — the moral fabric of America.” Good point.

And then Immelt comes to the Vermont angle. Take this, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders:

The senator has never bothered to stop by our aviation plant in Rutland, Vt. We’ve been investing heavily (some $100 million in recent years), hiring and turning out some of the world’s finest jet-engine components in Vermont since the 1950s. The plant employs more than 1,000 people who are very good at what they do. It’s a picture of first-rate jobs with high wages, advanced manufacturing in a vital industry — how things look when American workers are competing and winning — and Vermont’s junior senator is always welcome to come by for a tour.

Elsewhere in Vermont, GE Healthcare employs more than 340 men and women in South Burlington. Yearly, GE does about $40 million worth of business with dozens of suppliers of parts and services across Vermont. Nationwide, we have 200 GE plants, including 15 that were built in the past five years — all with the aim of making GE the world’s premier industrial company.

Immelt’s Vermont examples shouldn’t just embarrass Senator Sanders, assuming Sanders is capable of embarrassment. They support Immelt’s larger points regarding GE.

Immelt returns to the theme of “the moral fabric” in his conclusion:

It’s easy to make hollow campaign promises and take cheap shots in speeches and during editorial board sessions, but U.S. companies have to deliver for their employees, customers and shareholders every day. GE operates in the real world. We’re in the business of building real things and generating real growth for a nation that needs it now more than ever. I’m proud of all that we do, and how it all figures into “the moral fabric” of America is so plain to me.

I declare Immelt the winner of this particular argument by knockout.

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