Sunday, September 18, 2011

GE Superboss Trips over his own Feet

This morning Fareed Zakaria interviewed the CEO of General Electric, tapped by President Obama to help fix the jobs crisis.  For a while Jeffrey Immelt sounded like a reasonable, old school Republican, only to find himself embarrassed by the fact that GE’s customers span the globe - and GE jobs follow.

But his worst moment came at the end (beware long interviews, even if you head one of the biggest companies in the world).  Bragging about his business relations with China, Immelt said he ordered his managers to study China’s Five Years Plans because, unlike legislation that keeps U.S. business uncertain about the future, with China, business knows what to expect. The Chinese Politburo does not have to reckon with an organized opposition, either political or industrial, hence its decisions are implemented.

With the world financial crisis felt mainly in the West, China is also all that stands in the way of a U.S. default, as the BRICs and other developing countries see consistently high growth rates. Referring to the Euro Zone crisis, Immelt warned that Greece was not the biggest problem: “It’s a tiny economy”, he said, “while Italy’s is the seventh largest in the world, and if it goes belly up, the rest of the Euro zone will not be able to save it.” According to Fareed, Christine Lagarde will probably be the last non-Asian head of the IMF.

Before moving on to an inconclusive debate about next Tuesday’s Palestinian request for statehood at the Security Council,  Fareed gave a no-holds barred critique of Obama’s Cuba policy. Our Caribbean nemesis turns out to have one of the biggest undersea reserves of petroleum in the world. Cuba watchers have known exploration was under way, but this probably wasn’t taken seriously by the White House. Otherwise why, just days ago, would Obama have declared that Cuba has not democratized enough to merit a lifting of our embargo? As oil companies from every corner of the globe rush to be part of the action off Cuba’s shores, we can only sit and watch. Worse, if there is an incident like last year’s BP disaster off the coast of Louisiana, Florida will be the most affected, and we would be hoisted by our own petard, our embargo forbidding us from sending men or machines to minimize the damage.

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