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Take the Quiz: Qaddafi & Immelt–Good or Bad?

Here’s a quiz:

Embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi: Good or bad? How about GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt?

Here are your answers, straight from the top: Qaddafi, way bad. And Immelt? Good guy, business and civic leader. Should be a key adviser to the president.

On Qaddafi, we already knew he was a bad guy. But now we find out what he’s been up to that really distresses business leaders. The very same business leaders who profoundly influence the American political process and the foreign policy decisions this country makes. According to a report in the New York Times,

In 2009, top aides to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi called together 15 executives from global energy companies operating in Libya’s oil fields and issued an extraordinary demand: Shell out the money for his country’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks.

If the companies did not comply, the Libyan officials warned, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases, according to a State Department summary of the meeting.

…The episode and others like it, the officials said, reflect a Libyan culture rife with corruption, kickbacks, strong-arm tactics and political patronage since the United States reopened trade with Colonel Qaddafi’s government in 2004. As American and international oil companies, telecommunications firms and contractors moved into the Libyan market, they discovered that Colonel Qaddafi or his loyalists often sought to extract millions of dollars in “signing bonuses” and “consultancy contracts” — or insisted that the strongman’s sons get a piece of the action through shotgun partnerships.

Who wants to pay such bribes? Get rid of the guy.

Now, let’s turn to Immelt. First, you need to know that he’s a darling of the political and media establishment. The president is extremely high on him. President Obama has chosen Immelt for a super-crucial position for him and his re-election fundraising apparatus, as the White House’s “business community liaison.” That’s shorthand for the kind of people who intercede with big companies that might or might not help fund the campaign. A bit like those Qaddafi “signing bonuses” cited above.

Even more importantly, Obama has named him chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.  Keep this in mind when you consider the following….

How is Immelt helping this country out? For one thing, he is a king of the job exporters, a pillar of the Indian economy. But that’s not all. As the New York Times noted the other day, Immelt’s company pays no U.S. taxes. That’s right. No taxes.

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

Immelt’s got the situation wired from top to bottom, all of his options hedged. That’s why he’s a “good guy”, unlike Qaddafi, whose brutality was never enough of a problem until he began shaking down American and other oil companies.

Why is Immelt Obama’s guy? Good question. He was a political donor to George W. Bush. In July, 2004, during Bush’s re-election campaign, Immelt was quoted by the Bush campaign saying that “this is the best economy we’ve seen in years.”

Then he started getting the group hug from the Dems and the liberal media. Pretty soon, the hagiographies were pouring out. In 2005, Bill Clinton rolled out his “Clinton Global Initiative,” with Immelt as one of the attending big names. In February, 2006, while touting his book “Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future” on Meet the Press, former Clinton operative Paul Begala described Immelt as  “the greenest guy…that is to say, environmentally correct and profit-making.”

Here’s Immelt on Charlie Rose in 2007: [Bold added for emphasis]

JEFFREY IMMELT: We`ve got to compete. We`ve got to be smart, we`ve got to use our entrepreneurial ability. We`ve got to get more kids studying engineering….

CHARLIE ROSE: … you know all these candidates. Are they talking about it? Are they aware of it? Is it part of their conscious as they think about leading this country?

JEFFREY IMMELT: I think in varying degrees, it is. You know, I think Senator Clinton understands it. I`ve talked to her. I think Governor Romney clearly gets it.

JEFFREY IMMELT: I think Rudy has always gotten it. I think he`s been able to do that. But it`s.

CHARLIE ROSE: Senator Obama get it?

JEFFREY IMMELT: I think they all do. But.

CHARLIE ROSE: They get the idea that the U.S. has to be competitive around the world?

CHARLIE ROSE: Not only competitive, though, in terms of..

JEFFREY IMMELT: Hard work.

CHARLIE ROSE: Hard work, yes. And also competitive — where do you think we have to be competitive in terms of values and what we stand for and who we are? Or does that matter?

JEFFREY IMMELT:  I think as an American, it clearly matters, right? I mean, values are a part of the bedrock of a successful country….I think values count, Charlie. I don`t want to pass judgment on anybody here tonight, but values are important for this country, values are important.

There you have it. Values count.

And politicians can count, too. Somehow, guys like Immelt count for more than millions of us. Strange, strange math in this country.

 

 

Image Credit:  (msnbc.msn.com & gstatic.com)


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  • Brian Mcgee

    Excellent post Russ!
    We have a monotheistic economic policy, little changes from R’s & D’s with the big deal makers. We really just need to get the money out of politics. If we had publicly funded elections, also a 10 year hold on any politician going into any business they’ve regulated while in the government, we would have much less corporate influence on politics. How we can talk about “shared pain” while companies like GE pay NOTHING in taxes is beyond intellectual laziness, it just a lie. We truly need to embrace the energy of WI nation wide, its time for the people and have a workers rights movement. It won’t be much longer until we have no middle class(what ever that means anymore).

    If i was president for a day, i would ONLY be president for one day for by the end of the day i’m sure i would be dead.

    *although some of these comments were off topic. Please don’t censor.

  • Oldblevins

    Regarding Qaddafi, it has seemed for a long time that our measure of a foreign ruler’s brutality, craziness, as well as his potential for possessing dangerous weapons seems inversely linked to his friendliness to oil and energy companies.It was true in Iraq, Iran (both in 1952 and now), Central and South America, and now in Libya. As far as Immelt and his “goodness’, I was concerned as soon as I heard his name mentioned in his new capacity. when he says “this is the best economy we’ve seen in years”, whose economy and who is “we”? What is good for GE may be terrible policy for 90 pct of the nation. One man’s effieciency is another mans layoff. We should deal with the fact that we do not have one economy, but many, and the biggest players are also the biggest predators. Outsourcing and driving wages down may help his stock options, but are his goals and our goals compatible? Does he represent the few, or the many? How does he view the business climate in the Mariana Islands?

    • Russ Baker

      Thanks very much for this ON-TOPIC, focused post. Note to others posting comments–please see this as an example of the tone and context that is helpful to others visiting the site.

      • Larrypayne

        Russ,

        I agree that Oldblevins comment is well thought out and on-topic.

        I totally agree with everything he says.

        But I know all that. When I go to the comment section I want to be challenged to investigate things I don’t already know.

        If things get a bit off-topic it doesn’t bother me if it is information that should be considered, researched and decided upon.

        I read your book “Family Secrets” and was extremely impressed by your research on the Bush family. As far as I know you were the first to come up with proof that Poppy Bush was in Dallas the weekend of the JFK assassination.
        Connecting Bush to De Mohrenschildt was also very incriminating.

        It takes courage to expose Bush’s connections to the JFK assassination. Especially because of his background in the CIA.

        If you have that kind of courage it would be a great service to humanity if you investigated 9/11 with the same intensity.

    • The9th

      Basically, it’s friendliness to rulers of all countries with natural resources/raw materials (now called commodities, which are special chips used in the Wall Street and Chicago Casinos) that are of interest to large American corporations, banks, hedge-fund croupiers, etc. (and those of other former empires– Italy, Germany, France, Japan, and of course, our immediate predecessor-in-interest, the UK). I think the modern “goal of empire” phrasing is: raw materials, labor and markets.

      E.g.: copper in Chile, bananas in Ecuador, land/ranches & I don’t know what-all else the Rockefellers own/owned in Venezuela, control of vital rights-of-way (Afghanistan for gas and oil pipelines to (India?) and opium/heroin to finance the CIA outside of the US budget (if pressed, I could get up a bibliography on this, but remember the fairly public reporting that just before the US invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban had driven down the heroin export to about zero, and after the US invaded, heroin production skyrocketed to numbers higher than previous highs–I wonder if we have Agriculture Department Extension Service agents installed in Helmand Province–hafta ask Sec. Tom Vilsack, a fellow alum.), the Suez and Panama canals. Rubber plantations (French–Michelin in Vietnam?), rare earths–see the CIA World Factbook for more.

      Interesting to note that the CIA World Factbooks carry assessments of natural resources of foreign nations–part of its mandate to keep the world safe for plutocracy, no? The CIA also monitors the Wall Street Casino in real time–maybe all the national casinos throughout the world.

      And see the rather amazing on-camera interview of CIA South American station/dept chief (or whatever) Duane R. Claridge at 58:18 of John Pilger’s The War on Democracy for the unvarnished & unapologetic view that the US (and CIA) can do whatever the hell they want throughout the world if it’s in “the American interest.” Claridge was part of the US-run or US-backed Allende coup. (Pilger, unfortunately, didn’t come up with a figure, beyond “thousands”, for Pinochet’s murder-count. Bad reporting–like, he could’a counted the names on the memorial wall his cameraman panned over.)

  • Pat Tibbs

    I’m just outraged that POTUS put Jeffery Imelt in charge of his Jobs & Competition Council. The optics be damned, we need some truly SMALL business owners, and labor experts running that show.

    In what world does a thoughtful president think it’s appropriate to invite the CEO of G.E. to run the jobs creation show? Remember that GE had $14.2B in profits last year ($5.2B in the U.S.), paid $00 taxes & got a $3.2B tax rebate in the U.S., and paid Imelt $7.3M + stock options. All while outsourcing U.S. jobs to other countries.

    And conservatives call him socialist? I don’t think so.

    • The9th

      Before Immelt took over General Electric, there was the longish history of the company battling environmental groups, federal, state, local & private, about the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs–209 separate compounds, saith one site) in the Hudson River.

      GE’s resistance began around the time of the 1976 toxic substances control act (TSCA). I’m not sure exactly when the company finally succumbed to Pete Seeger’s Clearwater tours, but Phase I of the clean-up ended in 2010, which seems to be about 34 years after the TSCA was passed. And Phase II’s s’posed to start in 2011.

      GE also manufactures uranium-fueled electric plants, like the one that melted down in Japan recently (here’s a humorous piece on GE’s “green-ness” in re: nuclear plants: http://blogs.forbes.com/stevedenning/2011/03/15/wakeup-call-for-ge-mr-immelt-pull-that-ad/)

      Also, as I recall, imperfectly, from con. law or corp. law, GE was one of three or so defendants in a 1965 federal price-fixing (lightbulbs) case, which somehow ran over the 1926 US vs. GE case which supported GE’s monopoly on patent grounds (1965-1926=39, & I think patents ran for 26 or 27 years back then).

      The neat fillip of the case–again, based on my recollections from 1970 (I’m having difficulty finding it on the web)–was that GE and the other defendants had to pay a substantial fine, but Congress, as part of its overt support of Socialism Only for the Very Rich And Nobel (SOVRAN), passed an extraordinary, one-time IRS amendment that allowed GE & the others to declare the fines as “ordinary business expenses” and thus deduct them from gross revenues. Meaning that taxpayers paid twice: once for the price-fixed lightbulbs and again for the fines.

      • Anonymous

        huh! great additional info

  • margsview

    This article points to the exact scenario that tax payers should learn from—how to make those who benefit beyond believe give a tax lesson to those who end up footing his corporate tax bill—or a absolute tax movement that turns away from those who work so hard not to pay any taxes.

  • margsview

    If you agree with making those corporations that have systematically robbed you thru tax evasion schemes and political con games then you have to stand up and take back the real democracy denied to you under legal avarice—thru banking changes and tax movements —after all they (corporations and banks) can’t survive without tax paid by the little guy they have shown total HATE for…

  • Russ Baker

    911-and-israel obsessives have the habit of harping exclusively on their pet topic, irrespective of what is actually being discussed. This article is about Immelt, GE, and Obama, as well as oil company views of Qaddafi.

    Also, there is a tendency by some commenters to make blanket assertions without documentation: ie the one above about Israel trying to “stir things up” in Libya. The truth is that Israel would not necessarily benefit from the removal of Qaddafi and possible rise of a far more extreme Islamist regime there, so this is simply conjecture on the part of this person.

    If comments are not directly on-topic, we may have to consider going to selective posting, as many news sites do. Also, this is an appeal for thoughtful comments, ON-TOPIC. thanks.

  • The9th

    Russ, Kendrick (above) did write that “An Israeli company funded African mercenaries to go into libya–stir things up…”, so one could ask “What company, and what evidence exists to support that assertion?” etc.

    On the broader issue of “911…obsessives” and Mr. Immelt: GE is a very large war materiel manufacturer. It clearly benefits from any war, police action, “peace-keeping activity” and international arms sales. GE also owns NBC TV & Radio. Here’s a nice, brief article on the GE/NBC tie-in re: the firing of Peter Arnett over what seem to be reasonable comments he made on Iraqi TV: http://irregulartimes.com/arnett.html.

    Did anyone at GE Capital participate in the short-selling of American and United Airlines stock the week before 9/11/2001? GE of course makes jet engines for military and civilian aircraft, and may even finance those purchases through GE Capital. Has anyone checked?

    This from the Corporate Watch bio (link infra):

    ” During Welch’s tenure, the shape of the corporate conglomerate also changed. By 2001 GE Capital — a wholly owned subsidiary and financial arm of the company, involved in more than a dozen finance businesses including insurance, commercial lending, real estate, etc. — was the world’s largest finance operation. GE Capital is the largest owner of aircraft, and manage(s) more credit cards than American Express. GE Capital grew in importance from 8 percent of the company’s total earnings when Welch took over in 1981 to about 50 percent around the time of his retirement. The wider profit margins stimulated the company’s shift from manufacturing to finance.”

    Who manufactures the military drones or CACs (‘castrated’ or un-manned air craft–UAVs) for the US? They were developed by an Israeli company in the early 1990s, I believe, which was, a few years later, bought out by a US outfit. Does GE make the engines for these “unmanned airborne vehicles,” as I think they’re officially known? When was Immelt “sworn in” as GE president? (seems like it was Jan. 1, 2001.

    As to any connection between GE/Immelt & predecessor Welch & Israel, this from the same corp watch article:

    “Defense Contracting Fraud: On July 23, 1992, GE pled guilty in federal court to civil and criminal charges of defrauding the Pentagon and agreed to pay $69 million to the U.S. government in fines — one of the largest defense contracting fines ever. The company said in a statement that it took responsibility for the actions of a former marketing employee who, along with an Israeli Air Force General, diverted Pentagon funds to their own bank accounts and to fund Israeli military programs not authorized by the United States. Under the settlement with the Justice Department over violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, GE paid $59.5 million in civil fraud claims and $9.5 million in criminal fines.” [But is $69M merely 'chump change' for a $163B (ttl. rev.) corp, #12 on the global Fortune 500?]

    Here’s a cute little video re: Immelt’s appointment by Obama http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9op8B3ZcnD4&feature=player_embedded

    (I didn’t know that GE benefitted from the $787B “bailout”–perhaps through it’s own “bank,” GE Capital.) See http://www.corpwatch.org/section.php?id=16 for a nice history of GE’ malfeasance over the years. See also: http://www.crocodyl.org/wiki/general_electric

    And attached is the seating chart for the state dinner w/ China’s soi-disant “president,” Mr. Jintao Hu (anglicized name order). Immelt’s spouse Andrea is on Obama’s left, Jeff Immelt is directly across the table, Hu is on Obama’s right. Does GE sell: Nuclear reactors? Fighter-jet engines? Hydropower turbines? Steam generators & other electrical generating equipage? And all kinds of appliances to distribute (think formerly PCB-laden transformers, electric distribution substations) and consume electricity (think Ronald Reagan & Betty Furness)? Railroad locomotives? Are there electricity consumers in China? Transportation users in China? Airplane users in China? CAT-scan users? Does the black bear like blueberries?

    Note also that :
    “On June 29, 2009, ProPublica and the Washington Post reported that GE ‘has quietly become the biggest beneficiary’ of a federal bank rescue program known as the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, or TLGP. GE Finance is not classified as a bank, because it is part of the industrial corporation, and is therefore exempt from most restrictions applied to other financial giants bailed out by the government. The news organizations reported that if GE Capital were classified as a bank, it would be the nation’s seventh largest. The TGLP was created in October, 2008, and is managed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, which initially resisted the company’s eligibility until GE executives and outside attorneys (including Sullivan & Cromwell’s Rodgin Cohen) pressured FDIC and Treasury to expand the program. GE reportedly won approval to enter the program in mid-November with support from its regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision. By the end of the first quarter of 2009, the company used the government’s guarantees to raise about $74 billion.” [http://www.crocodyl.org/wiki/general_electric]

    Bottom line: Middle East/Northern Africa/Caspian Basin/Indian Ocean, oil, the US Military-Industrial-Legislative-Spying-Wall-Street-Casino Complex policies are all connected to the current casus belli, 9/11/2001, which was its launching pad, when you get around to “connecting the dots.”

    A note on the “connecting the dots” meme: Everyone forgets that in all the connect-the-dots ‘workbooks’ children have been provided since time regrettable, all the dots are NUMBERED.
    That is, you can connect all the dots you want, but if you don’t connect ‘em in a certain order, you don’t find the “hidden picture.” The BBC’s “The Last Enemy” mini-series, which swiped the discredited name of Total Information Awareness Program (or System) from the War Department’s data-mining spy system, gives a hint at the theoretical power of such an operation. But Google, etc., give a more real approximation of how it works, fingers to the keyboard. (rather than ‘boots on the ground’.)

    bw

  • http://www.inkywretch.com The9th

    PS to the above: the 2011 GE proxy statement (bd meeting is April 17th or so, Salt Lake City (home of one of GE’s mining operations, I think) notes that Immelt is “director of government-organized financial and monetary policy organization (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)”. That is, he’s one of the nine directors (til Dec 31, 2011) of the NY Fed.

    Serving on the GE board of directors with Immelt is James S. Tisch, head of Loews corp, also a “director of government-organized financial and monetary policy organization (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)”.

    I’m assuming, but do not know, that Muammar Qaddafi does NOT have any position on “our” private central banking system.

    As for “creating jobs” or Immelt’s being named chairman of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and competitiveness:

    “A November 1998 Time magazine profile of GE concluded that ‘[t]here is no starker example of the phenomenon of corporate welfare and vanishing jobs than General Electric Co.'”

    [from TIME Magazine, 1998-Nov-9 (V152N19), by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, Corporate Welfare report: http://www.mega.nu/ampp/timecorpwelfare.html. Most interesting to me is this graf:

    The justification for much of this welfare [$4.5T from 1990 to 1998] is that the U.S. government is creating jobs. Over the past six years, Congress appropriated $5 billion to run the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which subsidizes companies that sell goods abroad. James A. Harmon, president and chairman, puts it this way: “American workers…have higher-quality, better-paying jobs, thanks to Eximbank’s financing.” But the numbers at the bank’s five biggest beneficiaries–AT&T, Bechtel, Boeing, General Electric and McDonnell Douglas (now a part of Boeing)–tell another story. At these companies, which have accounted for about 40% of all loans, grants and long-term guarantees in this decade, overall employment has fallen 38%, as more than a third of a million jobs have disappeared.

    [my emph.]

    And this was 13 years ago.

    Immelt’s predecessor, John S. “Jack” Welch was known as “Neutron Jack”–he left the corporation standing but annihilated the people & jobs they held. Dunno whether Immelt has taken up the mantle as Neutron Jeff. fwiw.

  • Larrypayne

    Great post!

    Here is an article that will back up Ed Kendrick’s
    comment about Israel funding African Mercenaries
    in Libya. What Ed failed to mention is that the mercenaries are there to fight the protestors.
    According to the article, Israel does not want Qaddafi defeated for fear Libya will become more anti-Israel under new leadership.

    http://www.ansamed.info/en/israele/news/ME.XEF40598.html