Jeff Immelt and Bernie Sanders

Sanders says that he is upset about GE’s operations abroad — as though a company that has customers in more than 180 countries should have no presence in any of them. He never mentions that we are one of the United States’ prime exporters, annually selling in excess of $20 billion worth of American-made goods to the world. Nor does he mention that our sales around the world support our manufacturing base here at home, along with the thousands of U.S. companies in our supply chain. You want to cause big problems for our suppliers — many of whom are small and medium-size businesses — and their workers? The surest way would be to pull out of those countries and lose those customers.

Source: GE CEO: Bernie Sanders says we’re ‘destroying the moral fabric’ of America. He’s wrong. – The Washington Post

While the op-ed in the Washington Post is an obvious creation of some deft public relations folks, I applaud Mr. Immelt for engaging in the debate.

At the same time, Mr. Immelt should not be disingenuous. He must grant that he has been among the most determined in his efforts to draw subsidies and assistance from the government, and that this puts him – and his company – in the crosshairs of a growing bipartisan movement to put an end to government subsidy and commercial favoritism.

The rest of us must grant that, as a company, GE has done the good things that Mr. Immelt enumerates, most notably employing lots of Americans, building new factories in the USA, making stuff that extends human life, cutting greenhouse emissions, making transportation more efficient, and exporting $20 billion of American products each year, all in the face of competition from places like China where the government coffers are wide open to local companies seeking to squash GE and firms like it.

Thus GE’s challenge is not the Senator from Vermont. It is to accept that it is operating in a new era, one in which it must face and defeat global competitors without the aid of subsidies from the American people.

Our greatest challenge is not GE – we can end corporate welfare with unity, determination, and the stroke of a pen, as we must and as we will. Our real challenge is going to be facing the onslaught of companies from places like China, companies who service a dream of a planet humbled and answerable to Beijing.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

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