GE’s Immelt Obama’s New Business Liaison

January 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt

Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chairman and CEO of General Electric Co. tapped by President Barack Obama as his next top outside economic adviser, will be asked to guide the White House as it attempts to jump-start lackluster job creation and spur a muddled recovery, the Huffington Post reported.

Immelt’s firm stands as Exhibit A of a successful and profitable corporate America standing at the forefront of the recovery, the newspaper stated. It also represents the archetypal company that’s hoarding cash, sending jobs overseas, relying on taxpayer bailouts and paying less taxes than envisioned.

The move is the latest salvo in the White House’s continued aggressive and very public outreach to corporate America. Earlier this month, Obama appointed a top executive at JPMorgan Chase as his chief of staff, and this week he granted a longtime wish of business interests by promising to review federal regulations perceived as onerous.

Immelt’s appointment raises fresh questions about Obama’s courtship and future policy proposals. Firms like GE say good jobs will come from lower taxes and less regulation. Immelt told analysts Friday that he’ll focus on tax policy and regulation, among other topics.

“A clear problem in the recovery is that it’s been a much stronger recovery for business in terms of their profit and earnings than for those folks who work and earn a living in the U.S.,” said Gary Burtless, a former Labor Department economist and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research and policy organization in Washington.

Burtless said Immelt was likely hired to reassure corporate America. Political opponents have cast the Obama administration as unfriendly to business interests, and the administration has had difficulty rebutting that theme. Immelt’s hiring was yet another step in that direction.

“It’s a significant piece of outreach to the business community,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and top economic adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. The appointment could mean business has a “genuine liaison” at the White House, Holtz-Eakin said.

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