Immelt actually assumed the position of President Barack Obama's Job's Council head, aka Jobs “Czar” in January. Since then, he has been very public, but hasn't been widely recognized perhaps because of the administrations late arrival to the "jobs first" focus. The report on “60 Minutes” illuminated some of the issues with Immelt being entrusted with job creation by the Obama Administration.
As Shahihen Nasiripour noted in Huffington Post in January: "Immelt's firm stands as Exhibit A of a successful and profitable corporate America standing at the forefront of the recovery. It also represents the archetypal company that's hoarding cash, sending jobs overseas, relying on taxpayer bailouts and paying less taxes than envisioned."
The difficulty the administration and Immelt face, amidst Wall Street occupation protests, is with regards to gaining a foothold of credibility. There is probably a larger distrust of big corporations by more people in the US than ever before. There is a large cloud of belief-fueled by broiling disenchantment of not being able to find good paying work- that corporations put profits first, second and third and that there is no serious commitment to employing Americans. Worse, there is a wide perception that government facilitates the disintegration of the US job market via no-strings attached corporate bailouts and tax/trade policies that encourage exporting of jobs.
For his part, Immelt spent two years prior to his promotion serving on President Obama's job's council. He was not new to being a powerful figure in the private sector of the American economy. In early September, he marked his 10th year at the CEO of GE. He has been named one of the world's best CEOs three times by Barrons. GE is still a brand synonymous with American economic power and stability.
Despite perceptions to the contrary, the company is more than yesterday's news. It employs roughly 150,000 people domestically and was recently chosen by Fortune as one of the top corporations in the world. Immelt has been at the forefront of reimagining GE's growth with a forward focus on advanced medical and transportation technologies. On a world wide scale, GE under Immelt has been a vehicle for job creation. Mr. Immelt was careful to note the forthcoming growth in GE manufacturing jobs domestically during the “60 Minutes” report.
His focus and how he conveys the message of how good jobs will be created in the US in the new economy carries tremendous political impact. President Obama has fought a perception that he spent valuable time his first 3 years on issues like Health Care and was slow to act on jobs. Immelt's strategy and how he sells it must be satisfactory to a sensitive and impatient US workforce. His record at GE regarding globalization does him no favors.
Immelt, to his credit, has not tried to be something he is not. He also has not tried to give a comforting message of a future that will be the same as the past. He laid out his vision in the Washtington Post in late January. In that op-ed piece, it was clear he was not buying that the US is done as a manufacturing power, but that free trade and the downsides that are inherent, is central to the future. He said free trade will guarantee access to US manufactured goods in emerging markets. In the “60 Minutes” piece, Immelt also noted that a weak dollar and increasing wage demands by overseas workers bodes well for the present and future for the US job market. For the current administration facing a difficult case for reelection, the imperative will be that these benefits be real in the short term.
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