February 3, 2011
General Electric, General Obama, and the Level Playing Field
The nexus between the federal government, labor unions, and some, favored businesses grows tighter by the day. On 21 January our president issued an executive order creating the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, to be led by Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric. The council was established within the Treasury Department "to help ensure ‘the availability of nonpartisan advice to the president from participants in and experts on the economy.'"
Sounds like a good thing, right? The cheerleading in the Bloomberg article continues:
As head of the world's biggest maker of jet engines, medical-imaging equipment and power-plant turbines, Immelt gives the White House a corporate heavyweight to help burnish Obama's pro-business credentials.
"Power-plant turbines"? Hold that thought while reading the article here: a power plant that will be powered by GE turbines just received a waiver from the administration's new air-quality regulations. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
Here's a challenge to the new majority in the House: Will some committee chair, just one, call Mr. Immelt to testify as to whether he is a registered lobbyist, and if not, why not? As a followup, does he see any conflict between his roles as CEO of GE and head of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and if not, why not?
Next they could call Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to testify on her current thoughts on a "level playing field." Time was when she thought that venerable cliché should guide the policy of her department: "Competition is good. You can write the rules for a level playing field." But that was so 2009. The chair could start with this line of questioning: "Madame Secretary, you have said in the past that ‘a level playing field' is a good thing. Can you explain for the committee how granting waivers from requirements in the Affordable Care Act overwhelmingly to unions (650 of the 773, so far, or 84%) creates a ‘level playing field'? I would also be interested in your comments on the following commandment from Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Henry Percy is the nom de guerre for a technical writer living in Arizona. He may be reached at saler.50d[at]gmail.com.