Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric CEO and jobs czar to the Obama administration, was interviewed recently on 60 Minutes. In the interview, he talked about everything ranging from his position as jobs czar to his responsibilities to GE's shareholders.
"I think this notion that it's the population of the U.S. against the big companies is just wrong. It's just wrong-minded and when I walk through a factory with you or anybody, you know, our employees basically like us," Immelt said in an interview with CBS News’s 60 Minutes. "They root for us, they want us to win. I don't know why you don't."
Since making these statements, the reaction from the left has been fairly negative, even prompting critics like The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein to comment that Immelt’s interests may be more in line with those of his fellow business leaders than with Obama’s interest in creating jobs.
When asked at a CEO summit earlier this month how he will get Obama to listen to him, Immelt responded: “Our job is to make our ideas his ideas,” Klein reports.
The Huffington Post sees that fact that GE's is not being "rooted for" as a result GE's business practices including cutting 19,000 jobs since 2009.
"I want you to root for me. You know, everybody in Germany roots for Siemens. Everybody in Japan roots for Toshiba. Everybody in China roots for China South Rail. I want you to say, 'Win, G.E.,'" Immelt told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl.
As Imelt bemoaned his companies negative image, the Huffington Post reminded its readers why that might be the case: the unemployment rate has been hovering above 9 percent for months and continues to barely keep pace with population growth.
Then there are other elements to GE's public image that has tarnished its reputation, most notably the fact that it did not pay any American taxes in 2010, according to The New York Times.
When the company’s tax scandal became public knowledge, a GE spokesmen said the company expects to have "a small U.S. income tax liability" for 2010, according to a report from Fortune magazine and ProPublica.
Later on in the interview, Imelt talked about his vision for GE and what it means to be a globalist:
I'm a complete globalist. I think like a global CEO. But I'm an American. I run an American company. But in order for GE to be successful in the coming years, I've gotta sell my products in every corner of the world.
If I wasn't out chasing orders in every corner of the world, we'd have tens of thousand fewer employees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas.
I'm never going to apologize for that, ever, ever.
However, it should be noted that the majority of growth for GE is happening outside the U.S., and 60 percent of revenue comes from overseas, according to Immelt himself. Again, comments like this has led critics like Paul Krugman (yes, that Paul Krugman) to write this specific criticism in the New York Times.:
...GE isn't in any important sense an "American' company." More than half its employees are overseas. I'm sure Immelt would claim that this is just what he needs to do to compete; but in that case, he can't have it both ways and also demand that we cheer for GE as an American champion.
In the end, Immelt said he answers to shareholders, not the country or employees.
"My name is not above the door. I work for investors. Investors want to see us grow earnings and cash flow. They want to see us be competitive. They want to see us prosper," Immelt said in the CBS News report.
See the CBS Interview: