Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric Co., defended his company against accusations of immoral behavior from Bernie Sanders, who’s vying against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.
Sanders, a self-described socialist senator from Vermont, last week was asked by the editorial board of the Daily News
in New York to name companies that “are destroying the fabric of America.”
Sanders responded that General Electric is immoral for forsaking its national birthplace by opening factories in China or Mexico: “General Electric was created in this country by American workers and American consumers. What we have seen over the many years is the shutting down of many major plants in this country, sending jobs to low-wage countries.”
He also said GE avoids paying taxes in the U.S.
These behaviors destroy the moral fabric of America when “you are a corporation and the only damn thing you are concerned about is your profits.” He added: “If the only thing that matters to you is making an extra buck, you don’t care about my family. I think that’s immoral.”
Immelt responded by saying GE invests billions in the U.S. and employs 125,000 people, including second- and third-generation workers.
“It’s easy to make hollow campaign promises and take cheap shots in speeches and during editorial board sessions, but U.S. companies have to deliver for their employees, customers and shareholders every day,” he says in an opinion published by The Washington Post.
“I’m proud of all that we do, and how it all figures into 'the moral fabric' of America is so plain to me. It seems Sen. Sanders is missing the point.”
Immelt also said Sanders “has never bothered to stop by” an aviation plant in his home state.
“We’ve been investing heavily (some $100 million in recent years), hiring and turning out some of the world’s finest jet-engine components in Vermont since the 1950s,” Immelt wrote. “The plant employs more 1,000 people who are very good at what they do.”
President Barack Obama in 2011 appointed Immelt as chair of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to provide advice on policies to spur employment growth. He was dubbed the "Jobs Czar From Hell" by one critic
In September, GE announced plans to move 500 jobs
from the U.S. to European countries after blaming Congress for allowing the charter for the Export-Import Bank to expire. The charter was later reinstated. The Ex-Im Bank, which provides trade financing to corporations, was criticized for peddling taxpayer-subsidized corporate welfare
Sanders said he wants to see trade agreements with other countries that protect workers from low-wage competition in emerging markets.
That stance has been championed by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who also said the American middle class is being destroyed
by trade agreements that create incentives for companies to close U.S. operations and move them overseas.
In answering the Daily News questions about America’s fraying social fabric, Sanders said JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and every other major bank caused people to suffer “the results of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street.” Any bank that reached a legal settlement with the U.S. government made “an implicit admission that they have engaged in illegal activity.”
He said the banks perpetrated fraud by lending money to people who lacked the ability to make monthly payments. Many of the mortgages were bundled together in investments resembling bonds and sold to people who didn’t realized how risky they were, Sanders said.
“Lying to people without allowing them to know that in a year, their interest rates would be off the charts. They would not repay that. Bundling these things. Putting them into packages with good mortgages. That's fraudulent activity,” he said.
Sanders has said on the campaign trail that he favors breaking up the big banks to avoid a situation where they are “too big to fail” – that is, their role in the global economy is so important that that they can expect a taxpayer bailout if they have financial difficulties.
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