Thanks to economist Howard Richman for drawing this my attention. The above link will take you to the annual letter to General Electric shareholders, written by Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Within this brief letter is an indication of a seismic shift in attitude toward the trade deficit. I must say that I have never read such a statement by the CEO of a major, global corporation that speaks out so bluntly against the U.S. trade deficit. Here are the key paragraphs:
I have also learned something about my country. I run a global company, but I am a citizen of the U.S. I believe that a popular, thirty-year notion that the U.S. can evolve from being a technology and manufacturing leader to a service leader is just wrong. In the end, this philosophy transformed the financial services industry from one that supported commerce to a complex trading market that operated outside the economy. Real engineering was traded for financial engineering. In the end, our businesses, our government, and many local leaders lost sight of what makes a nation great: a passion for innovation.
To this end, we need an educational system that inspires hard work, discipline, and creative thinking. The ability to innovate must be valued again. We must discover new technologies and develop a productive manufacturing base. Our trade deficit is a sign of real weakness and we must reduce our debt to the world. GE will always invest to win globally, but this should include a preeminent position in a strong U.S.
Congratulations to Jeffrey Immelt for having the wisdom to see the core of our economic problems and for having the courage to speak out. The CEO of GE is a man with no small amount of influence in the corporate world and in Washington as well. Are other CEO’s paying attention? Is the Obama administration listening?
This may be the most hopeful sign I’ve seen in years that the dark hours of America’s economic decline may be drawing to an end and that a new dawn is drawing near.