WILKOW/ RIZZUTO: GE a corporate sponsor

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COMMENTARY:

For all of the carping liberals did for eight years about corporate cronyism in George W. Bush’s White House, they seem to turn a blind eye to the same behavior in President Obama’s. With plans in place for a major overhaul in the health-care industry, General Electric is positioning itself to become a major beneficiary of these health care reforms.

Recently at the Business and Social Responsibility Conference, General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt referred to America’s current economic crisis as part of a “reset” rather than part of an economic cycle, saying, “People who understand that will prosper in the future, and people who don’t understand that will get left behind.”

In the same address, Mr. Immelt, who is also a member of Mr. Obama’s economic recovery advisory board, added, “The intersection of government and business will be changed, maybe for a generation.” In other words, companies should be prepared to beg for a seat at the government’s table if they plan on remaining lucrative.

Imagine that on the eve of the Iraq war, the CEO of Halliburton had declared that since Sept. 11, 2001, the relationship between the government and corporate interests have become one in the same.

Of course, Mr. Immelt’s rhetoric about corporate responsibility was undercut last year when GE’s once vaunted financial services business, GE Capital, was forced to ask the government for what amounted to a $140 billion government bailout.

Mr. Immelt’s words betray GE’s willingness to partner with the Obama government in order to turn a profit. To this end, GE has appointed Mr. Obama’s former nominee for secretary of health and human services, Tom Daschle, to the board of advisers for Healthymagination, an initiative launched by General Electric in partnership along with Intel, which will invest $6 billion over the next six years on “health care innovation that will help deliver better care to more people at lower cost.”

Mr. Daschle said, “We can only find real solutions in health care when business, government and their partners work together.”

In 2008, Mr. Daschle wrote the book “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis” in which he explains his radical solutions to the problems in American health care. In the book, Mr. Daschle calls for a British-style Federal Council on health care.

The profitability of GE’s new venture will depend heavily on the nationalization of the health care industry. The standardization and streamlining of health care recordkeeping, something on which Mr. Obama ran in 2008, would require a massive government contract for the technology to achieve such standardization.

Mr. Obama has introduced a plan to computerize all health records within five years. Independent studies from Harvard, Rand Corp. and the Commonwealth Fund have estimated that such a plan could cost at least $75 billion to $100 billion over the next 10 years. Healthymagination is readying just such a technology, claiming that they will seek to “increase the use and capability of electronic medical record (EMR) technology and other information technology.” With Mr. Obama’s ally Mr. Daschle on board, Healthymagination is sure to have more than a leg up on its competition when it comes time to dole out these massive contracts.

Under the cloak of corporate responsibility, General Electric seeks to benefit to the tune of billions from the passage of Mr. Obama’s health care reform. On its corporate Web site, Healthymagination admits it will use every tool at its disposal to achieve its goals, including NBC Universal, the parent company of MSNBC which offers nearly uncritical coverage of Mr. Obama and his policies.

In effect, NBC Universal would become the propaganda arm of the administrations drive for the nationalization of health care, pushing its passage in its print and television properties.

Healthymagination states its target dates for the completion of its various initiatives as 2015, well into a second Obama term. This means GE will have a deep financial interest in Mr. Obama’s re-election; a fact that will no doubt be reflected in its media divisions. It will certainly be interesting to see if the left-wing watchdogs howl, or if they will conclude this is an acceptable level of collusion between the White House and a multinational conglomerate.

Andrew Wilkow is the host of Sirius/XM Satellite radio’s Wilkow Majority program. Nick Rizzuto is his producer.

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