GE has announced that it is transferring its 115-year-old X-Ray manufacturing operations from Wisconsin to China. It has also announced that it will invest two billion dollars in China, open 6 new research centers there, and train 65 new Chinese engineers. This is the same mega-corporation that last year payed exactly no U.S. corporate income taxes at all despite profits of 14.2 billion dollars, and that now, after a series of job cuts in the U.S., employs more people overseas than in the U.S. To add insult to injury, GE received a 1.1 billion dollar tax credit from the U.S. government as part of the financial industry bailout.
To put this amount of money in perspective, keep in mind that the cleanup of PCBs that GE has been fighting for decades will probably cost only hundreds of millions of dollars. And yet, GE says that it will sue if the EPA makes them do any cleanup at all. Apparently building China’s economy is more important than cleaning up toxic PCBs from the communities that previously supplied GE’s labor force.
Here’s a quote from Jeff Immelt.
“When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China. You need to be there. You need to change the way people talk about it and how they get there. I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to 5 billion. We are building a tech center in China. Every discussion today has to center on China. The cost basis is extremely attractive. You can take an 18 cubic foot refrigerator, make it in China, land it in the United States, and land it for less than we can make an 18 cubic foot refrigerator ourselves.”
But don’t worry. Our government is on top of the situation. President Obama recently appointed a new job czar to help figure out why our country is losing so many jobs and to help develop a strategy for getting those jobs back. Who did he appoint to this position? GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt. So will the President be able to convince Immelt that maybe he should pay more attention to his home country, and maybe he should consider cleaning PCBs from the Housatonic River? On the contrary. We now have word that Jeff Immelt has convinced President Obama to put pressure on EPA to back off from a Housatonic River cleanup.
PCBs cause cancer. They are known carcinogens in animals, and suspected carcinogens in humans. We can’t do studies on humans the way we can on animals, so scientists may never be able to say with scientific certainty that PCBs cause cancer in humans. In GE’s mind, and in the minds of its defenders, this means “no worries, mate” – at least for CEOs who don’t live in the Berkshires.
Cancer is a serious issue. So are the other problems caused by PCBs – reproductive disorders, behavioral disorders, neurological disorders, etc. The people of Berkshire County have to get angry. They have to find their voice and demand a cleanup of the river. It has become quite clear that we won’t be getting any help from the Obama-Immelt administration or from any other elected officials.