The wit and wisdom of Jack Welch


Much was made of it locally when former GE CEO Jack Welch used a recent NYT story to decry Rhode Island's business climate. His remarks came in an interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Do we need to do better? You betcha, as Sarah P. likes to say.

Welch, perhaps with some reason, remains an icon in the business community. But let's remember a few things about him.

As BusinessWeek reported:

Welch started his reign with a bang, dismantling GE through a series of dramatic restructurings and layoffs. From 1981 to 1985, he cut 100,000 jobs, an act so painful to employees that they began referring to him as ''Neutron Jack,'' after the nuclear bomb that vaporizes people but leaves buildings standing.

It was painful, too, when Welch, seemingly because of his uber-rich guy status, was given free rein to prattle on about the Sox on NESN.

More significantly, William Greider's excellent Who Will Tell the People explains how GE and other US corporations have paid way-substandard wages abroad, in some cases avoiding US taxes by siting facilities beyond American borders.

GE has also had issues with fraud, securities law, and the environment, among other things.

So if Welch is going to be held up as an economic avatar, let's go beyond just a simplistic account of his record.

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