General Electric’s Immorality

My family regularly consumes tea and sea vegetables imported from Japan. Indeed, the wakame we use (the green seaweed in miso soup) comes from Sendai whose coastal area was destroyed by the tsunami. Between the tsunami and the nuclear accident, it is likely that many such Japanese businesses engaged in food processing will disappear for the foreseeable future.

The Japanese have a well-deserved reputation for taking the quality of their food very seriously. The teas and the dried sea vegetables that we use have been made by master craftsmen whose skills have been passed down for many generations. It is indeed a small world; when my family sits down to have a bowl of miso soup on a cold winter day, we are connected to generations on the other side of the globe.

The fatal blow to these businesses will not come from the tsunami but from the large amounts of radiation now entering the food chain. With no immediate signs of abatement, hundreds of tons of radioactive steam and water are being released every day according to this sobering assessment by Arnie Gundersen, the chief nuclear engineer, at Fairewinds Associates. The tsunami could not have been prevented, but the nuclear catastrophe could have been.

General Electric designed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant; and by the 1970s, the “unacceptable safety risks” in the design of the reactor were apparent. This is an understatement since all nuclear power plants have unacceptable safety risks. We know this to be true because as I explained last week the insurance industry judges all nuclear power plants to be unsafe. They will insure nuclear power for only a tiny fraction of the potential damages in a catastrophic accident such as in Japan. The Price-Anderson Act places a cap on both the amount of insurance nuclear power plants have to buy and their potential liability. Without the Price-Anderson Act, capital markets would simply not allow power companies to build reactors; without the Price-Anderson Act, the nuclear power industry would not exist at all. As I pointed out last week, General Electric has been one of the major beneficiaries of the Price- Anderson Act.

The current CEO of General Electric is Jeffrey Immelt who heads President Barack Obama’s “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.” Obama has praised Immelt for his understanding of “what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.” But, as Robert Scheer observes, “the fact that General Electric…didn’t pay taxes on its $14.5 billion profit last year—and indeed is asking for a $3.2 billion tax rebate—has not produced a word of criticism from the president.”

I won’t critique General Electric on its tax record other than to agree with Scheer that corporations such as General Electric “know how to make the US government a partner in their scams.”

The Price-Anderson Act that makes General Electric’s nuclear reactor business possible is more than a mere “scam.” Instead, General Electric has chosen to earn profits by using the coercive power of government against consumers, against the environment, and now as we see, against humanity.

Aggression—in this case, the unprovoked violation of human beings–is an immoral act. Immelt and his predecessors, including Jack Welch, sold, serviced, and promoted reactors that they could not otherwise have sold were not the coercive might of government behind them. There is no Price-Anderson Act that limits the liability of ordinary citizens for their actions, but there is one for General Electric and other corporations.

In a January 2011 issue of the Elliott Wave Theorist, Robert Prechter, while eloquently and simply explaining the basic moral problem with the Federal Reserve, also explained the basic immorality of all government sponsored coercion.

The problem with the Fed is not its chairman’s decisions per se but its very existence. No Fed chairman has ever made a useful, moral decision, because the institution itself is harmful and immoral. It is based on political privilege, monopoly power, counterfeiting, partisanship, and theft. The ecology of humanity, left alone, rewards and punishes the right people; initiating force is required only in order to circumvent justice. When Congress created the Fed, it initiated force against most Americans in order to award undeserving people. The result has been colossal injustice.

In his classic essay “Life Without Principles,” Henry David Thoreau observed, “If a man walks in the woods for the love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” Are not Immelt and other industrialists who have benefited by the Price-Anderson Act today’s false “enterprising citizens” who Thoreau speaks of?

The world, Helen Keller explained, is moved forward “by the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” The seaweed harvesters of Sendai are such honest workers—they moved the world forward through their efforts. Their livelihood was destroyed, not only by nature, but by those who used aggressive force against them. It shames America that such CEOs are honored rather than disgraced.


7 Responses to General Electric’s Immorality

  1. L A Cochran says:

    Interesting perspective. Thanks for giving me more to consider in this very difficult situation.

  2. Lyn says:

    Barry, thanks for another great GUC.

    It’s an interesting thing to consider what our economy would come to look like if we changed to sound money, and eliminated liability caps and personhood for corporations.

    I’d like to see you address this scenario (or your version 🙂 in a future GUC.

    • Thanks, Lyn. I’m going to punt for now. I don’t think any of us can begin to imagine how the economy would look with those kind of changes. I could make guesses but I would be way off as to what would actually emerge. It’s kind of like asking a Soviet citizen–who had never traveled–shopping in a state run store to imagine modern 24/7 supermarkets fully stocked with food from all over the world.

  3. Evan Costello says:

    Fantastic post- how did you learn about this? This is the kind of thing that never makes it to the mainstream media- especially when GE owns almost half of NBC. (CBS is controlled by Westinghouse I think) and yet most Americans think if Brian Williams doesn’t report something it must not be true. I wonder if people will wake up.

  4. John green says:

    Yes, we do have our existence back to front about what is real….people who portray and pretend to be who they are not are worshipped glorified and paid obscene amounts of money and are called stars while those who really are themselves are ignored totally to the point of death by starvation…and their places of existence called 3rd world??? Who divided this one globe into 3 worlds??? The same people you are talking about…

    What has happened with Nuclear is only a small symbol of what has permeated much of our society…but it doesnt have to continue and we as public carry much power to instigate change as is already happening around the globe and will continue until the real reality not just protrudes thru the falseness but completely buries it forever….

    • Thank you, John. Yes, the undeserving are often subsidized and rewarded and the productive aggressed against. The Prechter quote in my piece “The ecology of humanity, left alone, rewards and punishes the right people; initiating force is required only in order to circumvent justice” speaks directly to your comments.

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