General Electric and the Gipper

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I promised more than just a “Zombie Reagan” tribute after the Superbowl and I’m a man of my word.

Given yesterday’s centennial honoring former President Ronald Reagan, I felt it so fitting that the General Electric corporation was the most visible homage payer for a man who helped further corporatize the United States during his administration (see above commercial). As the book, “The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the betrayal of Main Street” noted, it was during the actor’s employment with GE during the 1950’s that he severed his last remaining ties to American Liberalism. The corporation literally purchased Reagan’s political soul during the years he hosted General Electric Theater even going so far as to lavishly outfit his Pacific Palisades home with their products. Once the show was canceled, his career in politics became the new stage as he switched from the Democratic to Republican party. His anti-government rhetoric was honed and ready to take him to positions within the government!

Enter the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In 1981, a continuing relationship between the politician and GE soared to new heights. Again, as “The Man Who Sold the World” by William Kleinknetch charts, Reagan’s corporate alma mater was one of the chief beneficiaries of his tax cuts that year. “In the first three years of…the administration, the company paid no income tax. In fact, it was given tax rebates during that period totaling $283 million, despite pretax profits of 6.5 billion” the book goes on to state. GE was able to total more than a billion dollars during the first half of the decade and despite being awash in cash, no major job creation took place. Instead, tens of thousands of workers were laid off by GE. The corporation went acquisition crazy in the meantime.

So yes, what a fitting and telling tribute after all.


About Gabriel San Roman