GE CEO on Speaker Boehner, toughest recession decision

(CBS News) GE CEO and Obama administration jobs czar Jeffrey Immelt spoke with CBS News' Charlie Rose and came out strong on legislators

He disputed the premise reiterated by several business and political leaders who have recently said that if we reach the "fiscal cliff" deadline without a resolution, the budget issues could be settled early in 2013.

Immelt called those claims "specifically not true" and added, "We've got to get this done now ... there are people that will write or go on news shows and say, 'We can let it lapse -- two weeks' ... [but] we need this to get resolved now ... because the millions of people that work for us, their lives are in flux."

Immelt voiced his trust in Speaker Boehner, saying "Speaker Boehner is the only guy who can lead us in that ... he's got to take the heat and I trust that he can do it."

However, he added his support for President Obama's push for more revenue, explaining, "There's not been one commission that says we can do this just on spending cuts. There's going to have to be revenue."

Responding directly to those who say it might not be such a bad thing if we "go over the fiscal cliff," Immelt said "I say they're people that don't have anybody who works for them."

Immelt reminded Rose that the budget and the Bush-era tax cuts have long led to Congressional gridlock and insisted on a 2012 resolution.

"We've been working on this for two and a half years. What happened in July 2011 was ugly ... the president ... Speaker Boehner ... they both failed. The business community almost universally speaks with one voice that this needs to get done ... and moving into next year is just a failure," he said.

Turning to his own leadership role within the business community throughout and since the financial crisis, Immelt spoke candidly about his hardest days as the CEO of GE, particularly his 2009 decision to reduce the GE dividend.

"I'd say cutting the GE dividend was the worst day of my life. I just hated myself ... I had said I wouldn't do it. I was so incredibly disappointed in myself."

He added, "You know, if you don't make the tough decision at the right time, you're going to ... lose your company. But if you make it and persevere, people will like you again someday."

Comments

Follow Us

The Newsroom