I had breakfast this week with Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, and the main dish on the menu was tough love. In an interview before a packed hall in Times Square, the boss of the more than a century-old $177 billion global behemoth told me that Americans can still win in the global economy — but that they need to fight harder.
“We are not trying that hard,” Immelt said. “We haven’t really tried as hard as we can to compete, educate and sell our products around the world and I think we can do better.
“The world just plays harder than we play,” he said. “Whether it is on exports or whether it is on foreign direct investment, the rest of the world plays for keeps. And we just don’t have a similar philosophy.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has her own reasons for feeling grim, but she can take some comfort from the fact that Immelt pointed to Germany, whose version of capitalism Americans are accustomed to dismissing as plodding and inflexible, as one nation that is outselling the Yanks.
“Chancellor Merkel flies from Berlin to Beijing, there’s 25 German C.E.O.’s that get off the plane right behind her. And they connect the dots. They play hard, they play to win, they play for exports,” Immelt said. “We’re not all-in the same way that the Germans are all-in.”
The Germans certainly play the world much better than we Americans.
Gary Fields & John Emshwiller:
For centuries, a bedrock principle of criminal law has held that people must know they are doing something wrong before they can be found guilty. The concept is known as mens rea, Latin for a “guilty mind.”
This legal protection is now being eroded as the U.S. federal criminal code dramatically swells. In recent decades, Congress has repeatedly crafted laws that weaken or disregard the notion of criminal intent. Today not only are there thousands more criminal laws than before, but it is easier to fall afoul of them.
As a result, what once might have been considered simply a mistake is now sometimes punishable by jail time. When the police came to Wade Martin’s home in Sitka, Alaska, in 2003, he says he had no idea why. Under an exemption to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, coastal Native Alaskans such as Mr. Martin are allowed to trap and hunt species that others can’t. That included the 10 sea otters he had recently sold for $50 apiece.
Joshua Chaffin and Alex Barker in Wroclaw and Kerin Hope in Athens:
However, some eurozone finance ministers hit back at Mr Geithner’s comments, questioning the usefulness of his visit.
“I found it peculiar that even though the Americans have significantly worse fundamental data than the eurozone, that they tell us what we should do and when we make a suggestion … that they say no straight away,” said Maria Fekter, Austria’s finance minister.
Sweden’s Anders Borg said: “we need to make progress, but it’s quite clear the US has a big debt problem and the situation would be better if the US could show a sustainable way forward.”