REAGAN AND GE – A SYMBIOSIS
By Serge Halimi
[This short article published in: Le Monde diplomatique, 11/10/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.taz.de/pt/2006/11/10.1/mondeText.artikel,a0051.idx.16.]
1952 was an important year in the life of the actor Ronald Reagan. First, he married Nancy Davis. Then General Electric put him under contract for 5,000, an incredible sum at that time. GE-head Ralph J. Cordiner sought a man who could give a face and voice to the decentralized “corporate citizen” General Electric.
At the beginning, Ronald Reagan had some reservations about television. He feared the new medium could ruin Hollywood. However he needed the money. In a commercial, Ronald Reagan opened a glass cabinet that had a television set. Nancy Reagan said very excitedly: “When we want a little diversion in our new home…” Ronald Reagan continued: “We only need to turn a switch. The electric current brings it into our house. In this way, the electricity contributes to our well-being.”
Reagan who defended democratic positions as a young man earned so much that he became increasingly conservative. His constant theme was the income tax that was at 91 percent for the highest incomes. “It makes us into a nation of liars and swindlers,” he ranted and raved in a 1957 radio broadcast.
From September 1954 Reagan moderated the Sunday night show “General Electric Theater” for eight years and went from factory to factory. For two years, he was on the move. In this time, he gave 14 speeches a day and came into contact with 250,000 GE workers. Reagan perfected his rhetorical talent, which later benefited him in the election campaign. He was the spokesperson of the big business.
In 1960, he was engaged in Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. When the democrat John F. Kennedy defeated the republican, General Electric wanted to keep its good relations to the White House and let the contract of its business spokesperson expire. Four years later, he was elected governor of California.