Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part One: Jack Welch Is Why You Got Laid Off

Part One: Jack Welch Is Why You Got Laid Off

Tue, 09 May 2023 10:00

Robert is joined by Michael Swaim and Abe Epperson to discuss Hell's CEO, Jack Welch.

(2 Part Series)

Cracked alums Michael Swaim and Abe Epperson are making a new movie and you can help! Papa Bear is based on the hilarious, poignant true story of when Swaim's Dad came out as a gay furry. Click here ( to learn more and score cool rewards like posters, special thanks credits, or even a trip to the premiere!

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It's been almost a year since I got my LASIK at LASIK Plus and I'm still seeing 2020. It's changed a lot for me, my glasses don't fog up in the rain or when I got to wear a mask inside. It's made camping easier, it's made so much stuff easy. And of course the exam was easy, treatment just took minutes and I was back to work the next day. LASIK Plus is a leader in laser vision correction in the United States and if you want to try it right now you can get $1,000 off when treated in May. That's $500 off per eye. Visit to schedule your free consultation. That's for a free consultation. Let's talk fashion. Whether you're looking for a sexy weekend look or a versatile blazer, the latest collection at Ashley Seward is just for you. Ashley Seward has been outfitting style obsessed women in sizes 10 through 36 since 1991. We've perfected the art of complimenting your curve since always. From New Denham dresses, modern workwear and more, runway ready styles for every mood and occasion, time to stop settling and start celebrating. Shop the latest trends in sizes 10 through 36 now in stores and at You're ready for a comeback. And with Purdue Global, you can do more than take classes. You can take charge of your story, of your career, of your life. Earn a degree you can be proud of and get an education employers respect. It's time, your time, not just to go back to school, but to come back and move forward with Purdue Global. Purdue's online university for working adults. Start your comeback at Purdue It's a podcast. Shit. It's behind the bastards. A podcast that I was trying in the 30 seconds before we started to think of a good funny introduction like, you know, shouting Hitler atonally or, you know, one of our other classics. It's a podcast. Shit. That's all I came up with. That's fine. I considered Sophie doing like doing like a war of the world style intro where I like pretend to be a newscaster, letting everyone know that like a new virus has been found has reached the coasts of the United States and is spreading rapidly through populated areas. But we already, we all did that. So it's not really funny. Yeah. So I don't know. Sophie, I don't know. I'm, you know, I like to do a podcast. I failed. I failed. But you know who's not a failure, Sophie? Oh, yeah. I do. The guests that we have for the spectacular podcast episode today, the glorious Michael Swame and the inimitable Abraham Eberson. Mmm. Mmm hmm. I'm glorious, but you could imitate it if you tried it. Yeah. You could imitate Michael, but, but not a. Yeah. But, and I have, I have no discernment of quality, but you can't replicate it. That's right. That's right. Thank you. That's right. It's, no one said it's good. It's just like, whoa, that's hard to do. I love that. I love that we, we had a pitch meeting about my compliments to turn them into insults. That was nice. It's, it's really making me nostalgic for the old days. It cracked. And by the way, by doing a war of the worlds, I totally thought you meant get sick and die like just kill over it. Like, Robert was the best of us all, but he couldn't handle a simple COVID. No. I, I, you know, COVID, who, the CDC says it's over. So we're good. Yeah. I'm not even worried about it anymore. Um, Michael Abe, as I, as I stated a little earlier, we all used to work together at the old place at the shop at the comedy website that was based off of a comedy magazine that nobody read in the 1960s. But the website did quite well. Right. Right. Mass TV, the website, if you will. Yeah. Yeah. You guys are back on. The last time we had both of you together was talking about the end of Elron Hubbard and listening to his, his glorious, his glorious song. Thank you for listening. And today, I've got you want to talk about a very special piece of shit. One, one of the rare bastards who has had a major impact on the life of every single person listening to this podcast. But before we get into that, you guys have a project that you're working on that's very exciting. And I want to, I want to start with a plug up front so that we can get to that before people soles leave their bodies with depression. And, and I'm supposed to remind you that you also have a podcast because Daniel, Daniel threatened my life. Oh, yeah. All right. Well, let's dispense with that quickly. I do a podcast with Adam Ganser where we talk about video games. It's called One Upsmanship. I love it dearly and it's a week, weekly show that's great. But wait, there's more. Wow. And thank you, Robert, because what about you? We're definitely here just to announce that we're clear since the Hubbard episode. We're totally clear and clear. So good for us. And with that new found power, we've decided to try and make a new video. Make an indie movie. It would be our second indie movie. The first one's called Kill Me Now. If you want to see if we suck at it, you could go watch Kill Me Now on YouTube. It's available on the entire day. Thank you. And it's been a long time and we're ready for number two. If you knew us from crack, or like if you knew like after hours, agents of crack does not compute hundreds of sketches. We were kind of the engine behind that. And this movie is based on the hilarious poignant true story of when my dad came out as a gay furry. It's super funny, but it's also got a lot of heart. It weaves a bunch of other stuff in there as well. And Abe, do you have anything to add? Yeah. You are. Yeah. You can go help us out by going to slash fund slash pop a dash bear. And you can become part of the movie. You don't get stuff from the movie, watch the film early. Even go to a premiere. We're stoked about telling this story. So if you can't help us get what we need to make it right. Yeah. At the lowest tier, you're basically pre buying a ticket because you'll just get a private link to the movie when it's ready. We have other funding like going on behind the scenes, but the crowdfunding piece which is going wrong right now, of course, is super crucial. And there's cooler stuff than that to get. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. If you donate at the highest level, you will literally be able to call yourself a producer and where suspenders and like an iron shirt and do mountains of cocaine. Well, smoking a cigar and cheat on your white. Yeah. You get a signed hat, all sorts of good stuff. We execute the adoption papers with your name on them and you become my dad. You are legally. Wow. Wow. Yeah. Wow. Mike's dad. You know, considering the movie is about your dad, that does kind of seem like a little bit of a kick in the face. It's weird. Yeah. Like you're out on the movie. It's like it's a gift of the Maggi type situation where like I was able to make a movie about you dad, but now you're no longer my dad. But as you buy it, you forget him. Yeah. It's on right. It comes out of your brain and disappears. But yeah, that's Papa Bear. Papa Bear. Papa Bear. Look it up. But yeah, let's check it out. Yeah. Yeah. And a horse do you have for us? Excited to be here. A real, a real horror. So we, we should start a little bit here by talking about capitalism, you know, something that we're all intimately familiar with. And one of the most important things to understand, if you want to know kind of like why the US and its friends won the Cold War is that for a lot of people in the United States and other Western countries, capitalism seemed like a pretty fucking good deal from the time of the new deal up through the late 70s to early 80s. Now obviously this was predicated on extraction from countries outside of the United States and Western Europe from, you know, the global south, whatever you want to call them. And it was also, you know, funded by supporting the subjugation by dictatorships of people living in those countries in order to extract resources. But within the United States itself, in particular, America saw a 40 or so year long period where the standard of living and the average amount of like wealth held per person increased at a pretty dramatic and extremely consistent rate. Prior to the new deal, corruption and abuse within capitalism were pretty much universal. And the biggest companies were the ones that were generally the best at holding their workers down at gunpoint. But after the Great Depression, there were new regulations introduced and this combined with progressive social welfare policies, I should have done by the FDR administration, helped lead the United States towards the titanic growth of the postwar years. Inequality plummeted, managers and workers, you know, were generally obviously paid differently, but it wasn't like you see today, right? Like a guy working the line at a factory was not getting like one 500th of the amount of money that like the CEO of the company got. They were living kind of in the same vague planet, you know, when it came to income. And a lot of the day's business groupers argued that this was necessary for healthy economic functioning. This was actually the most efficient way for the system to work. In 1943, Johnson and Johnson's CEO authored a company, Credo, that spoke to a lot of people in big business in the United States. He argued that the company's first responsibility was to its customers. Its second was to its employees, who he said deserved a sense of security with just management and short working hours and fair wages. Its next duty was to management and then last and least it headed duty to its investors and shareholders. Yeah, that was the last. That's the CEO of Johnson and Johnson. Business must make a sound profit. High taxes paid. New factories built. New products launched. When these things have been done, the owners and stockholders should receive a fair return. So that's pretty different, right? It feels like all things have become grotesquely extreme to the point of like ruining everything. You know, it takes time at the beginning. I feel like they didn't realize how far they could go and how much they could get away with. It takes time to wake up and go, wait, could we take it all? Like, oh shit. It takes time. And I think it also takes part of why this state of affairs came to be. It didn't like, these companies didn't start treating workers well and sharing profits with them because it was nice. They did it because the country, like the United States, nearly collapsed into like a revolution, right? And that was, things were that bad at the very worst of the Great Depression. The government was worried like, are we going to do a Russia? And that fear faded, you know, that's kind of the story we're telling today. So now I'm going to get ahead of myself. But if you want to look at kind of the company during what's called the Golden Age of Capitalism, which is this period from the end of World War II up to kind of the Reagan era, the company that best embodied both the strengths of that capitalist system that existed then and the kind of innovation that could come from it is general electric. Now over the years, it was founded kind of in the late 1800s. And in the years since its founding, its engineers and scientists brought the world like half of the things that we consider like crucial aspects of daily modern life. They invented incandescent light bulbs. They invented the electric plant. They shipped radios around the world and invented many of the first radios. They crafted the first vacuum tubes. They invented the garbage disposal. They created a wide variety of moldable and transparent plastics that became ubiquitous in household products and also every creature living in the ocean. Obviously, you know, that part's not great. But on the opposite side, the silicon rubber that they invented was a like made space travel possible. Like you don't get human beings into space without it. All of these are bangers. These are all bangers. Yeah, these are all bangers. They're all impressive. Yeah. So this is like for about 100 straight years from the late 1800s to the 1980s. GE was not just a company that made a lot of money. It was a company that regularly invented things or at least its workers did, the scientists that it paid invented things that changed life for people all around the world. They're like, oh, that was us chairs. Yeah, fair chairs. Parry, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Fucking, thinking of stuff. Yeah, and their workforce was compensated, you know, as you'd expect given their success. All the light bulbs as you can eat. Yeah. As many light bulbs as you can fit in your cheek pouches like a squirrel. No, they were the company. They were one of the companies that they essentially invented the kind of modern concept of an employee retirement plan. They gave workers profit sharing. They were the first company, I think, to have like provide insurance for workers. They invested in the ongoing education for their workforce. They had a corporate campus that featured swimming pools and spas and tennis courts and football fields and free classes and stuff like tap dancing that had no profit, you know, making benefit for GE, but made the workers happy. They kind of pioneered the shit that we now associate with like the golden age of the tech industry, right? Right. Like that. Like chairs, you know, like the 20s. Yeah, exactly. And this was part of an understanding by the management elite of the era that a happy workforce was one that would not tear you apart and shoot your family in a dank basement. Men like GE CEO Gerald Swope had the czar on his mind when he described the company ethos as welfare capitalism in 1922. This was a term that like a CEO felt proud to use like our company practices welfare capitalism. In 1927, company chairman, own young gave a speech at Harvard where he attacked businessmen who tried to quote squeeze out of labor its last ounce of effort and last penny of compensation. Executives he argued needed to quote think in terms of human beings who put their lives in labor in a common enterprise for mutual advantage. And there's nothing more alien to kind of the business goals of our day than the concept of mutual advantage. Now, we're still rich, right? Like, yeah. They still have the same color. A lot of money. Like they still led lives of plenty, right? And I should state, a lot of times and one of the main sources that we're going to wind up using for this episode, this, this era gets romanticized. And part of why gets romanticized is that a lot was nicer back then like compensation of workers in the United States was much nicer. The system itself was still pretty soaked in blood. For example, GE executives may have cared greatly for their workforce in the United States, But they had no issue with the idea that GE products would be used to murder civilians in foreign countries. GE's T-700 helicopter engine powered the Black Hawk after its adoption in 1978. They also made the engines for basically all of the helicopters that the United States used to annihilate large chunks of jungle in Vietnam. They made the engines for the planes that dropped the defolites that gave everybody fucking cancer. They were one of the top 10 largest contractors used by the US government to make nuclear weapons over the course of the Cold War. You know, they're not just like making nukes, but nukes, there's a bunch of parts that nukes involve. And so GE was one of the primary suppliers of those parts. At the height of the Vietnam War, they made more than $1.6 billion a year in military contracts, making them the second highest paid defense contractor of the bloodiest chapter of the Cold War. So that's all bad, right? Like it's not, I'm not trying to like, uh, whitewash this stuff here. It's different than light bulbs. I'll give you that. It's different than light bulbs. They did light bulbs and death bulbs. Light bulbs, rubber gaskets, the bicycle wheel bullets, new helicopters, lasers. You're all going to die. Michael, they did in fact invent the laser, by the way. That was also a GE invention. Yeah. I love this. This is fantastic. You throw a dead cat in the room and you're like, ah, they invented dead cats. Yes, there's something about the blindness created by overcoming trauma. I'm sure you're going to get into it, but it like doesn't make the crimes go away. No. If the skeletons in the closet were like kind of made in order to build the closet, that doesn't justify anything. And that's my standpoint. But it's like amazing to see what America has done in order to be like, you can't make fun of General Electric. They're goddamn General Electric. You know? Yeah. They are, that was very much like they were seen as an institution, like almost a branch of the government. And part of it was the degree to which like so many Americans, hundreds of thousands were employed by them. And it was like kind of cradle to grave employment. If you got a job with GE in this period, that was your job for life. And then when you retired, they would pay you a pension, you know? Like a candy job. Yeah. And if you keep the US military machine rich in killing machines, GE will take care of you, right? Like that was the bargain, you know? So I want to quote now from a book by a guy named David Gels called The Man Who Broke Capitalism and spoilers. The man that the book is about is who we'll be talking about today. Quote, an annual report from 1953 described how GE worked in the balanced best interests of all. The report trumpeted how much the company had paid in taxes. The virtues of paying its suppliers well and how critical it was to take care of its employees. That year GE proudly stated that it spent some 37% of its sales on pay and benefits for its workers, resulting in the biggest payroll in the company's history, with more people at work than ever before. Next to the statistic was an illustration of a grinning factory worker walking away from the assembly line holding bags of money. Only after enumerating all the ways in which it was helping the government suppliers and employees, did the company mention how much it allocated for investors? The sum, a modest 3.9% of sales. Think about how weird that is, right? Right now we're going through this thing where the head of the Federal Reserve is talking about how bad it is that wages have kept rising and that's like a problem. They need that we need to discipline laborers so they expect less. But in 1953 GE's being like, we're giving everything that we have to our workers. Isn't that dope how much money we're paying our employees? This is what you would brag about. This is so many issues, it's like vice-versed, which party you would think like conservative traditionalists would be like, this makes more sense. Like I would say, no, it's weirder now. What's weird is if you have a human enterprise and the person who makes the most money from it has no, they didn't work there, they didn't invent it, they didn't form the business, they have nothing to do with it. Like that's weird. It's weird to me that that's how it works now. Yeah. You can't imagine what you're thinking of when you say that working in the film and entertainment industry, Michael. But. So, the idea that was common at the time among the people who ran companies like GE was that corporations had a responsibility both to the United States as a whole and to their workers. GE's head of employee benefits listed, quote, maximizing employment security as a prime company goal in 1962. Because the ability of workers to feel secure in their future was in his words the most productive asset the company had. Obviously, again, I hope I haven't under emphasized the inequalities that in the system, but those inequalities were externalized primarily, right? The inequalities within American capitalism were outside of the United States primarily, right? Within the US, there was actually like quite certainly a less unequal system than we have today. And we can see how kind of widespread these ideas were in the simple fact that from 1948 to 1979, worker pay in the United States grew at the same or close to the same rate as worker productivity. But since 1979, this has changed dramatically. From 1979 to 2020, net productivity rose 61.8 percent while the hourly pay of typical workers grew at about 17.5 percent over four decades. So it went from they grew at kind of the same rate during this quote, golden age of capitalism to worker pay grew less than a third, at less than a third of the rate that productivity grew, right? What does that mean? I mean, that means workers are getting shafted, right? Like, yeah, there's no other way to look at that. Now, a lot of different factors had to come together to change the state of affairs. And obviously, there's not one single person that's solely responsible for why everything got a lot worse within the United States. He's curious, he's his name. But he is the guy who caused all of this, but he is the guy who his career is the dividing line between the golden age of capitalism and the era we live in now. This grim age of billionaire CEOs and starving workers on food stamps and like zero innovation effectively. Like, there's a single guy whose life is sort of the dividing line between those two periods. He was the CEO of General Electric and his name was Jack Welch. He is such a bad person. You guys are really going to have a terrible time with this episode. I'm excited for this. So I've seen, yeah, I've seen this guy. Yeah. He's very famous. He wrote, he wound, he, like in his retirement wrote like 20 different fucking management books that are all the same book, right? Like, it's, they're all like nonsense, corporate like bullshit to keep in your fucking bookcase behind you while you do a Zoom call. So everybody thinks that you, you know what you're talking about care about motivating your workers and exactly. Oh, and everyone wins way and all that stuff. Yeah. He's a real great guy. His name is Welch. I just want to put that out before we get, you know, like, and he's got a Welch on a lot of bets. So the two books that I've used as sources for much of this episode are the book that I quoted from earlier, The Man Who Broke Capitalism by David Wells and Jack's own autobiography, Jack, straight from the gut. It's a horrible book. The first book, The Man Who Broke Capitalism is, is pretty well written and it's a pretty damning indictment of Welch's career. It is written by a guy who really believes in capitalism. And so there's one of its flaws is that it definitely takes the like things were so good before this guy came along and like ruined this wonderful system. And it's like, I don't know, man, like I agree he made things works. But like during the Golden Age of Capitalism, we like underwrote coups in Guatemala and Korea and El Salvador and Chile and whatnot in order to like secure resources for US corporations. And yeah, it wasn't great before. You know, Jack Welch didn't do any of that. But he did take capitalism in the US from a system that benefited Americans at the expense of other people to a system that benefited like 40 guys at the expense of the rest of the world. And then he's bad, I guess. I don't know how you can parse that out morally, however you want. That's not my job. I'm not going to solve this for you. But he's a real piece of shit. So let's talk about that. Wait, wait, wait, wait, I thought at the end of behind the bastards at the very end of the series, you would reveal the answer that would solve everything, right? Is that now where we're headed? I, you know, Michael, I do have an answer for you. It would have been the answer to Jack Welch if someone had done it earlier in his career. But it could still be the answer to a lot of bastards. Legally, I'm not allowed to say it on air. Okay. Yeah, it rhymes with schmarrgated, schmashmashination. Okay. Like that's, that's, that's the answer. So Welch's autobiography is probably the most self-serving piece of trash I've read in my life. And I have read Saddam Hussein's writing. Are the deal worse than are the deal? I, I kind of think so because, because at least Welch did all of the terrible things that he's talking about. It opens with these telling lines and strap yourselves in, boys, this, this one's rough. This may seem a strange way to begin an autobiography, a confession, I hate having to use the first person. Nearly everything I've done in my life has been accomplished with other people. Yet when you write a book like this, you're forced to use the narrative I when it's really the we that counts. Now that could be nice, right? But what Jack is actually setting up here is not that like, I've been forced to use I and that means I'm not going to give enough credit to other people. What he's actually setting up here is that like in this book he takes credit for every good thing that happens at GE during its tenure. And I think he just in the initial draft of this gave himself credit for everything good that happened. And then his editor came in and was like, you sound like a giant prick. So you have to add something at the start of the book saying, you're sorry for using I all the time. I'm hard at it. That is exactly what I suspect happened. You know, like an editor came and was like, Jack, you got to like write something at the start here because you sound like a dick. He continues with one of the funniest sentences I've ever seen in a nano biography. Please remember that every time you see the word I in these pages, it refers to all those colleagues and friends and some I might have missed. Now we move on. Please. That's so nice. Hell yeah. The absolute gall. The arrogance. Yeah. I love it. It's so good. As soon as I was trying to decide, we don't do a lot of like CEO bastards because like, you know, a lot of them are terrible, but they're usually boring. So we're more likely to do like, you know, we'll talk about the bo-pull disaster in India rather than like doing the life of the CEO of Union Carbide or whatever because most of them just aren't very interesting. When I was trying to decide. When I was trying to raise the price, then they raised it again. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. But Jack Welch, as soon as I read that, I was like, all right, this guy's got to be enough of a piece of shit for an episode. And boy, how do he share his? John Francis Welch, Jr. was born on November 19th, 1935 in Peabody, Massachusetts just in time to miss the Great Depression and fully benefit from the more restrained, thoughtful era of capitalism that followed it. His dad was a conductor for the railroad. He was a union man. And while he worked long hours, he didn't benefit it from benefits and pay good enough that he was able to buy a house for his family. His mother will talk about more in a second. They had Jack late in life. She was 36 and his dad was 41. They had spent years trying to make a baby. And unfortunately with Jack, they succeeded. He was an only child and in his own recollection, quote, my mother poured her love into me as if I were a found treasure. Jack finds it very important that you believe his family weren't financially comfortable. He wasn't born with a silver spoon is literally how he writes it in his book because he's not a very imaginative person. This is technically true in that his family was working class. It's untrue in the fact that he was born in the single luckiest era financially to have been born in the history of the human race. Again, his dad working a single job without a high school income was able to buy a home and put his child through college without taking on debt. Just a different world. Now neither his mom or dad graduated from high school, they were with Irish immigrants and their house was across the street from a factory, which his dad considered to be a plus because it meant that there were no neighbors partying on the weekends. Jack's dad collected magazines and newspapers from writers on the train during his work day and he brought them home. Jack started reading the news as a result of this. And yeah, that's how he kind of like got into the world. This dad also introduced his son to golf telling him that all the big shots on the train talked about their golf score constantly. So Jack should probably learn how to golf if he wanted to make a lot of money. Wait, so he's just like a golf and newsream boy. Yeah, he comes to see a wouldn't be boring. Yeah, he's like, did he also? Don't worry. Suck on peppermint candies and drink milk. What's going on here? We'll get to what else is going on here. Jack's dad is a, you know, he's the kind of, you kind of get some of the workaholism from this. His dad was dedicated enough to his job that like if the weather was going to be bad, he'd have his wife drive him to the station and he'd sleep there overnight before a shift. He did not spend a lot of time with his son. He worked from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. every single day. So Jack's primary influence was his mom. And if his autobiography is in any way credible, she was obsessively devoted to him and somewhat manically focused on making him a success. Quote, one of her favorite expressions was, don't kid yourself. That's the way it is. If you don't study, you'll be nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are no shortcuts. Don't kid yourself. So she's just like yelling at him to be, so like for an example of how kind of unhinged this woman is, she would force her son when he was like a preteen to go and gamble with the money that he had earned as like a caddy. So that he understood what it felt like to lose money. Oh wow, that's a weird lesson. Literally like home. That's an insane lesson. He's like a super soldier honed in a dojo to be good with money. Yeah, to understand risk of loss and damage. Yeah, that's just a crazy thing to do. But it worked, I guess, so good for her. Final form. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So from his earliest years in school, his mother was obsessed with the fact that he needed to excel. He writes in his autobiography. He knew how to be tough with me, but also how to hug and kiss. She wanted to make sure I knew how wanted and loved I was. I'd come home with four A's and a B on my report card and my mother would want to know why I got the B. But she would always in the conversation congratulating and hugging me for the A's. My mother never managed people, but she knew all about building self-esteem. I grew up with a speech impediment, a stammer that wouldn't go away. Sometimes it led to comical, if not embarrassing, incidents. In college, I if in order to tune a fish on white toast on Fridays, when Catholics in those days couldn't eat meat. And evidently, the waitress would return with not one, but a pair of sandwiches having heard my order as two tuna sandwiches. All right, so I got to start. Yeah. You're just rambling. This is just rambling. No, this is his life. First off, that's one. That's one. It's stutter. Point two is it's really weird to open up your conversations about your mother and say that she's a good hugger and kisser. Yeah. She's a good hugger. She's a good kisser. She made me gamble so that I looked at it. Be a businessman. Yeah. She told him that he stuttered because he was too smart and his tongue couldn't keep up with his brain, which is sweet, except for the man that this guy grows into is someone who clearly had more self-esteem than was responsible to give a child. Again, this is controversial, but I think it should be illegal to be nice to children. Otherwise they turn out like this. I don't. There's no other way to look at this, you know? So he grows up extremely confident. One of kind of the signs of how confident he is is that like, you know, when he was in high school, he was on the football team and the hockey team. Well, of course, double team. All of his so much protein. Yeah. So much. He was every time. He's a big tunable. Well, no, he's tiny. He's the shortest guy in his time, basically. It went into his brain. All of the power went into his brain. He's smart. He kind of says that basically his mom made him so confident that he didn't notice. He was so super tiny. But eventually, like he stops being able to compete in these sports because he's this little bitty shrimp of a man. And that's why he gets really into golf because, you know, golf, you don't have to be good at anything to be good at golfing. All you have to do is know how to talk about the stock market, right? That's all golfing is really about that. I'm sure many golfers disagree with you, but let's run with it. Yeah. That's what the stock would golfer say. Yeah, that's also running the other than everyone who runs the country. Yeah. Right. We're also running the other card off the road with your car for bonus points. But, you know, that's, you know, that's, you know, that part of golf I actually do. That's the one good. Yeah. I like the many cars that absolutely. So Jack's autobiography is the standard self-mathologizing of the corporate uver mention. It's honestly pretty worthless for anything, but the broadest details of his actual childhood. And the insight that we get from knowing what kind of stuff he wants us to believe about him. But there is one passage in it in which he exposes something that I think might be him actually sharing some vulnerability. And I'm going to read that now. I was incredibly dependent on my parents many times when my mother left the house to pick up my dad. The train would be late when I was 12 or 13. The delays would drive me crazy. I'd run out of the house and down love at street. My heart racing to see if they were around the corner on the way at home out of fear that something had happened to them. I just couldn't lose them. They were my world. It was a fear that I shouldn't have had because my mother raised me to be strong, tough and independent. She always feared she would die young, a victim of the heart disease that struck down everyone in her family. So that's like the one glimpse that we get that maybe this kid had a soul at some point. Like it's actually heartbreaking. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's also a pretty natural fear with kids that like, yeah, my parents will die, you know? You painted a portrait of the world for me to fear. And so I fear it. And now that I'm alone, I'm scared. That's all interesting. That is interesting. It does kind of reveal, yeah, but like whatever his picture of the world was, it was a dangerous one out there. And one of them, like, even if the death's just a metaphor for like being thirsty for dad, which they don't mean in the sexual way. No, no, no, no. It's fine. It's fine. Let's take it in the sexual way. Fifteen hours a day, your kid might just be like, if his dad doesn't show up on time every second feels like I'm just losing this scant time I have with my dad. That makes sense. Yeah. No, I mean, it's the only actual like sign we get that this man might have at one point had a soul. Right. But you know who doesn't have a soul, Michael, a who boss baby is what I hear. Boss baby. Boss baby. Maybe does not have a soul. Other than the souls that it collect. Yeah. Close don't have souls by the way. Yeah. Which is, yeah, everyone's talking about AI. I think we ought to be, we ought to be cloning, you know, once we really get cloning figured out, then none of us have to work because it's fine to force clones to do it. Yeah. Boss baby. It up. I remember when Dolly the sheepamp and and people were like, even though they made a log against it here, we go the the cat's out of the bag that we've reached the tipping point. Someone in a sea of labs going to start making clones. Where we at? Where are all the clones? I'm disappointed. It's extremely I was watching that show Severance recently, which isn't about cloning, but close enough. And I was like, man, this would be great. What if we just, what if we could just create a slave race that we own and have them do all the work? Okay. I think we've got to go to break. This podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp. How much time do you spend on yourself in a given week? And how much time do you spend on other people? How do you balance the two? These are questions we all have to answer. And therapy can help you get those answers. When we spend all of our time giving, it can leave us feeling stretched and burned out. Therapy can give you the tools to find more balance in your life so you can keep supporting other people without leaving yourself behind. If you're thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It's entirely online, designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist and switch therapists any time for no additional charge. Find more balance with BetterHelp. Visit slash behind today to get 10% off your first month. That's better H-E-L-P dot com slash behind. Robert Evans here, and as I'm working on the sequel to my novel after the revolution, I've found up Googling a lot of stuff that maybe I don't want in my search history. You know, it's an unavoidable consequence of writing about insurgent groups and their tactics. And I know what you're saying. Robert, why don't you just use incognito mode? Well, let me tell you something. Incognito mode doesn't hide your activity. It doesn't matter what mode you use or how many times you clear your browsing history. Your internet service provider can still see every single website you've ever visited. That's why even when I'm at home, I use a VPN. And one of the very best VPNs is our sponsor, ExpressVPN. It's an app that reroute your internet connection through their secure servers so your ISP can't see the sites that you visit. 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I think the further the stuff going on that road with you is lab grown organs that are our organs to replace our organs. I totally go with that. Yeah, but I mean, I don't want a lab grown organ unless it comes from a thing with a brain that knows that it's dying for me. Yeah, I wanted to have a pain before it died. I wanted to I wanted to know fear before I take its liver because I've destroyed mine. Mm hmm. Yeah. Isn't that yeah, this is what I've learned from Jack Welch. It was a pleasure to hear that he was an altar boy for much of his childhood. Super Catholic family. Although it's interesting. He always talks about how strict his mom was, but the one story that he shares about her disciplining him is not at all an example of her being strict. At age 11, he stole a ball from a carnival that was in town. And when she found out, she first tried to make him go confess to the priest, but he was terrified of his priest and he was worried that he'd be recognized in confession. So he begged his mom to just let him throw the ball away, just toss it into a canal. And he writes, after negotiating with her, she let me have my way. She drove me down to the bridge on North Street and watched as I threw the ball into the water. And considering the kind of corporate goal, I love that his like big story of discipline is like my mom, I stole something and my mom got it in the deep. But my mom, but I convinced her to just let me poison the poison the water with it. Fuck the system. In other words, she just jumped it into the water. She filed off the serial number and she's like, this never happened. Never happened. He is terrified to even write his mother as a, and like a figure of evil in his own autobiography. That I'm not like, obviously she's not evil evil, but like, no, I mean, amazing what she did a number on this kid. Yeah, maybe. Yeah, I think there, there's certainly something she did. I don't think we actually get a great context for what she was actually like because what I get from this story is like, oh, she was like protecting him at all costs and did not care about particularly teaching him that like that kind of behavior was wrong. Like she was not the kind of person who felt like it was important to instill a moral grounding in her kid. She was the kind of person who felt like it was important that he be part of the church because socially that's what you do. But more than anything, she wanted him to be a success and to make money, right? That's what she actually valued. And that's what she selected for in her parenting. That's what I get from Jack's book, right? You know, I didn't know his mom. Anyway, it's pretty cool. In high school, Jack played, you know, like I said, all of the major sports, but because he was so short, after a while, he stopped being able to compete in anything but golf and hockey, a sport where short people could excel as long as they were violent. And from a young age, Jack had a horrible temper and a problem with losing, which made him a great hockey player. Yeah. Here we go. Yeah. So here's another story from his autobiography. The other team scored and we lost again for the seventh time in a row. In a fit of frustration, I flung my hockey stick across the ice of the arena, skate it after it and headed back to the locker room. The team was already there taking off their skates and uniforms, all of a sudden the door open and my Irish mother strode in the place fell silent. Every eye was glued to this middle-aged woman in a floral pattern dress as she walked across the floor. Past the wooden benches where some of the guys were already changing. She went right for me, grabbing the top of my uniform. You punk, she shouted in my face. If you don't know how to lose, you'll never know how to win. If you don't know this, you shouldn't be playing. Now you throw that hockey stick in the river, young man, and we never stick at this again. I kind of think he's lying here and maybe parts of this are true. What his mom says there is something you would write in a business book published in 2004. It's a co-in brothers character. Yeah, and a poet, I can tell. A person doesn't say that. Nobody says that. No, nor do you remember floral dress, swishing across the floor as man-like eyes. No, he's trying to write. So I'm sure he's taking like this. Maybe if she's being like, maybe she got angry and yelled at him for being like, a bad sport, but she didn't say that line. That's a line that he hired consultants to think up for him. And she beat the shit out of me for a solid 45 minutes. That's a story I would have believed. It's the Ron Howard version of his life. Yeah. Obviously, his real love was golf, which is a love he would maintain his entire life. Jack notes that he and all of the other boys who worked as caddies at the country club competed vigorously to to caddy for like one of the two guys at the club who actually tipped. He makes a point to note that all of the rich people basically refused to tip. Interesting. Interesting. He was eventually forced to quit when the guy he was cadding for asked him to take off his socks and shoes and wait into the water to get a ball. Jack refused. And the guy insisted he grabbed the guys clubs and threw them into the water, which cost him a club caddy sponsor club caddy scholarship. So again, you know, guy with a temper, right? Guy who can't really control his anger. Guy whose anger seems to be primarily based around being feeling disrespected. You're better than him. Yeah. Yeah. Classic recipe for a bastard. Yeah. These golf clubs can't contain me like it's the energy is so it's beautiful. Yeah. It's a beautiful insecurity. Yeah. You could. Yeah. It's quite a it's something. So he lost out on an ROTC scholarship with the Navy as well. Why is unclear in his book? He makes a big deal about like me and my friends. We all pass the exam together. My dad had the state representative send in letters on my behalf. But then my friends got their scholarship and I got turned down and I have no idea why it's this big mystery in my life. And it's like, I don't know man, maybe didn't do well. Like maybe maybe you're an asshole and like the guy is responsible for giving the scholarship or like I don't think this guy is a team player and this is literally the Navy. You know, there's a number of things that could have been. But maybe you just didn't do very well, right? Like it's not a mystery. He had a bunch of friends who applied to West Point and didn't get into West Point and it's not a mystery. It's competitive. But Jack can't. I like his ego has to I think assume that there was something mysterious behind the scenes that cost him the scholarship. That's right. Right. Clearly his Catholic priest told them about that he stole a ball. Yes, and he took that ball. Uh, yeah. So at any rate, he did eventually get into college at Amherst and he started in 1953, which is the same year that GE released that earnings report being like we are giving all of our money to our employees. Fuck our stockholders. Isn't that dope? His time in college was pretty boring. I would describe him as a normie also as basic. One of the few details we get is that he brags. It's so sad. He has like a light in there where he's like I was in a fraternity. We ranked quote at or near the top and beer consumption and had better parties than most. He does not give a single example of a party. He does not relate a single human interaction during his time in college. Objectively better parties. It's like someone told a robot what you do at college and he was like we drank the most beer and had the best parties. It is an AI. Yeah, it is. It is what an AI would write if you like fettet this guy's fucking life story. Like be the coolest. Yeah. We did an animal house. That's right. Yeah. So he eventually got a master's degree in chemical engineering because he found it kind of interesting and there were jobs. He goes into a hard science but he was not motivated by science. He's never someone who's like in love with the idea of learning new things. He's someone who's like well science is like there's good jobs and money. He's climbing all in a chemical engineer. And we can see that in this anecdote he gives about flying with a after he gets his master's degree, flying out for a job interview in Louisiana with a friend after graduation. This is quite telling. On the airplane from my Ethel interview Ethel is the country or company. I was traveling with one of my associates from the University of Illinois when something odd happened. The stewardess came back and said Mr. Welch would you like a drink? She then turned to my colleague and said Dr. Gardner would you like a drink? I thought Dr. Gardner sounded a lot better. Mr. Welch. Well the golf clubs at the heart of the day. He's a fucking golf club that is so hard. So that's it right? Like he's sitting with a friend and a stewardess calls his friend a doctor and he's like well that sounds better than Mr. I should be a doctor. That's why he decides to get a PhD. Is there a super doctor? Is there a double doctor? It's purely about cloud. He doesn't ever express like an interest in chemical engineering like a love of science, you know a desire like an appreciation for academics. It's I was getting a cocktail once. I swear to God you're doing the origin story of like Homer Simpson. Well also the impulse that is dominant he's the original line goes up guy. All he cares about is line goes up. Yeah. Yeah. It's the same kind of energy of like fucking bin Shapiro or what he's like. It's like solar script. Yeah. So the guy is having an AI write a script that like nobody would ever want to watch. Like there's no plot in it. There's no character development. But it's formatted the way a script is. And so people are like look it's a script. It's like no yeah. And like Jack's like I need to be a doctor because it sounds good because people respect me if I'm a doctor. So I'm going to go I'm going to spend three more years in college becoming a PhD in chemical engineering. I think that this is like probably the single anecdote that does the most to describe the soul of Jack Welch. A man so fundamentally empty he pursued a PhD to impress airlines to her. This is but also like that's that's a part of him and that's real. But he's also a man who was capable of becoming a doctor of chemical engineering which is not an easy thing to do. Just for cloud right like that says something about the man that is impressive. It's not good. But it's impressive. It's impressive. Yeah, yeah, he's driven and it's like the worst kind of driven like it's an empty and soulless kind of driven. It's the kind of driven that is created by him like upbringing that allows him to be like I'm scared when I'm alone. Yeah, no like it's the abuse pays forward. Yeah, it's it's cool. It's his mom really did a great job on him. So his thesis for his PhD was on condensation and nuclear power plants and really the only time he talks about like doing science and his entire autobiography is to mention that while he was working on his thesis, this was the most important thing in his life. And then he never brings any of this up again. This is never a factor in his life afterwards. He never thinks about like science really in any meaningful way other than how to like monetize it. But what I'm saying is that he's got an incredible ability to compartmentalize, right? And that's really going to be his most valuable asset in business. Is that he's so good at just like shutting off parts of himself and then flipping them on when he needs to? And that's you know that that work. It's one of those things like the traits that make Jack good at the terrible things he's about to do are also the same kind of traits that make like a surgeon, a good surgeon, you know, if you're like cutting into people, you have to be able to like not care about cutting into a human being. I think most of us find viscerally upsetting for a while. You have to be able to just like, yeah, I'm just like doing a thing. You know, it's the same as wiring a fucking stereo system or whatever. And you can't carry it. Yeah. Right. And it's a thing like and not be doing it because it's a weird sex thing or you like it or you're getting off. That's no more than I'm going to say at least 20% of surgeons. It is a weird sex thing. We're getting all from the power or being like, I am not God. But you got to see you surgeons. That's what this podcast wants to say. Welcome to Behind the Basterds. A podcast about surgeons. Yeah. Yeah. All these surgeons out there. We see you. Yeah. Let's do a poll pot. But on anyone able to remove a tumor like just just go after them. No, I mean, but it that is he does have that like that same thing or that like thing that, you know, let's, you know, some people are are. I don't know. I don't know. Like that's a term that's not an actual diagnosis. We kind of use it. That's a part. We kind of use it. Most people interchangeably. I don't think it's some obviously like it is pretty well documented that psychopaths. There's a very high rate of psychopaths among like surgeons. And among any kind of job that sort of requires that kind of compartmentalization police officers priests, you know, anybody who's got to be able to like compartmentalize. There's a high rate of folks like that. I don't know that Jack could have been diagnosed with anything, but it's also like, like, it's not like a clean line. Like it's not like having hepatitis. You're not just like a psychopath or not. There's traits that we use to determine whether or not someone is likely a psychopath and some people may not be psychopaths, but they have some of those traits and they're not all bad things. And Jack, whatever you could diagnose him as, Jack has a lot of those traits. And one of them is that he's able to just kind of shut off parts of himself with robot like efficiency. So that's cool. After graduating, he gets hired by General Electric in 1960, his first job and basic, he only works for GE, right? Like that's his whole life. His first job, yeah, he gets hired by GE in 1960 and he gets sent to a town called Pitzfield, which is at the time kind of a minor outpost in GE's corporate empire. He attracted notices a manager pretty quickly. Just a year in, he was told he was getting a thousand dollar raise. And he was initially pretty happy with this because he'd be working hard. He'd been working hard. But then he found out that all of his co-workers got the same raise and it, like he loses his mind over this. Like he is, like so furious, he can't focus, he can't sleep, he can't think. He announces that he's quitting. He tells all of his colleagues that he's quitting. He puts in his notice that he's leaving the company because everyone got the same raise. The equality. Yeah, this is his fucking Joker moment, right? This is how he got his scars. Because he decides to quit and his boss apparently doesn't want to lose him and so meets with him and offers him additional money. So Jack agrees to stay. And it's weird because in his book, he claims that when his boss came and said, hey, we don't want to lose you, that he almost like cried because he realized, quote, somebody loved me. The validation, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that's very important to him. Jackie boy. Jackie boy. But he also, despite the fact that situation, it's like with the ball, it completely went his way. He didn't suffer any consequences for throwing a fit. And in fact, he benefited. But he's still really worried about it. He's angry about it. He never gets over this for decades later. And his autobiography, he's angry about it. Forever. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He spends the rest of his life angry over the fact that he had almost only gotten the standard race. And he even admits in his autobiography, it, quote, probably drove his behavior to an extreme. And he's like, but when I say that, of course, I mean, we really year to blame as well. We, yeah. Yeah. Everyone else, my manager for not giving me more money up front. It's also worth noting that he got far enough along in the quitting process that his co-workers all bought him going away presents, which he did not give back. Smart dude. But in his autobiography, he just writes, I don't remember if I gave them back or not, which is also funny. Yeah. I don't remember. Yeah. My secretary will have that information for you for whatever. Just a unpleasant man. Just a unpleasant man. Yeah. Who's to say? Who's to say? Me while he unboxes like a brand new cigar cutter and rips the tag off. Yeah. Just burns a dollar bill. Yeah. He's Sydney Musberger from the HUD sector proxy in my mind now. He's also, he's also Jack Donagee who is a GE like a fictional character. It's very funny, aim that you bring up Jack Donagee because not only is Jack Donagee from a third rock based on Jack Welch, Jack Welch shows up in that show. In that show, right? Yeah. He's in several episodes. Wow. That is. Yeah. That's wild. But you know what's not wild? Waterpark after it gets shut down. That's right. No, Schlitterbond was not wild after it killed all those kids and they had to shut down the best rides. That's right. That's what they mean by wet and wild. They mean wet and kids die here. Great. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. When kids die here, not enough people know about Schlitterbond. Look, it's a waterpark outside of Austin that you can drink as much as you want on the lazy river and only occasionally do kids drown at it. That's a good waterpark. Only occasionally. Yeah. That's a great waterpark. This has been a paid ad for Schlitterbond. You can waterpark that doesn't kill most of the kids who go there. You're doing five stars. All right. You're ready for a comeback. And with Purdue Global, you can do more than take classes. You can take charge of your story, of your career, of your life. Earn a degree you can be proud of and get an education employers respect. It's time. Your time. Just to go back to school, but to come back and move forward with Purdue Global, Purdue's online university for working adults. Start your comeback at Purdue Everything is better after a great night's sleep. 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That's Discover hands-on fun with engineering and computer science for everyone with EIE families, powered by the Museum of Science. Talk for kids ages 4 to 11, EIE families brings kids free, engaging STEM activities for English and Spanish learners. Engineering and computer science for 4 to 11 year olds that's fun and hands-on. EIE families delivers hands-on engagement for everyone. Discover more by visiting That's Let's learn together. DAAAHHHHH and we're back. So Jack decides to stay. He is a good employee. He gets promoted fairly quickly. He's an effective, relatively effective manager for the most part. But he was not a perfect employee. He made a number of what you might call boobos early on in his career. As this passage from David Gels' book makes clear. One day in 1963, Welch was at his office in Pittsfield, overlooking the factory on Plastics Avenue. Having risen to become a manager, charged with developing a new plastic, Welch was impatient to bring a product to market. It had been driving his team to move faster, run more experiments, whatever it took. As Welch sat at his desk and explosion rocked the factory. Debris and Broken Glass littered the scene as smoke shrouded the building. Somehow no one was badly injured. But it soon became clear that Welch is head of the plant and the one pushing his team so hard, bore responsibility for the disaster. Pressuring employees to innovate, Welch had them experimenting with an untested process, moving oxygen through a highly volatile solution in a large tank. Something caused the spark, setting off the explosion. And he blows up his first factory. And it was Daniel Plainview is going on. In his autobiography, he just writes that we were doing an experiment. And yeah, it's just one of these things that happened. In the factory, there was an explosion. And it was no one's fault, but it was my fault because I'm the manager. And you know, the manager, you got to take, he frames it as like, I'll say it's my fault because as the manager, the buck stops with me. And the reality is, well, you ordered them to do something danger-resonnier responsible and an explosion occurred. And he was your fault because it was your fault. Don't worry guys, I'll cover for you. I'll take the heat for this one. Yeah. Like the opportunism of turning that scenario into like, I'm falling on my sword here. It's exactly precisely why he does well in business. And he's deplorable. It's deplorable. He's deplorable human. My gut is telling me, I am not responsible for this. I don't, it's what my gut says. I don't know. It's like fucking several-tized-y drug driving your Lexus through a phone. Through a fucking crosswalk and hitting a bunch of kids and being like, all right, this is clearly a mistake. But you know what, kids, I'll take the fall for this one. I'm the adult in this situation. You know, I'll take the blame on this one. It's like literally, I think you should leave. Yeah. It's the hot bag. Yeah, we're all trying to find the guy who did this. Very, very funny. Jack Welch blows up his first factory. Mom walks in, grabs him by the call, or stop blowing up factories. I'm not a... But then on, I never did. I'm not a firing people guy. I think that's generally best avoided. But I would say, if one of my subordinates here at Cool Zone blew up a factory that we made podcasts out of, I would probably impose consequences on them. But Jack, really... What are you talking about here? You know the factory, Sophie. Have I not told you about the factory? I told you about the factory, but which employer are we referring to? That's my question. It's the arms company that we use Cool Zone as a shell to... We're on air. Ship artillery primers through. Anyway, we don't need to talk about that. So Jack suffers no consequences for blowing up this factory. Again, GE is like a ridiculously paternalistic company at this point. And his bosses are like, hey, failure's a part of life, Jackie Boy. Just don't blow up another factory and everything's fine. And honestly, to their credit, this works out well for them financially. Because the next thing that he does is he convinces his bosses to invest in a new factory, which created a plastic called Noral. Now he convinces it to do this before Noral is a functional product. In fact, the plastic in its first form was too brittle to work. But Jack told his chemists find a way to make this not be a terrible mistake. And they do somehow. Noral becomes a good one out of his factory. I did it. Well, blow up as many factories as it takes. So Jack gets promoted to head the company's plastics division at 32 and he becomes GE's youngest general manager. His promotion brings him stock options for the first time. And over the coming years, he started to develop an obsession with stock price, one that overwhelmed any interest he had in the actual products that his employees were making. Despite the fact that his hardworking scientists had been the ones to turn Noral from another failure into a hit, Jack had no loyalty to them or to anyone else who worked at GE. And in fact, he grew increasingly frustrated with the paternalistic nature of the company with the understanding that it showed its employees, which again is the only reason he wasn't shitt canned for blowing up that factory. Now the CEO of GE at this time was an Englishman named Reg Jones, who was, some people will say like one of the most, if not the most respected CEOs in the country at that point. He was apparently good. I mean, the GE increased steadily in value during the time that he was there. And he was kind of notably the kind of CEO that doesn't exist anymore. He lived in like a normal person house. He made 200 grand a year, which was more money in the 1970s, but nothing close to what executives make these days, right? Not even in the same ballpark of a modern, the salary of the CEO of GE today or the CEO of a company that was like GE. Who could easily afford a ballpark, for example? Yeah, for example. He was also kind of famous for like whenever he would find out about like employees, suffering debts in the family, he would just like send them a letter or whatever. Like he would devote company resources to helping people, you know, pay for funerals and deal with grieving. Like he was generally seen as a pretty nice guy. But Reg also was kind of as the 1970s rolled along as we all remember from, I don't know, high school history class. That's where you get your stagnation and your inflation and you get your stagnation. And the economy is not doing so great. Japan and Germany are both kind of rising as industrial powers and it turns out that they make better products than a lot of American companies. So people are starting to, the US economy is starting to like this kind of golden age of capitalism is starting to sort of like get jankier, you know, we can kind of see the Reagan era heading towards us very quickly in the mirror. It's, it's, and Reg was intelligent enough to see this coming. He knew the economy was changing. And so in 1977, he starts the process of finding the guy who's going to replace him, you know, it takes a couple of years. And when he's given a list of like the short list of executives being considered to take over his job, he sees that Jack Welch isn't all in there because no one likes Jack. He's an asshole. But Reg is like, I think, you know, Jack is, you know, someone who thinks differently than everyone else at the company. He is like, but he blew up that factory. He blew up that factory. The factory. The, the, the story will get. And this is kind of a mystery. No one really knows why Reg picks him, but Reg is like, I don't know, maybe this, probably the most likely thing is that Reg is like, this guy is an asshole. The economy is getting worse. Maybe we need a piece of shit to run the company during this period of time. Hard to say. Um, but. Yvonne gets talks about money river, which is just, I do think it's really true that many times people who become insanely wealthy and powerful. He really boils down to a moment where someone who is already insanely wealthy and powerful before them went, I don't know you. Like you're set now. That's that. Yeah. And, and this is about to be that moment for Jack. So he's put on this short list. And basically the way GE does this is once they've got this kind of short list together, for the next couple of years, Jack and all of the other guys considered for the job are told, Hey, we're watching you to see if you're good enough to be the CEO, you know, do your fucking best. And they give them new responsibilities to kind of see what they can handle and judge them. Um, so most of his competitors for the job focused on either maintaining profits and, you know, keeping a steady rate of increase in profits at whatever divisions they were running or it's shepherding new research into production, the hopes that it would be a new big business for GE and it would look good for them. Jack knew that that shit either didn't look impressive, right? Just kind of maintaining profit and that a division isn't easy to brag about in this kind of a competition or it took too long, right? New research as he knows is risky. Sometimes the factory explodes. He doesn't want to take that risk. But he had a faster, dumber way of increasing profits, mass layoffs. So this was not really a thing for American businesses at this point. Obviously, sometimes people get fired. Sometimes you got to lay people off because the company's not working, right? Like it was a thing that maybe people would get laid off of a business failed. Sure. But the idea that a company that is profitable and even though the economy is more challenging right now, GE is profitable. GE is making a shitload of money. The idea that a company as profitable as GE would fire a shitload of employees just to improve their margins. That didn't happen at this period of time in American capitalism. Jack is like, what if we did that? So this is my life. This is what I leave the human race. You're welcome. Fire and people for no reason. Did this guy create like the rank and yank thing? That's exactly where we're headed, buddy. Holy hell, what a piece of it. Yeah, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves though. So GE operated a massive complex in Louisville, Kentucky called appliance park. This is such a big factory kind of complex that it has its own zip code. It was very profitable and it also like kind of supported the whole city, right? Like a huge amount of Louisville's economy is people who work at appliance park, right? It's what keeps the city alive kind of effectively in this period. Jack didn't think it was profitable enough though. Again, it's profitable. He just doesn't think it's profitable enough. So he shit cans a huge percentage of the workforce, gutting a huge chunk of the economy in Louisville. But making a short term like stock, stock bump for GE, right? Because cutting all of this, all this salary and benefits and stuff looks good on the balance sheet and that makes the shareholders happy. His colleagues celebrated his courage in doing this. David Gell's rights quote layoff spread to other divisions as well as wellch a massed more responsibility. And as he toured GE's facilities around the country, he took the opportunity to remind the rank and file who was now in charge. In Cleveland at the light bulb factory, he berated a manager for the relative high costs of GE's bulbs, screaming that competitors in communist Europe made similar products for half the price. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, he tore into another executive when he stepped on and off one of the company's new digital bathroom scales and it came back with different results. When he met a manager who failed to impress, he would snap, what the fuck do I pay you for? Beyond being an unsentimental cost cutter, someone who was willing to lay off a few hundred workers to meet a quarterly earnings target. People should never outgrown his adolescent temper. And I find that really interesting, the light bulb story because the kind of broad story you get about the Cold War is like, yeah, capitalism went up against communism and communism lost. And it's like, well, the United States went up against the Soviet Union and all of our sundry satellites and the Soviet Union collapsed. But a big part of what was happening in that period is the United States economy boomed in part because it adopted a number of socialist policies even at the corporate level, welfare capitalism, right? That was a big part of what made the US economy work during that period of time. But the whole time there were guys like Welch who were like, you know, instead of not looking at like the shitty quality of a lot of products produced in communist countries and being like, boy, capitalism makes much better products looking at them and going, man, if we made shit like that, we could save a lot of money that we could then man to rich people. Which is where we are now. Yeah. It's the banal tragedy. I totally get this guy through and through because he's the guy we have now still to this day. Yeah. And it is, it's actually chilling to think of that open-ended answer. Yeah, we're profitable, but are we profitable enough? Yeah. Well, how much is enough, man? Yeah. This is a scary place we're going. Yeah. Because it's not like, because this is always like the fucking hard-nosed capitalism is the best people are like, well, what? You should just pay people for a failing business. You know, that you can't do that. It's like, look, these are hard decisions, but they have to be made. You can't just give, you know, this is a business, not a charity. No, no. GE's light bulb business was profitable. It was making money. He just wanted to make shittier, cheaper light bulbs so that more money could go to the 40 people at the very top of things. And he was willing to destroy the city of Louisville in order to do this. I wonder if when on his deathbed, like this guy's dead, yeah. He's dead as shit, but very suddenly. Yeah, okay. So I wonder, I do think it was a painful death. Oh, there's that. Yeah. I wonder on his deathbed if he was just like, he looked into someone's eyes and was like, was I a cartoon character? It is, we'll talk a little bit about how Jack handled imminent death, Abe, because it's even funnier than that. So Jack was obsessed with a small, relatively unappreciated part of the company. GE Credit Corp, the company finance division. And this was like a small, it was created basically to like let customers like finance purchases, right? Like you're buying a washing machine. That's expensive. You can't pay it all up front. So you finance it with the company, right? But what Jack realized is that like the company could be doing a lot more with its finance division because a corporate finance division, when you've got a company as big as GE, could have with it and with his good accredit rating as GE, because GE's like AAA, right? Like it's the best company in the country pretty much. Like they've got the anyone will lend to them, which meant that GE's finance division could operate as a bank, like an unlicensed bank. So he starts expanding it and offering mortgages and private credit cards and investing in other companies and buying other companies. And it's one of those things where he's like in his autobiography, when he kind of realizes that he could use this as an unlicensed bank, he writes, compared to the industrial operations I did know, this business seemed an easy way to make money. You didn't have to invest heavily in R&D, build factories and bend metal. He's like making shit hard and risky. And that's the reason I'm here. Yeah. Every step we just go. But as money's just math and it's just abstract, if we took this percentage and did this person, the money would just make money and now we're at a point where I don't, I just think if you think that way, I'm like, you don't understand what life is for. You're not engaging with the universe. No. And we, like, again, you're not a person that we need to have in the world, right? Exactly. Because GE, again, not to like, why, again, GE was heavily involved in the military industrial complex. But outside of that, it made things that objectively would be necessary in any society. It made light bulbs that worked, right? That's a value to society. It made light bulbs that function. It made washing machines and dryers that worked. That's a value to society. Jack is like, what if we made payday loans? Like, what if we, what if we created ways to just like make interest money off of people? And we'll talk about the other f**k'y things he does with this bank because it's his primary instrument for like making GE as a quote unquote success in his eyes. But we're, I'm getting ahead of myself yet again. So the late 70s things keep getting worse for the American economy. Obviously inflation is pretty brutal this period of time. Yeah, GE is again, still making a profit. They are sailing kind of through these stormy waters. But the profit isn't enough, right? Jack sees the one and a half billion a year that the company is netting as brutally insufficient. It's never enough for his trained daddy to come home and hug him. He will never get it. Exactly. He will make his dad not work to himself. He will never work to himself have to death at the train. So during this period, while Jack is kind of competing to be the new CEO, there's a new attitude developing in the American business community about how capitalism ought to function. The death knell of the golden age of capitalism was heralded by books about business that started to get really popular like in search of excellence by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman Jr. And this is an interesting idea because business historian Lewis Heimann describes kind of the central message of in search of excellence as you don't really need all these workers. You should be able to buy what you need from the market. You don't need to have these big corporations. You can get by without job security. Now one of the authors of this book is a partner at McKinsey, our old buddy Pete Buttigieg's former employer. Yeah, in search of excellence is the other author is like the guy who basically kind of guts the old Hewlett Packard to build the new one. And these are guys, these are MBAs, right? They're not engineering guys at firms like Hewlett Packard, like GE, a lot of the people running it had been engineers previously. It's the same with companies like Lockheed. But in this period, they're being replaced by guys who just know like business. And these are guys who are they're obsessed with like concepts like Tyson from Japan, which is like a manufacturing concept that they kind of often misunderstand and misapply. They're they're they're trend seekers, right? Like they see companies succeeding and they're like, what are they doing? Like how can we copy it? Part of how what they copy is this kind of like manic, insane work culture that is, you know, prevalent in places like Japan, what they're not going to copy is like, you know, all these Japanese companies whose workers are like working themselves have to death produce excellent reliable products. That's not necessary, right? Like we don't actually need to make good cars. We can we can if we make our workers work that hard and produce cheap shit, we'll make even more money, right? That's a big part of the management philosophy that is in search of excellence pushes. If you're still loyal to American products, which of course patriotism was, yeah, I would say more prevalent than or like extreme, but the point being now your ship breaks down, you got to buy it twice as fast. Exactly. Like it works all around. It just me as opposed to like, I don't know Toyota whose philosophy is we will make a car that will outlive humanity. Right? It will speak at your funeral. Yeah. It will come to your mind. Not anymore, but back then, you know, think of the yachts. Yeah. Robert. Think of the yachts. When you hang yourself using your 50 year old pair of Levi's jeans, your car will be there. So another popular book that kind of helped set up the next age of American capitalism was Future Shock. The author, I mean, Alvin Toffler. Again, I'm going to actually quote from that business historian Louis Hyman here. The author basically invents the idea of project management and talks about a future where there's no stability and no security. It's a blueprint for work under neoliberalism and it's everywhere. It's a bestseller. There's lots of these popularizers that bring ideas about workplace and security into a kind of connection with rethinking what the corporation is after the 1970s. And perhaps the single most important of these kind of apostles of this new age of capitalism is a guy named Milton Friedman. Now, that's a name I'm going to guess most people who have at least heard, right? He's kind of like the dude behind the Chicago School of Economics. He is an economist himself. He's extremely influential. One of the things that Friedman argues is that social welfare programs are not like a responsible thing for a society to invest in, specifically, particularly if they're using tax dollars from companies and from rich people to fund these programs. He rails against the idea that corporations have any responsibility to society or to their employees. In 1970, Friedman writes, the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. But does it mean to say that business has responsibilities? Only people can have responsibilities. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades. And then we've evolved that to the point where we just go, or you could just say corporations are people, even though that's like saying two plus two equals five or an umbrella is alive. But okay. Now, umbrella is our alive. Yeah, so that example, that's sure. And every time you close them, they die. So it's like drawing a katana, right? Like you have to know that you have to commit to that umbrella if you're going to open it because you're taking a life. It's a sure death. This is the only thing I believe spiritually. So think about that next time, you know, it raises, this is what your taught is an Episcopalian. That's all I remember from Sunday school. This is a weeping man screaming at me never to use an umbrella. I'm going to think of it. That was a bus stop. But same to you. Same to you. So in Friedman's eyes, the only responsibility corporations have is to maximize shareholder value. Any sacrifice necessary to achieve this end is acceptable. Now this is a little bit of an aside, but one of the people that Friedman had the biggest influence on is the Chilean politician named Augusto Pinochet, right? Now Friedman gives a bunch of and a bunch of Chicago school economists are kind of brought in by Pinochet in order to like give him advice once he takes over the country by murdering its electrically elected leader with the backing of the CIA. Pinochet dismantles Chile's public properties. He auctions off state businesses to the highest bidder and he kills every environmental and financial regulation in the country. This creates in the short term massive wealth for a small number of people. But it also leads to deindustrialization that by the early 1980s had caused unemployment in the country to increase to 10 times its pre-Pinochet rate. By 1982, Pinochet had been forced to fire his Chicago school advisers and re-nationalize several of the financial institutions he deregulated. In other words, what we know from the example of Chile is that following these kind of economic policies that Friedman is advocating that Jack Welch is reading about in these books and following in love with makes a shitload of money for a while. And then it leaves your economy hollowed out and unable to survive and causes massive social and economic disasters. And it's crazy that these people think that they're fucking geniuses because they can turn money into more money. Because they shirk credit. Yeah. But they can't see that if you strip mine the mountain then you don't have the mountain. Or if you burn the whole forest and there's no forest, you fucking idiot. Jack is this not obvious? It'd be like if I was like, look, I have a new idea for a business where I can provide functional organs to people who need them. And because doctors and nurses are already in hospitals, I'm just having men with guns kill them and take their organs. In the short term, you can probably make a lot of money. Yeah. Huge business. But very quickly, you run out of people who can put those organs in bodies. I do believe truly in my heart that with many of these people, their inner thought about that is I will be dead before then. So it doesn't matter. Yeah. I think their inner thought is more just like the droning of a dial tone. That's all that goes on by you. They just do what they do. Object. Yeah. I actually believe it's an addiction of some kind. Yeah. Yeah. I think all of the things we're talking about are true. Or just compulsion. Yeah. Just as Chile is teetering towards the brink of economic collapse thanks to its Friedman-like policies, Friedman disciple Jack Welch was picked to be the new CEO of General Electric. His colleagues reported shock and sometimes horror at this decision. But reds Jones had made his selection and there was no going back now. Although an event that occurred right before the transfer of his power certainly gave him second thoughts. David Gels writes, five weeks before Welch officially took over Jones threw him a party at the Humsley Palace, an upscale hotel in New York City. Among the 60 or so guests were CEOs for many of the nation's largest companies. As the night wore on, Welch had a bit too much to drink. When Jones asked him to address the crowd, Welch couldn't get through his remarks without slurring his words. Back at GE headquarters the next morning, Jones stormed into Welch's office. I've never been so humiliated in my life, he told Welch. You embarrassed me in the company. Welch was terrified that this might cost him the job. But yet again, he avoided any accountability for his actions. Jones went through with his decision. And right before the final transfer of power, he invited Welch into his office. Jack, he said, I give you the Queen Mary. This is designed not to sink. Jack, without even taking a second to think, immediately replied, I don't want the Queen Mary. I plan to blow up the Queen Mary. I want speedboats. I'm just... I'm just... I'm just... I want to shoot a Tesla to the moon with a fucking mannequin in it for social media cloud. That's what I want. That's who I am. And then we thumbs up and then high-fived and then we flew out of there on our fucking spaceship. Then we just threw up piles of money and then we ate the money that we threw up the end. Yeah. What I love about this is that like if we're following this metaphor, right, logically. Right. So, we're following the Queen Mary is the boat that we are all on. And if you blow up the boat that we're on and then you replace it with speedboats, we'll only a few of us can fit on the speedboats and everyone else dies. It is actually a very good analogy. He's doing a Titanic, but he's like, well, the Titanic really created a lot of value for the survivors. For the few that made it. There's a client man's structure re-haul during the sinking of the Titanic. Yeah. It is such a piece of shit. I just, what a... We're barely getting started. This is the end of part one. But boy, howdy. Does it get a lot worse? But you know what doesn't get worse? You guys, you just get better with a... Hey! Like a fine salami. Wait, I tell myself that every day. I tell my fine salami that. Yeah. Do you guys want to plug anything? Yeah, that was the cute-a-plugable. That was the cute-a-plugable. We did it at the top. You double-plug. Yeah, we do get to double-plug. We only let our real friends do that. Well, speaking of double-plugging our fine salamis, we're doing a movie about the complex proposition of former heroes. That has to be a sex thing. Yes. Well, that's what I'm saying. I'm going to go over to my torrent site right now and find double-plugging a fine salami right on the shopping. Right on the shopping. A lot of sausage. We are doing a movie as we said at the top, but we'll say it again because it's been a bit about the complex proposition of formulating your own sexual identity and how everyone's journey and that regard is unique and irreducible. And it's called Pop of Bear. And it's very funny, but then in the third act has heart. You know, like, you know, kind of movies I'm talking about. It's one of those. The poignant coming of age shit, we're really good at videos and movies. If you know us and our work, you probably already know that if you're interested in finding out more about the project, it's over at cd and slash fun slash poppa hyphen bear. Thanks so much. Thank you. Thank you both so much. You can find me nowhere because stay away from social media. It's bad for you. But you can find my book after the revolution literally anywhere you can buy books. You like Amazon, you like or whatever. You like going to Barnes and Noble for some reason. It's everywhere. Go, go, go read it. That's the episode. That's the episode. Behind the bastards is a production of Cool Zone Media. For more from Cool Zone Media, visit our website or check us out on the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. The impact of climate change demands urgent action and the folks at Panasonic are making the well-being of the planet a top priority by launching the Panasonic Green Impact Initiative, a company commitment to achieve net zero in house carbon emissions by the year 2030. And that's just the beginning. Through this initiative, Panasonic is making the systemic changes necessary to combat the climate crisis, creating next-gen battery storage, leveraging renewable energy and driving EV solutions. Join Panasonic in helping to create a greener, more equitable future. 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