Former GE Boss Jack Welch Predicts Deep Economic Downturn 9/24/2008 3:06 PM ET Former GE Boss Jack Welch Predicts Deep Economic Downturn (RTTNews) - Former General Electric Co. (GE: News ) chairman and chief executive Jack Welch said Wednesday that the U.S. was in for "one hell of a deep downturn." He urged swift and decisive action to confront the current financial crisis, expressing support for the $700-billion financial relief package proposed by the Bush administration. Speaking at the World Business Forum in New York City, Welch, who up until recently predicted that the U.S. would be able to avoid recession, said that negative growth would likely start next year after slowing growth late this year and early in 2009. To fight the current crisis in the financial markets, Welch suggested decisive action by both authorities and business people. "Don't ponder," Welch said, invoking one of the mantras of his address, "get ready for real tough times." On the financial relief package, Welch said he believed a bill should be passed quickly, although he predicted that the debate between Congress and the White House would lead to a better bill in the end. Welch praised the actions of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as well as Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The former GE CEO likened the recent crisis to the Agatha Christie book, "Murder on the Orient Express," where the killer turns out to be a group of passengers. He said the blame for the crisis can be split among a number groups, noting that mortgage lenders pushed irresponsible products, home owners took loans for houses they couldn't afford and rating agencies were too late in asking questions about companies' balance sheets. Welch suggested that the root of the problem was those "damn investment bankers." He explained that when investment banks were private, they used partners' money, which led to strict risk management. However, when the investment banks became public, Welch said, they began to "play with other people's money." Welch equated this with going to Vegas with a neighbor's money, explaining that there were enormous payouts for winning and limited downside for losing. For companies, Welch suggested that businesses should look at fixing their cost structures to prepare for the tough economy he now sees. He also urged firms to deleverage and take care of their best employees. On the presidential election, Welch argued that Republican candidate John McCain was the best choice for business, citing Democratic rival Barack Obama's support of unions as his main reason. He also said that Obama's tax policy would be bad for business. "I don't know how a businessperson [can support someone] who wants to raise taxes in a tough time and unionize America," Welch said. Welch was particularly hard on organized labor. "I absolutely do not want a president in the pocket of unions," he said, saying that unions were "bad for competitiveness."