Speaking at Liberty University the other day, the Donald declared that he would bring the jobs back home. In particular, he would bring the high tech jobs back home. Under a Trump presidency the iPhone would be manufactured in the good old USA.
And, I am assured from reliable sources, if the Donald said it could be done it will be done. After all, he did build the skating rink in Central Park, ergo... he can do anything he says he will do.Right?
Hearing this claim, William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog recalled a New York Times article from four years ago. It recounts a dinner that President Obama had with Apple executives, including Steve Jobs. When Obama asked Jobs what it would take to make iPhones in the USA, Jobs answered thusly:
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.
Apparently, Chinese factories are simply better than ours. A lot better, as it happens.
The Times continued:
Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
Similar stories could be told about almost any electronics company — and outsourcing has also become common in hundreds of industries, including accounting, legal services, banking, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
No one is going to wave a magic wand and make the jobs come back. The problems are not at the top as much as they are throughout the ranks of middle management and technical workers. We simply do not value mid-level skills… perhaps because we only value highly intellectualized skills.
The Times adds this:
Though Americans are among the most educated workers in the world, the nation has stopped training enough people in the mid-level skills that factories need, executives say.
To thrive, companies argue they need to move work where it can generate enough profits to keep paying for innovation. Doing otherwise risks losing even more American jobs over time, as evidenced by the legions of once-proud domestic manufacturers — including G.M. and others — that have shrunk as nimble competitors have emerged.
We can also note that Americans would never tolerate the working conditions that exist at the Foxconn plant in China. And that these working conditions can easily compromise worker health.
All of it matters to us, but we also want our iPhones and we would not buy an American-made product if it cost more and did not work half as well.
'Tis a predicament…