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Apple manufacturing jobs are not coming back and that's OK

Tom Kaneshige | Oct. 19, 2012
Everything about Apple is as American as apple pie, even its decision to send manufacturing and unskilled-labor jobs to China.

These days, everyone wants to invoke Apple to score some political points-and for good reason.

Apple has become the standard bearer for American-style capitalism, becoming the most valuable company of all time. The iPhone has become the symbol of America's dominance as an innovator. And the late Steve Jobs has become a true legend: a college-school dropout who started a company in his parents' garage and became one of history's greatest CEOs.

But the political discourse around Apple is about more than celebrating a great American company. Apple has become a microcosm, a roadmap for competing in the new global economy where skilled workers, entrepreneurs and innovators can prosper, but unskilled American labor faces tough times ahead.

Apple rose to lofty heights during the worst economic climate since the Great Depression and has become a beacon of hope and recovery. It's no wonder President Barrack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney mention Apple at nearly every major event as they vie for the presidency.

August 27, 2012: Republican National Convention

Governor Romney pointed to Steve Jobs as a heroic risk taker who achieves the big payoff: "Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving... It is about dreams. Usually, it doesn't work out exactly as you might have imagined. Steve Jobs was fired at Apple and then he came back and changed the world."

September 6, 2012: Democratic National Convention

President Obama cited Steve Jobs as someone who embodies the American Dream: "We believe the little girl who's offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs or the scientist who cures cancer or the President of the United States, and it is in our power to give her that chance."

All the Apple cheering, though, took a more serious tone this week during the second Presidential debate, raising important questions about America's future.

October 16, 2012: Second Presidential Debate

Moderator Candy Crowley asked: "iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper [there]. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?"

Governor Romney responded: "The answer is very straightforward. We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China's been cheating over the years. One by holding down the value of their currency. Number two, by stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents our technology."

President Obama responded: "Candy, there are some jobs that are not going to come back. Because they are low wage, low skill jobs. I want high wage, high skill jobs. That's why we have to emphasize manufacturing. That's why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. That's why we've got to make sure that we've got the best science and research in the world."


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