If you bought Apple’s 4.7-inch Model 6s iPhone now going for $650, you would pay $1,300 or even more if Donald Trump’s economic vision prevailed and the phone were U.S. made.
At one point, as CNET writer Roger Cheng observes, “Trump proposed a 35 percent tax on products built outside of the US. So at a minimum, that would mean your next iPhone could start at $877.50.” But that’s not plugging in the wage gap.
Regardless of the damage, and no matter what it takes, Trump is hell-bent on getting Apple “to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”
Granted, it’s outrageous how the American corporate elite exported jobs to China and elsewhere. But in the case of consumer electronics, the time to stop that would have been long ago.
Smarter politicians would have helped the U.S. preempt the Chinese in the 1990s by creating a market for e-reading devices and other electronics so that Silicon Valley could have geared up earlier for mass production—at a lower cost each year, through greater efficiencies, as opposed to underpayment of workers.
The original TeleRead plan, as published in Computer World in July 6, 1992, noted the economic as well as the educational benefits of promoting the spread of low-cost iPad style tablets. I wanted them to be, yes, American made.
But it’s too late, at least for now. The Chinese have the manufacturing infrastructure in place. We can encourage the spread of robotic manufacturing, but meanwhile the Chinese are at it, too.
So how to respond? We can’t absolutely predict what will be the next iPhone. But we can reasonably expect driverless cars and the like to be very big. In fact, the Obama Administration has talked about spending almost $4 billion over ten years to accelerate the development of driverless cars. The specifics of the plan may or may not be right—I haven’t investigated all the details. Still, at first glance, I like the idea of streamlining laws and setting up testing programs. Same for encouraging innovation in other areas such as drones. Guess who’s almost surely the leading country manufacturing them right now? Of course: China. So on to driverless cars?
The good news is that, regardless of the industry, Americans often have a chance to go beyond mere manufacturing and add value in other areas such as design, marketing and distribution—the very strengths of Apple, the company Trump would war against.
Meanwhile, whatever are the industries of the future, let’s also keep in mind the need for an educated work force, one of the objective’s of LibraryCity’s plan for a national digital library endowment. Hello, Mr. Trump—care to chip in? Oh, and guess what students and the rest of us would likely would be reading the books on? Chinese-made tablets. But at least they would be reading and reaping major benefits, as shown by a U.K. study documenting the usefulness of e-books in enticing kids from low-income families to read.
The above possibilities notwithstanding, education is no substitute for fairer treatment of works in the U.S. and elsewhere through more union-friendly labor legislation and other means.
I won’t hold my breath for labor laws to change in the near future. But while the endowment concept is no substitute, it at least has a chance of becoming reality. Remember, it would benefit the American economic elite as well as the rest of us, through an upgraded workforce. None other than my political opposite, William F. Buckley, Jr., liked the basics of the TeleRead plan and called in the 1990s for a well-stocked national digital library system. I’d love to see all politicians—from President Obama to The Donald—catch up with WFB. A national digital library endowment and more strategic thinking in many other areas would be a helluva lot more helpful than forcing us to pay $1,300 for an iPhone 6s.
Detail: Xenophobia is a very dangerous thing in tech. Here at TeleRead, we’ll continue to praise life-enhancing innovation no matter where it happens, including China.