Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_3.jpgIf 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.

That’s the calculation of Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar Worldpanel, just quoted by CNET. She was going by wages and other costs in China vs. the U.S. 

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.


  1. Probably the biggest problems with moving production back to the US are supply chain related. By now, so much of the electronic device product manufacturing relies on an Asian supply chain, that it would take years to get an efficient supply chain process working here in the US. And if it did happen, it would probably be so automated that it wouldn’t restore the US manufacturing workforce to the levels before (enter year here).

  2. Bruce is right. The labor costs of assembling an iPhone are not that much. A major hitch is that production has become heavily dependent on suppliers who’re located in Asia. If an iPhone assembly plant in China runs short of a key component, another factory making that component is likely to be within a few miles. Besides, the real cost lies in developing each generation of more sophisticated chips and in the plants to make them. We need to focus on keeping that here not tightening a few screws.

    Detroit automakers face a similar problem returning production to their northern factories. The first auto factories in the South faced that same supply chain problem that would trouble Apple and probably make iPhone production here a disaster for years. That’s true no longer for autos. The Interstate that’s near me is lined with miles of subcontractors who build parts for the Kia factory just over the Georgia line and the Mitsubishi factory in Montgomery. The supply chain is now established. Anyone who wants to make autos in the South will find the going easy. And by extension, anyone who wants to assemble smartphones in the U.S. will find the going hard.


    The real problem can be stated quite bluntly. Aided and abetted by a news media whose stupidity knows no bounds, the average American voter is, to be blunt, stupid and obsessed with an election race that’s more like a verbal horse race than a critical examination of who would be best.

    Anyone who’d examined Obama’s resume in 2008 knew he be a lousy president. No one with a talent for politics reaches his fifties without a record of accomplishment. He had none. When the subprime crisis hit during the 2008 campaign, Senator McCain had to go back to work out a solution. No one in the Senate cared if Senator Obama did. That’s who we elected to a still higher office, a failure in the Senate and a lifelong non-entity.

    Trump is much the same. Like Obama, he’s a pompous blowhard making claims he won’t be able to achieve. Even his business success isn’t impressive. He inherited $200 million from his dad. If he’d merely put that money into mutual funds, he’d be richer than he is today. Besides, real estate success isn’t remotely similar to politics. You can see that in his assumption that what he wants to happen will happen. At Trump Inc. that might be so. With the federal government, he’ll run headlong into a mountain of resistance even from his own bureaucracy. Obama, equally incompetent at politics, has had to resort to unconstitutional executive orders. Trump will be forced in the same direction and as a result, our critical constitutional balance of powers will be worthless.

    And for the last, keep in mind that for a generation or so we’ve had students finishing high school who’ve been given no understand of how our political system works or even who inhabits it. I asked a quite intelligent recent grad recently who was our VP. He didn’t know because he hadn’t been taught. Even more significant, he hadn’t be taught that such things matter.

    The real issues our country faces are far a lot more important than where iPhones are made. I’m so pessimistic they’ll work out right that I feel sorry for anyone under forty and particularly those under thirty.

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