Last Sunday morning was a typical Sunday. I walked the dogs and then scooped up both their droppings and The New York Times sitting on my lawn. My wife's dawdling at the computer allowed me to scan the headlines before she glommed the paper.
The left two columns of the front page read, "How U.S. Lost Out On iPhone Work." It was a fascinating article, and one which has sparked quite a bit of conversation among the talking-heads. I won't spend time restating the piece. If you are curious, use your iPhone, iPad, Droid, Blackberry or other not-made-in-the-U.S.A. smartphone and checkout: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-class.html?pagewanted=all.
The central point of Mr. Duhiggs and Bradsher's investigative piece was as follows:
"It isn’t just that the workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple's executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and the industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that 'Made In the USA' is not longer a viable option for most Apple products."
I am quite aware that my liberal, jogging, organically fed, well-educated friends love their Apples. They spend more time lauding praise upon these possessions than speaking to their moms and dads. Aps are their daily bread. Mircosoft is the pits. Everyday the mass of ap-addicted devotees in Apple Stores surpass the headline-making queues of the annual Filene Basement Bridal Sale.
Continuing to peruse this blog may irritate and infuriate Apple fans' Apple hackles. No one likes their central identity challenged, but simply said, "Apple is rotten to the core."
Back to Mr. Duhiggs and Bradsher's conclusion. The key word in those few sentences is " VIABLE.." According to www.thefreedictionary.com
" Viable" is an adjective meaning:
1. Capable of living, developing, or germinating under favorable conditions.
2. Capable of living outside the uterus. Used of a fetus or newborn.
You see, it's simple, Apple, in order to live, in order to survive, must have its products made in China or in other employee-oppressive nations. It is a matter of survivability, of corporate life or death. If it those little apple seeds are to sprout into those ubiquitous battery powered devices we so depend on and get mugged for, they need to go overseas where workers are treated worse than cattle destined for MacDonalds.
Apple's predicament is reminiscent of the quandary faced by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. If Giza was to be VIABLE, they had but one choice. Khufu was the Steve Jobs of the ancient world. Since monumental stone structures are pretty difficult to transport, Egypt could not outsource the work and was limited to the mobilization of its own citizens and captives. Brilliantly, they did it in similar fashion to the Chinese model. According to legend, they organized multitudes of human beings to sweat and toil with little or no compensation. As a result of their industrial plan, they succeeded, and lo and behold, the pyramids became a reality, a wondrous accomplishment, comparable to the iPhone of the 21st century. Of course, the workers were slaves; their emancipation later became a central story for Jews and Christians, but that is just a footnote to the real point; those Egyptians innovators were incredibly efficient, and they really had no other choice if their plan was to be viable. They needed the slaves. And Apple needs the Chinese. Truth be told (the motto of this blogger) is that Apple sphinx!
The part of the NYT story that doesn't ring true is that doing something for the purpose of maintaining viability implies little or no choice. If my kids were hungry, I would steal. If I had no home, I would live in a cardboard box. One would think that corporate calamity must be on the horizon to justify ones workers receiving miniscule pay (seventeen dollars a day), working intolerable hours, exposure to toxins and dangerous working conditions, and being housed in grim overcrowded factory housing complexes replete with suicide nets.
The viability of nations was truly in jeopardy during World War II. Yet, the only countries that resorted to mistreatment of the workforce were the non-democratic totalitarian regimes of our enemies and the Soviet Union. Viability is seldom an excuse for mistreatment of humanity.
Now comes the kicker. According to this article, Apple employs 63000 humans, 23000 of them in the U.S.A., and 40000 overseas. In 2011, Apple Inc., in its valiant struggle to maintain its viability, barely eeked out NET PROFIT OF $26000000000 (if you're not good with zeros that is 26 billion bucks). Apple earned an incredible $400,000 dollars per worker. I can see the problem. Why if they stopped paying people seventeen bucks a day and paid them all $100000 a year, they'd barely scrape by with an unviable profit a bit under $20 billion.
Simply put, Apple is a greedy, cruel, uncaring company. Oh, but the Applephiles reply, "They are better than most, and they are so clever and innovative." Well, my mom, a woman with less than a high school education, would never accept the well-he-did-it-too excuse, and neither should we.
What Apple is doing is simply unconscionable. People and corporations need to be responsible and accountable for their own behavior. Joe Paterno looked the other way when he heard about that little boy in shower. Steve Jobs looked away when he heard about his workers jumping to their deaths. Would they look away if it was their kids or grandkids? I doubt it. If Apple is the best example of the free market, must we conclude that "free market" and "slave market" are synonymous?
Matt Feb 1, 2012