Obama & Romney Square Off Over Apple At 2nd U.S. Presidential Debate

Obama & Romney Square Off Over Apple At 2nd U.S. Presidential Debate

At yesterday’s second U.S. Presidential Debate, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney were both asked about the iPad, the Mac and the iPhone, specifically in relation to how to get Apple to start manufacturing their products in America again. The two candidates’ answers differed, with Romney opining it was because China “cheated” and Obama saying that “there are some jobs that are not going to come back.”

The transcripts of the two candidates’s full quotes:

Question: “Err … iPad, the Mac, the iPhones, they’re all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labour is so much cheaper there. How do you convince a great American company to bring manufacturing back here?”

Romney: “The answer is very straight-forward. We can compete with anyone in the world, as long as the playing field is level. China has been cheating over the years. One by holding down their currency … number two – by stealing our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, our technology, there’s even an Apple Store in China that’s a counterfeit Apple Store, selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis. That’s number one.

Number two. We have to make America the most attractive place for entrepreneurs, for people who want to expand a business. That’s what bring jobs in. The President’s characterization of my tax plan is completely false. Let me tell you …”

Obama: “There’s some jobs that are not gonna’ come back. Because they’re 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 gotta’ make sure we’ve got the best science and research in the world, and when we talk about deficits, if we’re adding to our deficit for tax cuts for folks who don’t need em’, and we’re cutting investments in research and science that will create the next step, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world. We will lose that race. If we’re not training engineers to make sure they’re equipped here in this country, then companies won’t come here. Those investments are what’s going to help to make sure that we continue to lead this world economy, not just next year, but ten years from now, fifty years from now, one-hundred years from now.”

What do you think? What’s the stronger argument?

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  • Christopher Cobble

    World War 2 proved that if we manufacture our own stuff in our own country, and limit import/export, the economy will boom. That’s a very basic, stripped down version of the theory, but even Steve Jobs pointed it out in something he said in his book. How many jobs could we create if Apple brought all their manufacturing back to America? China doesn’t matter, so I disagree with Romney. We can’t level the world playing field, but we can regulate America’s. So make it more expensive to import manufactured products, with a tariff, and lose all the taxes and regulations that drive companies to other countries. I’d also say get rid of the minimum wage. We live in a capitalistic economy, which works because people get to choose where they work. If Apple’s manufacturers don’t pay enough, any American could quit. And if Apple couldn’t get people to work for $2 a day, they’d be forced to raise their prices to competitive levels. And in the end, the government doesn’t have to be involved. Go figure.

  • FriarNurgle

    What a BS answer from Romney. It’s impossible to even the playing field in a global industrial complex. Once robotics gets to the point where it’s less expensive than human workers, we’ll see an even larger decrease in manufacturing here in the US. The reason is our civil rights, taxes, and EPA regulations. Other countries do not have comply with everything we have here in the states… but there is a reason we have these regulations and such. Our only hope is to beat them to the punch and develop the advanced manufacturing techniques here. We’ll gain a heads up on IP but will still end up shipping much of it over seas.

  • hawks22gk

    The question is flawed more than anything else. Sure labor is cheaper over there, but the cost of transportation of those devices to the US and Europe is so much higher that it makes much of the costs of labor. There have been a myriad of articles written about the reasons why most of these things are assembled in China and they almost always point to the readiness and flexibility of the manufacturing situation in that part of the world. It would take years to find 10,000 qualified engineers and move them all to one site in the U.S. How long would it take to assemble a plant and find 50,000 qualified factory workers? It takes weeks over in China. They have literally a billion MORE people than we have in this country. If you are “one in a million” in China there are 1300 people just like you. They have plants larger than major cities and people willing to live in dorms and go to work at a moment’s notice. We’re not willing to do that anymore. We’re soft workers comparatively. When Steve Jobs wanted to switch the original iphone from plastic screen to glass they were able to do it almost immediately. At this point in time, there is no way that Americans could do what the Chinese are doing. Additionally, at this point in time, there is no way that Americans would work under those circumstances. If we are going to bring those jobs back to the US, it’s going to mean more than just building a factory. It’s going to mean a change in mentality and we’re going to have to plan for it. A major undertaking. Turn a city into a manufacturing plant. Have multiple schools creating engineers specifically for that plant etc etc.

  • B066Y

    What a BS answer from Romney.

    The answer from the President wasn’t much better…”There’s some jobs that are not gonna’ come back. Because they’re low wage, low skill jobs. I want high wage, high skill jobs.”

    There are many people out there, even in the United States, that will never be able to qualify for anything but low wage, low skill jobs. Not everyone is going to be able (for various reasons) to work a high wage, high skill job. People have to realize that there will always be rich and poor people (wages should be good enough to provide necessities). You have to bring both types of jobs into the economy to succeed.

  • TheKnightWhoSaysNi

    This is an extremely complex issue that can’t be summarized in 2 minutes. I don’t think either of those answers could be anything other than sound bites.

  • andrewleehorton

    Mitt Romney is a racist. How dare he speak about China like that? What has that got to do with manufacturing Apple products? – He’s so patriotic, it borders on hate.

  • kavok

    Mitt Romney is a racist. How dare he speak about China like that? What has that got to do with manufacturing Apple products? – He’s so patriotic, it borders on hate.

    Don’t confuse race with nationality. Calling someone a Mexican, if they are indeed from Mexico, is not a racist remark. China has everything to do with manufacturing Apple products because Apple has them made there. Most everything every company in the US has made, is made in China for the very reasons that have been covered.

  • kavok

    . And if Apple couldn’t get people to work for $2 a day, they’d be forced to raise their prices to competitive levels. And in the end, the government doesn’t have to be involved. Go figure.

    Apple raise their prices to competitive levels? Everyone complains about how expensive Apple products are. All of Apple’s competition has been trying to undercut the sales of Apple products by making them cheaper than Apple. I don’t understand where you are coming from on this one. I’d say Apple has been pretty competitive even at higher price-points.

  • FriarNurgle
    What a BS answer from Romney.

    The answer from the President wasn’t much better…”There’s some jobs that are not gonna’ come back. Because they’re low wage, low skill jobs. I want high wage, high skill jobs.”

    There are many people out there, even in the United States, that will never be able to qualify for anything but low wage, low skill jobs.

    There is a big difference between low wage jobs here in the states and penny on the dollar labor over seas. Combine that with the lack of regulation and there are just some things that will not be feasible here in the states. Look at how much the Google Nexus Q costs since they decided to keep manufacturing here in the states. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just the facts based of global supply and manufacturing.

    High skilled jobs are very important, but we need projects for lower skilled workers too. Infrastructure would be a good place to start or continue investing towards. I’d also like to see more gov investment in green tech. Sure there have been some hurdles, but we have to throw money at it before China surpasses us.

  • Aaron Britt

    Obama clearly answered this question more complete than Romney did. IMHO, Romney sounded clueless.

  • al53

    I gathered that the President saying that “some jobs that are not gonna’ come back” was aimed at the larger scope of low earning jobs that China currently has a stronhold on that [based on what I know] are not at all attractive and earn significantly lower than what the average low-income earning American makes.
    So, ina ddition to the fact that China has many times the workforce that America has, just because their population is so enormous, it’s not difficult for China to pay their workers less and stay ahead whn it comes to cheaper labor.

  • Ollie_McMillan

    In essence, the manufacturing industry has been shaped by population. China isn’t getting any smaller, and neither is their list of clients. If someone can get a cheaper deal elsewhere then they’ll go elsewhere. Simple.

  • ac1dra1n

    It doesn’t matter if you’re pro-Romney, or pro-Obama. There is one inescapable fact, it costs way too much to produce in the US, and there is a larger workforce with the required capabilities in China. We also won’t put up with the same work hours here because we have become “soft” as a nation in the workforce. That’s fact. IMHO.

  • baby_Twitty

    both fail.

  • Carl McIntosh

    there will never be enough high skill high wage jobs in any economy, and if we all did get PHD’s we would have to go overseas to get a job. China is doing what we did in the 50′s and 60′s, we are trying to be southern Canada.

  • Dennis Mattinson

    both are full of it – anything that they want to push through legally has to go through Congress – sheeple, stop following the right or the left, turn around and look who really has your back! Gary Johnson!!

  • Len Williams

    It was a question with no merit. Both answers are pipe dreams with no actual plan to achieve the goal of bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. China isn’t going to “play fair”. Why should it when it has the advantage and most of the manufacturing of consumer goods already? Obama’s answer is high-sounding twaddle. It’s fine to talk in generalities and what “should” be done, but if you don’t have a specific and sensible plan to actually achieve it, it’s worthless gum slapping. Obama’s famously insulting “you didn’t build this business” attitude means that high-paying jobs will somehow just appear out of the general need for them. Horsehockey! It takes a person with a dream and a plan to get there to provide these jobs, and I don’t mean the government. Steve Job’s and Steve Wozniak’s driving wills put Apple together as a company. Steve Jobs put Apple back together years later and turned it into a juggernaut. He created jobs for many thousands of people and positively affected the lives of millions–and yes, he built that business. But even Steve knew that to be competitive he needed to manufacture products as inexpensively as possible while still maintaining top quality assembly. China is the best place for that. Americans won’t work for the same wages as Chinese workers. Americans won’t live in dorms and work long hours like the Chinese do. End of story. Move along to something that has even a possibility of coming true.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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