Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Blasts Steve Jobs For Manufacturing The iPad In China

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Jesse Jackson, Jr. Harbors Deep Ambivalence About the iPad
Jesse Jackson, Jr. Harbors Deep Ambivalence About the iPad

The iPad has inevitably made its debut into the congressional debate over the federal budget.

On Friday, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. D-Ill., made reference to it during a rambling monologue concerning America’s budget and the state of our economy on the House floor.

Jackson is holding up the device as a symbol of everything that is wrong with innovation in America today.

He admitted last month that he’d bought one, and that he thinks that every school child should have one in the United States — but he bemoaned the fact that they’re made in China.

“Certainly [the iPad] has made life more efficient for Americans, but the iPad is produced in China,” Jackson said on Friday. “It’s not produced here in the United States. So the Chinese get to take advantage of our First Amendment value, that is, to provide freedom of speech through the iPad to the American people, but there is no protection for jobs here in America to ensure that the American people are being put to work.”

Jackson’s reference to the First Amendment refers to his thesis that America’s constitutional values have led to incredible innovations — but that that innovation hasn’t provided benefits to all Americans.

He made the comment in a floor speech on Friday rebutting the Republican idea of trickle-down economics. Jackson Jr.’s point: Yes, there’s innovation in America, but the only people benefiting from the innovation are in the top echelon of society — people like Steve Jobs.

Because of globalization, policymakers can’t assume that private, profit-maximizing companies like Apple can create jobs for all Americans, Jackson Jr. said.

It’s a problem that is troubling more and more Americans — especially many thought  leaders both in Silicon Valley and in Washington DC.

In fact, it’s the subject of a new book called “Great Again,” coming out soon by Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur Henry “Hank” Nothhaft, CEO of semiconductor miniaturization company Tessera, and former CEO of Danger, the maker of the Sidekick phone.

It’s not clear what Jesse Jackson Jr. expects the government to do in the short term — other than to perhaps require companies to make their products in the United States. His main point, however, was that in his view, it’s the government’s responsibility to enact policies to ensure full employment, and that leaving everything to the private sector won’t work.

For his part, Nothhaft offers a mix of policy solutions that include tax incentives for companies to manufacture in the United States, loans, making permanent a tax credit for  research and development, and trying to get venture capitalists to invest more in manufacturing start-ups.

It’s clear, however, what stiff competition the United States is up against.

In his book, Nothhaft recalls visiting China in February 2010:

where the mayor of a medium-sized city basically offered me the moon if I would open any type of R&D or production facility there. No tax at all for five years. The land and all construction costs for the facility provided free. All utilities paid for three years. Employee salaries paid for three years. Everything else — all taken care of.”

Nothhaft didn’t spell out what he decided, but he did say that he had to do what was best for the company — the same calculus that Apple’s leaders probably made when they decided to use Foxconn to manufacture its products.