On the Meet the Press roundtable on Sunday (10/30/11), talk turned to Steve Jobs. And, as one might expect from the avalanche of hero worship that accompanied news of his death, the chatter concerned how we might all one day live up to Jobs' legacy.
Here's host David Gregory, speaking to Tom Brokaw:
Tom, it's interesting, author and journalist Jeff Greenfield tweeted recently about Steve Jobs the following: "Imagine a Steve Jobs in the auto industry, in healthcare, in energy, even in government. We'd have a different country."
We know from Walter Isaacson's biography that Jobs had some pretty strong views about how the government should work–specifically, he wanted to "break" teachers' unions, and praised the light regulatory burden on corporations doing business in China.
That certainly makes Apple more profitable. But consider this passage from the New York Times' review of Mike Daisey's monologue, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," about one Chinese facility:
While the official Chinese workday is 8 hours, the norm at Foxconn is more like 12 and even longer when the introduction of a product is at hand. One worker died after a 34-hour shift. Some of the workers he meets are as young as 13, and because of the repetitive nature of the labor, their hands often become deformed and useless within a decade, rendering them unemployable.
Back to the NBC panel, where Isaacson was using Jobs' legacy to underline a point in Tom Brokaw's new book:
ISAACSON: I think that painting a vision for the future, saying "Here's where the country really ought to go," we all know the broad outline, Steve Jobs knew the broad outlines, which is better jobs, skills for those jobs, and a chance for everybody to move up. (CROSSTALK) Well, I think that we all agree that there should be a fairer, flatter taxes…
ISAACSON: …but there should also be a reduction in the inequality in this country.
We all agree that there should flatter taxes? I don't think so.
And Apple, for the record, seemed to think it should pay no taxes:
Apple has made money so quickly and so prodigiously that it holds an outrageous $76 billion in cash and investments–an awesome sum thought to be parked in an obscure subsidiary, Braeburn Capital, located across the California border in Reno because the state of Nevada doesn't have corporate or capital-gains taxes.
If only such a company could dominate every facet of our lives, commercial and political.
UPDATE: On March 16, 2012, the public radio show Marketplace exposed major elements of Mike Daisey's account of his investigation of the Foxconn manufacturing plant to be fabricated and/or conflated, and This American Life retracted its report that featured Daisey as its main source. The descriptions of meeting with underaged workers and a worker with a disabled hand appear to be among the parts of his story that Daisey made up.