Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Steve "Jobs" versus Barack "US" Jobs

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Republican response to the State of the Union:
Contrary to the President's constant disparagement of people in business, it's one of the noblest of human pursuits. The late Steve Jobs - what a fitting name he had - created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the President borrowed and blew.
Perhaps he missed this, in a fascinating story about Apple in Sunday's New York Times magazine:
[A]s  Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas. 

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked. 

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares.  
As for those dollars we "borrowed and blew," according to the Congressional Budget Office:
CBO estimates that ARRA’s policies had the following effects in the third quarter of calendar year 2011 compared with what would have occurred otherwise:
  • They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 0.3 percent and 1.9 percent,
  • They lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.2 percentage points and 1.3 percentage  points,
  • They increased the number of people employed by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million,
(According to the CBO's estimates, the impact of the stimulus peaked in the third quarter of 2010 at 0.7-3.6 million).

To summarize, US jobs:
  • Steve Jobs' "noble pursuit": 43,000* 
  • Barack Obama "borrowed and blown": 400,000-2,400,000
Maybe it would be fitting to call the President Barack "US" Jobs.

*Don't get me wrong - I'm a fan of his computers.  There's alot to think about in the Times article - see Paul Krugman and Ryan Avent. However, many of the issues raised by it, and by the President's speech, about trade, education and "industrial policy," are really about the composition of employment.  The total number of jobs at any time depends mainly on aggregate demand - and when there is a slump (particularly one the Fed can't handle), the appropriate fiscal policy response is indeed for the government to borrow some money and "blow" it.

Update (1/27): Paul Krugman noticed the same thing, and wrote a column about it.

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