The reality distortion field Steve Jobs once deployed looks like a tiny Star Wars hologram projected by R2D2 compared to what's on the horizon.
My stomach has been hurting on and off all week. I feel like I’m getting dragged into something that doesn’t feel good.
I don’t mind writing about politics, but recently I feel like I am getting asked to write about weird situations that defy clear description. Specifically, I need to say something about the President-elect Trump’s meeting with the heads of a dozen Silicon Valley giants.
I’d like to say it’s a good thing. An incoming administrator reaches out to a group of business leaders who were largely not supportive of his campaign.
Two things get in my way. On the campaign trail, candidate Trump railed against free trade deals and companies such as Apple that make products in China or Mexico.
Silicon Valley companies and semiconductor companies specifically want free trade because most of their sales and much of their manufacturing is overseas. Overseas sales will only grow as economies like China and India rise. Chip and system makers have had labor-intensive assembly done overseas for decades or handled in a few highly automated plants in North America.
At the meeting on the 25th floor of Trump Tower, the President-elect suggested he will make cross-border trade easier. He will help Silicon Valley companies grow. He was all smiles and well wishes.
That’s where I started feeling the tug of a new and larger reality distortion field. Candidate Trump’s passionate calls in rallies for tearing up trade deals and holding companies’ feet to the fire felt more sincere than the photo op in the New York board room. I wondered what was said once reporters left the room.
I know it’s the nature of politics to make nice with everyone, make hard choices and keep smiling. My concern with the President-elect is I don’t get a gut feel of what he values. I don’t yet know what he will really do.
Certainly I detested his wholesale calls to deport Mexicans and Muslims. Sharing that concern, some are circulating petitions in the tech community not to support creating databases based on a person’s ethnic or religious background. Like me, they seem to genuinely fear what the President-elect will do come January 20.
One other thing gets in my way of feeling like this was just a normal post-election mending of the fences.
The meeting was held not at some neutral location but at Trump Tower. OK, maybe that was a matter of convenience and saved taxpayers the money of renting a hotel boardroom.
But what really creeps me out was four of Trump’s adult children attended the meeting. They are the same people he says he will have run his business as insurance he will have no conflicts of interest. So why are they there in a meeting with a dozen chief executives of multi-billion dollar corporations?
As the camera pans around the room at executives and Trump family members with smiles and sober business faces all I see are elephants in the room. The words and images are out of synch with what has been expressed passionately elsewhere and I start feeling dizzy.
I think Barack Obama got it. He asked Steve Jobs what would it take to bring iPhone manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Steve Jobs was clear those jobs are not coming back, and we don’t want them because they are not jobs that would sustain anyone living in the American economy, they are last-generation jobs.
Maybe Donald Trump gets it or will get it at some point and do things that are good for Silicon Valley and America. I hope so. Right now, my stomach aches.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times
@Gofor I get it that you are among many Americans who feel
1. The media is biased
2. America is in trouble
I definitely have my opinions, but I don't think that means I am biased if I can present other sides and/or let others like you state their views.
My wish is we could do that while being respectful of all sides.
I don't agree that America is in some unusually troubled state. It has many big problems and I think it always has. There is a lively debate on how to solve these problems and there always has been. Sounds like democracy.
I'm getting just a little tired of all this "The Sky is Falling" BS from a bunch of over educated self appointed political analysts. How bout sticking to what you actually know and not the load of left wing BS you were feed in the acverage college.
Our country is in deep S(*& thanks to all those self serving "establishment" Washington trolls, and I don't give a damn what "party" they claim.
Washington brought it on themselves. Yea shall reap what thou sows. This is still, "By the people, for the people." Anybody that want';s to leave, I'll buy the one way ticket to Mexico.
I agree that no president can stop globalization. Presidents don't control the economy, and globalization happens because it is in the interest of corporations. And by the way, also in the interest of people all over the world. My question to those who oppose globalization is always, "As opposed to what?" We aren't going back to feudal times.
And still hand wringing about Trump goes on unabated. Yes, he's a showman, and he likes to say things without worrying about the polical correctness police. But let's not forget that the choices were either Trump or Clinton.
Trump may have talked about tearing up trade agreements, but where did Clinton stand on this?
Or about intervening militarily. Who has the track record for wanting to meddle in foreign wars? It was Hillary Clinton, on the contrary, who was pushing for intervention, e.g. in Libya and Syria, when her voice mattered. Why are we pretending that Trump would be the war monger? During the campaign, he sounded more like Bernie Sanders on this topic.
Even the hopelessly biased CNN can't take away that Clinton is the interventionist here, and that Trump, at best, made a few casual comments in TV interviews.
And some even try to pin relkigious conservative views on Trump. As if.
As to jobs, sure, if manufacturing returns, it won't be the old way. That wouldn't be economically viable. Manufacturing would be heavily automated this time. But it's a real stretch to think that a businessman would not intuitively understand this. It strains credulity. And at the same time, many people are concerned when manufacturing completely moves out of a country. It's foolish to pretend that only Trump would exploit such sentiments.
Don't fall in the trap of interpreting the term populism as a pejorative. In the end the entire society is about the people, the masses and so is democracy. If populism would fail, in the long run, democracy has failed as it's raison d'etre is to empower the people. Misguided populism like Brexit or Trump where someone exploits poverty, anger, fear ,hate and directs it towards the wrong issues and solutions are what needs to be avoided. Sanders was populist too but he had a mostly viable platform. Adapting the tax system to globalization would be a populist measure but it's also the only viable path forward.
Things will start to get better when we hit bottom- point being that there is always a bottom. If politicians and corporations don't revise their attitude, it can only get worse. How much worse must it get before they stop treating humans as second class citizens is hard to say as both politicians and corporations don't seem quite ready to face reality. The worst outcome for society and best for the corrupted few is to walk the thin line that keeps the masses just at the edge of enough is enough. Luckily they are too greedy to be happy with the most they can get so , every so often, they go over the edge and that ends up as an opportunity to achieve a society that's close to the most it can be-ofc it would be followed by decades of decline and another crisis as humans don't seem to be getting less greedy and will always repeat the cycle.
The various chunks of the world economy are so integrated and interdependent now that rolling back globalisation is not really possible. Yes, trade deals will get paused, immigration quotas will be stiffened a bit, but any significant row back from where we are at - say serious new protectionist measures or an attempted freeze of immigation - will soon be seen to hurt more than it helps. Sooner or later we - in the rich countries - are going to have to admit that globalisation has generated great prosperity and amazing opportunity but the spoils have been woefully uneven, and it has created forces which are causing enormous difficulties for some communities, for some skillsets, for some industries. It's pretty obvious that the effects of all this are beginning to cause political upheavel in many wealthy countries.
Unfortunately simplistic, harsh, nostalgic, populist driven cliches are not going to address the problem. We are not going back to the feeling of upward mobility and increasing prosperity of the 50s anytime soon. In Europe, the 30 yrs after the war were a period of exceptional economic growth, increasing prosperity, and social progress. But that chapter is long over.
We are now dealing with a world of new realities - strong growth is elsewhere (notably Asia) and a new global economic order is taking shape fast. We surely need robust, fact-based, debate and an honest discusison about how to tackle this. We know that populism will fail - but how can we build an alternative, more thoughtful, and honest narrative, especially when our political systems remain captive of the elites who are largely dominated by those who have gained most from globalisation : like oil barons and wall street bankers. Sigh.
What I keep hearing is "Those workers will be freed up to do better jobs," but truck driving is already a skilled job above the ability level of a large fraction of workers. Those drivers aren't just going to retrain as, say pilots. (Another job which will be disappearing.)
When Steve Jobs said "those jobs are never coming back" he meant that they will be automated out of existence. If Apple starts manufacturing iPhones in the US, it won't be done like Foxconn does with an army of people doing it by hand. It'll be done by robots, with a fraction of the people Foxconn is currently employing in China and Brazil.
Does that count as a win if they're being made in the US if it doesn't create any jobs worth noting beyond the initial construction of the factory? Do people complain if the robots are made outside the US? Even if no US company makes robots able to do this work?
I think a lot of people who buy into Trump's ideas about bringing jobs back are unrealistic about the result. We keep talking about self driving cars, but when those are a reality, most of the 3.5 million truck drivers in the US will lose their jobs. Well, at least for long haul trips, for short hauls you still need someone to ride along to handle the cargo. For now.
So then a few million truck drivers join the factory workers who are angry that their jobs are gone, but who is going to promise bringing those jobs back, and how? Passing a law banning autonomous trucks?
To start with, you guys are confusing outsourcing and offshoring. With outsourcing you offload a task to someone else, buying a Qualcomm SoC or using TSMC as a foundry is outsourcing. It's more about scale and competency than cheap labor. Offshoring means relocating a business process to another country. If you close your US factory to go with Foxconn that kinda is offshoring through outsourcing.
Newton's third law tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thus protectionism would require a reaction and lead to trade wars.
Aside from that, there are other huge drawbacks to protectionism. Trade deals are a very powerful tool in international relations and the uS dominates the world,in large part, because of such deals, being the largest economy for now. It would be great for the EU and China as they would take the lead while the US fades in the background.
Now take a car, there are thousands of suppliers, How much would it cost if every part is made either in the US or has a high import tax? Same goes for a phone, it's not just about 10$ instead of 5$ for assembly, it's about every single part. Guess prices increasing by 30% to 100% is ok if you have Tiffany branded barricades (Trump Tower lol) but wouldn't be so great for Trump's voters since protectionism hurts the poorest the most.
Protectionism also leads to a less competitive marketplace so consumers end up paying more for less. In the long run it also makes exporters less competitive.
Free trade has enriched the US , has expanded the available market a great deal and there is a lot of potential ahead.
The technology sector would be gravely harmed by protectionism as the supply chain is rather complex and it's one of the few sectors that can reach quite a lot of people and achieve good growth in developing markets. Ofc also a crucial export for the US and a prime target for retaliation.
Maybe the most important point is that the US doesn't need jobs The unemployment rate is relatively low. What it needs are better jobs and that's achieved by enabling stronger regulators and unions. There are geographical pockets that lack jobs but that issue can be addressed with far more traditional solutions.
In 2015, the corporate income tax was just 11% of the tax revenue in the US. The corporate tax system is deeply flawed but just part of what has lead to the oversized debt. Trump will make it much worse ofc by lowering taxes and increasing spending. Capital gains taxation, military spending , misguided subsidies, the justice and prison systems are major problems.
Protectionism is a really crazy idea that will harm the economy, the population and the national interest. The EU and the US do need to adapt the tax system to globalization and automation but not with absurd solutions.
A short summary of Trump's economic policies (written by a Nobel laureate in economics) http://www.marketwatch.com/story/donald-trumps-economic-policies-will-end-up-of-little-use-to-his-angry-displaced-rust-belt-voters-2016-12-19