Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Imagine if Steve Jobs were the GOP nominee …

 

Mitt Romney is clearly not President Obama’s kind of businessman. Romney’s wealth, as Obama sees it, was built on cutting jobs and liquidating companies. As he said on Monday:

And there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries, but understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that’s not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers. … When you’re President, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who got laid off and how are we paying for their retraining.

But what if a different sort of CEO were the Republican nominee? Imagine if Steve Jobs a) were alive and b) somehow nabbed the 2012 Republican nomination. What would the Democrats be saying about this beloved American entrepreneur and success story? When he passed, President Obama had this to say:

Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world. The world has lost a visionary.

Indeed, liberal pundit Paul Begala has made the Jobs-Romney comparison:

Yes, we Americans admire financial success; we don’t hate the rich. But we resent folks who got rich by rigging the system. Romney made millions in part by loading companies with debt, driving them into bankruptcy, and laying off their workers. The workers who lost their jobs had their health benefits canceled as well—but Romney and his partners made millions. That’s not how Steve Jobs got rich.

But if Jobs, or some other similar tech CEO, were the 2012 GOP standard bearer, I imagine we would be hearing this sort of thing:

1. Jobs is out of touch. Jobs, with a fortune of around $7 billion, was way richer than Romney.

2. Jobs is anti-U.S. worker. All those iPads aren’t being made in America, after all. (Of course, they would cost more than twice as much if they were.) And you certainly can’t compare the “App Economy” with an economy based on manufacturing, right?

3. Jobs uses slave labor. See point #2.

4. Jobs is a tax dodger. As a recent NYTimes story describes Apple’s tax strategy:

Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique known as the “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich,” which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. Today, that tactic is used by hundreds of other corporations — some of which directly imitated Apple’s methods, say accountants at those companies.

Without such tactics, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent.

5. Jobs is a ruthless capitalist. As he told biographer Walter Isaacson, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

6. Jobs is anti-consumer. Imagine the field day the DNC would have with the antitrust suit accusing Jobs and top executives at five major book publishers with illegally conspiring to raise the prices of e-books, costing consumers tens of millions of dollars.

You get the picture. The Left is uncomfortable, to say the least, with the innovation and creative destruction generated by market capitalism and how it upsets the best-laid plans of government. Recall the president’s comments about job-killing ATMs. A tech CEO would be treated no better by liberals than a private-equity CEO. And Jobs would quickly go from entrepreneurial saint to capitalist sinner.

There are 15 comments.

  1. Peter Robinson Founder

    Steve, whom I knew a little, never, in my opinion anyway, had more than muddled ideas about politics–in our one really testy exchange, he insisted that Al Gore really deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. But he certainly knew all about the power of human ingenuity as expressed in free markets. 

    “You know how to fix that place?” Steve asked, when our conversation happened to turn to the many woes of Mexico (I’m quoting from memory here, but from vivid memory). “Give the whole country to Disney.” I looked at Steve, searching for some sign that he was joking. “No, really” he said. “If Disney ran Mexico the way they run their theme parks, they’d turn Mexico into one of the richest countries on earth.”

    I offer that anecdote to anyone who may have a low moment today. To cheer yourself, just imagine how President Obama would have responded to that.

    • #1
    • May 23, 2012, at 8:52 AM PST
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  2. drlorentz Member
    Peter Robinson: Steve, whom I knew a little, never, in my opinion anyway, had more than muddled ideas about politics–in our one really testy exchange, he insisted that Al Gore really deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Arguably, he was right in the following sense. The Nobel Peace Prize, with few exceptions, is a kind of anti-prize. It puts Gore in the company of terrorists (Arafat), mediocrities (too many to list), and countless useful idiots. Maybe Steve was on to something there.

    • #2
    • May 23, 2012, at 9:16 AM PST
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  3. Douglas Inactive

    Nice “what if”, but Jobs would NEVER have run as a Republican, and Democrats would still love him regardless, all while hypocritically giving him a pass on his “sins” of capitalism. The Reality Distortion Field is strongest on the Left.

    While we’re discussing the prospect of big business nominees, on one of the excellent Coffee & Markets podcasts, it was noted that for all of the GOP’s fantasies about the “businessman savior” type candidate, businessmen haven’t traditionally done very well in the Presidency. This is one of the lesser reasons I’m not all that enthusiastic about Romney. I don’t doubt his business competence, but the government isn’t a business, and it can never be run like one. Even though the President is the “executive”, he can’t rule in the manner that private executives can. 

    • #3
    • May 23, 2012, at 9:27 AM PST
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  4. ParisParamus Member

    Apple is driving RIM (Blackberry), as well as marginal PC players out of business. it is killing the print media industry. It is responsible for layoffs in book publishing. Apple TV will no doubt greatly harm employment in cable TV. It must, must be stopped!

    • #4
    • May 23, 2012, at 9:31 AM PST
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  5. KC Mulville Inactive

    This bothers me:

    When you’re President, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who got laid off and how are we paying for their retraining.

    It reveals a fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals.

    Conservatives don’t want the president to find them a job. Conservatives just want the government to stop impeding them from getting one.

    The president isn’t “in charge” of all of society, including the economy. He’s the chief executive of one branch of the federal government. The government doesn’t control everything.

    I once heard a friend say that the president gets blamed for everything, so the president should have control over what he gets blamed for. Since when does the whole population have to surrender essential freedoms so that one prima donna can keep a cushy job?

    The idea that the president has to monitor the economy is just fundamentally wrong.

    • #5
    • May 23, 2012, at 9:36 AM PST
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  6. ParisParamus Member

    Freedom isn’t an app, Democrats, that you download. Freedom is the very operating system on which everything else runs.. The Democrats are a virus attacking freedom.

    • #6
    • May 23, 2012, at 9:46 AM PST
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  7. drlorentz Member
    KC Mulville:

    The president isn’t “in charge” of all of society, including the economy. He’s the chief executive of one branch of the federal government. The government doesn’t control everything.

    Very few people in this country understand this basic fact. It should be the first and last thing taught in civics class. Do they still have civics class in high school?

    • #7
    • May 23, 2012, at 9:52 AM PST
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  8. Mendel Member
    James Pethokoukis

    But what if a different sort of CEO were the Republican nominee? Imagine if Steve Jobs a) were alive and b) somehow nabbed the 2012 Republican nomination.

    From the anecdotes which have become common knowledge since his death, we know that Steve Jobs was an LSD-dropping barefoot Buddhist from San Francisco who ran unscrupulously roughshod over both his competitors and his own employees in the pursuit of market domination, all the while condemning the profit motive as a driving force for business.

    Had Jobs run for any elected office in any party, he would have won by virtue of his opponents’ (and the media’s) heads exploding at the notion that one man could unify the characteristics which society has determined to be irreparably opposed.

    • #8
    • May 23, 2012, at 10:12 AM PST
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  9. Mendel Member
    Douglas:…for all of the GOP’s fantasies about the “businessman savior” type candidate, businessmen haven’t traditionally done very well in the Presidency…. the government isn’t a business, and it can never be run like one. Even though the President is the “executive”, he can’t rule in the manner that private executives can.

    Sadly, I must agree. The most effective presidents seem to be those with previous experience as professional politicians.

    Not to mention that business executives have a poor track record of getting voters to like them…or what do you think, President Forbes?

    • #9
    • May 23, 2012, at 10:59 AM PST
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  10. James Pethokoukis Contributor
    James Pethokoukis Post author

    My point, of course, is not that Jobs would really have run as a Republican. It’s that Democrats would employ the same demonization tactics on any businessman who ran for president.

    • #10
    • May 23, 2012, at 11:22 AM PST
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  11. James Pethokoukis Contributor
    James Pethokoukis Post author

    I don’t know if Disney running Mexico is a good idea, but I am quite sure you have stumbled upon the next best-selling Young Adult fiction series

    Peter Robinson: Steve, whom I knew a little, never, in my opinion anyway, had more than muddled ideas about politics–in our one really testy exchange, he insisted that Al Gore reallydeserved the Nobel Peace Prize. But he certainly knew all about the power of human ingenuity as expressed in free markets. 

    “You know how to fix that place?” Steve asked, when our conversation happened to turn to the many woes of Mexico (I’m quoting from memory here, but from vivid memory). “Give the whole country to Disney.” I looked at Steve, searching for some sign that he was joking. “No, really” he said. “If Disney ran Mexico the way they run their theme parks, they’d turn Mexico into one of the richest countries on earth.”

    I offer that anecdote to anyone who may have a low moment today. To cheer yourself, just imagine how President Obama would have responded to that. · 3 hours ago

    Edited 2 hours ago

    • #11
    • May 23, 2012, at 11:25 AM PST
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  12. ParisParamus Member

    Breaking: HP cutting 27K jobs. I am a prophet! If only I had money to invest…

    • #12
    • May 24, 2012, at 1:55 AM PST
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  13. Hang On Member

    How would Disney running Mexico help Mexico? Disney running Mexico would change Disney, not Mexico. Disney does what it does as well as it does because it faces competition in the US and around the world. Disney would become just like the other corrupt monopolies that run Mexico if it were responsible for running Mexico because Mexico is the perfect example of crony capitalism.

    • #13
    • May 24, 2012, at 2:09 AM PST
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  14. James Pethokoukis Contributor
    James Pethokoukis Post author

    West didn’t boom until governments more willing to accept creative destruction, less willing to permit rent seeking

    Hang On: How would Disney running Mexico help Mexico? Disney running Mexico would change Disney, not Mexico. Disney does what it does as well as it does because it faces competition in the US and around the world. Disney would become just like the other corrupt monopolies that run Mexico if it were responsible for running Mexico because Mexico is the perfect example of crony capitalism. · 2 hours ago
    • #14
    • May 24, 2012, at 3:48 AM PST
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  15. James Pethokoukis Contributor
    James Pethokoukis Post author

    And don’ t forget the flipside: Imagine government trying to do what Apple does. Romney had a good riff on something like that in a recent speech: 

    Think about smart phones. Blackberry got things going. Then Apple introduced the iPhone. Now the Android platform leads the market. In the world of free enterprise, competition brings us better and better products at lower and lower cost. Innovate and change or you go out of business. And the customer — us — benefits. …

    Imagine if the federal government was the sole legal supplier of cell phones. First, they’d still be under review, with hearings in Congress. When finally approved, the contract to make them would go to an Obama donor. They’d be the size of a shoe, with a collapsible solar panel. And campaign donors would be competing to become the all-powerful app czar.

    My point is this: As President Obama and old-school liberals absorb more and more of our economy into government, they make what we do more expensive, less efficient and less useful. They make America less competitive. They make government more expensive.

    What President Obama is doing is not bold; it’s old.

    • #15
    • May 24, 2012, at 11:53 AM PST
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