Jobs vs. Jobs

President Obama’s state of the union speech yesterday focused on creating jobs (a word he used at least 25 times). On the same day, Steve Jobs presented Apple’s revolutionary and magical iPad. Which will have a more positive effect on people’s lives?

Let’s look at their track records. When President Bush was inaugurated as president, 130 million Americans had jobs. By the time he left office, it was 134 million, not a big increase, but not a decline either.

The first thing President Obama did was to persuade Congress to pass a $787 billion stimulus package in order to “save jobs.” As of December, only 130.9 million workers still had jobs, 3.4 million less than when Obama took office. You can blame that on Bush, you can blame it on whatever you want, but the fact is that Obama promised to create jobs and instead we lost millions of them. At least some people would argue that one reason the economy hasn’t recovered more quickly is that businesses are unwilling to make investments in an unpredictable political environment.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs started a company in his garage that now earns close to $50 billion a year, employs 75,000 people, and has unquestionably changed the way we live — most people would argue for the better. Even if you don’t have a Macintosh, your Windows PC is heavily influenced by the graphical user interface that Macintosh pioneered. Even if you don’t have an iPod, the way you acquire music, view movies, and even watch TV has been transformed by Apple and Jobs’ other efforts. Even if you don’t have an iPhone, chances are your telecommunications have been dramatically altered by what has become the standard for comparison of smart phones.

Let’s compare their proposals. Obama proposes to “freeze government spending for three years.” Yet he is also going to Florida to announce which states are getting funds for high-speed rail. (Ironically, Florida is the state that decided not to build high-speed rail because the environmental impact statement it wrote for the project concluded that the environmental costs would be greater than the benefits.) High-speed rail is like a Lay’s potato chip: once you get started, you can’t stop, so the $8 billion Obama is giving away today is only the down payment on the down payment of the total bill. In other words, despite giving lip service to reducing deficits, Obama’s real policy is pork-barrel as usual.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs’ new product really is revolutionary. While it isn’t perfect, I suspect it will sell well and ultimately transform how we read (and write) books, newspapers, and magazines, not to mention how we do many other things.

People laughed at Chris Matthews when he said “I felt a thrill going up my leg” when he heard candidate Obama speak. I understood him perfectly: Obama’s speeches were very persuasive. Yet I feel the same thrill whenever I watch what many people regard as the greatest television commercial in history.

The difference is that I knew Obama could not keep his promises; government doesn’t work on hope. Steve Jobs and Apple Computer did keep their promises, not without some stumbles but ultimately by making products that people want to use. This is because Apple responds to markets and is driven by intense competition to innovate like crazy. In contrast, government responds to pork and has a monopoly in many of the things it does, leading it to focus on obsolete technologies that benefit special interest groups, not the nation as a whole.

Like the great leader in the 1984 commercial, Obama would like to steamroll his political opponents into accepting his agenda in the name of “unity.” If he really wanted to create jobs and help the economy recover, he would get government out of the way of people like Steve Jobs and companies like Apple.

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8 thoughts on “Jobs vs. Jobs

  1. Tad Winiecki

    My son is a programmer for iPhone applications and I am a longtime Apple computer user and stockholder, so of course I am happy with Steve Jobs announcement of the iPad. I am also happy with President Obama’s speech tonight. I agreed with almost everything he said except the rail proposals. We need to invest in new, better transport technology such as Evacuated Tube Transportâ„¢ instead of obsolete trains, even if they are faster than most Amtrak trains. Disclosure: I have a financial interest in ETT.

  2. Dan

    Randal, I might not agree with everything you say, but to stoop down and pander with the the sackless sort of weak partisan argumentation found in the beginning of this…um…piece certifies that your self-promotion as an economist is a sham at best. Come now. Pick up your game. There is no need to argue with marginalized party talking points. You have been slacking of late. I remember what it was like up there during this time of year. Get some full-spectrum lights. Your writing and arguments need it. I had a full-spectrum light over my bed on a timer. It helped.

    DS

  3. stevenplunk

    It is a conceit of government that they can create jobs when in fact they can only hinder the creation of jobs. Sure they can rob taxpayers and put some people to work but they destroy jobs in that process. What they can create is more power and control for themselves.

    The argument that business is still hunkered down and delaying a recovering is true. Every business I know feels this way. Sure it’s merely anecdotal evidence but for 18 months I have seen it and seen nothing to the contrary. The economists have little to offer that counters this perception so it’s logical believe it.

    We have a president and congress openly hostile to business. We have no idea what hair brained scheme will be offered up next or what costs we will be asked to bear. This is still no time for taking on any additional risk.

    I suspect some will label my words as partisan talking points but that’s a tired excuse used to blunt the truth. This president is well on the way to damaging our country with his leftist policies and distaste for business. Let’s hope things can change in the fall. Heh, I said hope and change.

  4. Mike

    Give it a rest yourself, Dan. Every-single-position you ever take on this blog is straight out of the Daily Kos / Democratic Underground talking point list. You’re such a textbook liberal you make Brian Griffin seem moderate by comparison.

    Randal’s point that Obama doesn’t deliver on his promises while Apple does is a perfectly valid nonpartisan point. Anyone could have predicted that would be the case, because government make-work jobs just result in the tax base eating its own tail, while real creation of real wealth by profit-motivated businesses is necessary to grow the economy in the long run. Until businesses are confident that they can move forward with expansion to generate future profits, hiring will not renew in earnest, and the “jobless recovery” will continue to be exactly that: jobless.

  5. Spokker

    Well, PolitiFact has the Obameter. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/

    Most of his promises are “In the Works,” including many of his big promises.

    Here’s the page on the green jobs promise. http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/promise/439/create-5-million-green-jobs/

    “Until businesses are confident that they can move forward with expansion to generate future profits, hiring will not renew in earnest, and the “jobless recovery” will continue to be exactly that: jobless.”

    It’s too early to tell. Employment often lags behind economic growth.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/nov/09/barack-obama/obama-says-job-growth-always-lags-behind-economic-/

  6. the highwayman

    Mike said: Randal’s point that Obama doesn’t deliver on his promises while Apple does is a perfectly valid nonpartisan point. Anyone could have predicted that would be the case, because government make-work jobs just result in the tax base eating its own tail, while real creation of real wealth by profit-motivated businesses is necessary to grow the economy in the long run. Until businesses are confident that they can move forward with expansion to generate future profits, hiring will not renew in earnest, and the “jobless recovery” will continue to be exactly that: jobless.

    THWM: Yes & no.

  7. Andy

    At least President Obama has moved us beyond the Vietnam syndrome in national security issues, even going so far as to bring back “body counts” as the measure of success in war.

    “And in the last year, hundreds of Al Qaeda’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed – far more than in 2008.”

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