Bernie Sanders Says Apple Isn't Destroying Fabric of America

Wait, Apple was brought up in the campaign for U.S. president? Must be Tuesday. Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (D) said specifically that Apple isn't one of those companies he's accused of "destroying the fabric of America," but he had two things he wished Apple would change. The first is that he wants Apple to make some of its products in the U.S. (spoiler, Apple already does), and the second is that he wants Apple to pay "[its] fare share of taxes" (spoiler, it does).

Apple and the American Flag

Mr. Sanders was talking about Apple in the first place because he was asked point blank about the company in an interview with The New York Daily News. Here's the relevant quote:

New York Daily News: You've said that the greed of Wall Street and corporate America is destroying the fabric of our nation. So if we can get particular: For example, in corporate America, Apple happens to be celebrating, today, its 40th birthday. It's a company that grew from nothing to 115,000 permanent employees. And I'm wondering, is Apple destroying the fabric of America?

Bernie Sanders: No, Apple is not destroying the fabric of America. But I do wish they'd be manufacturing some of their devices, here, in the United States rather than in China. And I do wish that they would not be trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

The actual target of Bernie Sanders's ire is Wall Street and U.S. banking giants. You can read about that aspect of his comments at The Daily News. It's his comments about Apple that are germane to The Mac Observer.

Apple is Big Business

Apple has been mentioned throughout the ongoing presidential campaign. In January, Donald Trump (R) said, "We're going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries."

In February, he said he would lead a boycott against Apple for not cooperating with the FBI in unlocking the work iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Mr. Trump continues to use his iPhone to tweet things, for those keeping score at home.

Other candidates have been more circumspect about mentioning Apple specifically, but the company's enormous size, revenues, and earnings mean that it does enter into the political arena even without issues like encryption coming front and center.

In the case of Mr. Sanders's comments to The Daily News, we see an instance where that exposure is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the progressive candidate isn't lumping the largest corporation in the world in with the banks. Depending on where you stand, that's a good thing.

Next: Apple Making Stuff and Paying Taxes

Page 2 - Apple Making Stuff and Paying Taxes


Making Stuff

On the other, we have an instance of half-truths and almost-rights. The biggest one is that Apple already makes "some of [its] devices" in the U.S. The company makes Mac Pros in Austin. Re/code pointed out that components and other supplies are manufactured for Apple in 33 U.S. states. My educated guess is that Apple's U.S. manufacturing footprint is larger than the vast majority of electronic giants.

Still, Apple does do the (also vast) bulk of its manufacturing in China, and the late Steve Jobs noted that manufacturing jobs that moved outside the U.S. "aren't coming back." That makes Apple a target for populist candidates throughout the political spectrum, whether or not they could ever do anything about it.


Taxes are another thing altogether. Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on record stating that Apple pays every cent of the taxes it owes. He told the U.S. Senate that Apple follows the law, and that Congress should change the law if it wants Apple to pay taxes differently.

To all outside eyes, that appears to be the case in the U.S. One can quibble over whether Apple should demand local tax breaks for building facilities—in my opinion, companies should stop asking for such breaks and local governments should stop granting them—and one can look askance at how Apple has (legally) used tax laws throughout the world to minimize its tax exposure.

But there are two key concepts there. What Apple does is legal, and Apple minimizes its exposure, rather than engaging in sheltering or illegal taxing schemes. Politicians who are cranky about Apple's tax practices need only change the law to get the company to behave differently. Good luck getting someone else's country to change its laws when they affect your own country, but that's another topic.

It would be nice if every person running for president was an expert in all things Apple-related before discussing the company. That's not going to happen, though, and Mr. Sanders's comments were at least more informed than Mr. Trump's two mentions, even though they were still flawed.