GOP candidate and angry sweet potato Donald Trump claims he’ll be able to change Apple’s entire manufacturing system if he is elected president. I’ll give Trump this: He’s great at shouting impossible nonsense.
Trump’s remarks on outsourcing at Liberty University today were especially bizarre and unanchored to reality.
First, in the span of a few sentences, he insisted that he’d impose a 35 percent tax on businesses producing goods overseas while claiming to support free trade. At the end of his rambling, decidedly non-MLK-themed speech, he said this:
“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries.”
Now, Apple already builds its Mac Pro in the US, at a factory in Austin, TX. As for its other computers and devices, much of the manufacturing and supplying happens in Asia. Foxconn, the sprawling factory complex in Shenzhen, China, is an iPhone production hotbed. Lots of other tech companies also outsource to Foxconn, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
An all-American Apple sure sounds nice—it would create jobs, it would help ensure that the factory workers have decent working conditions. It’s also an empty applause line. The US president does not have the power to ban a company from outsourcing, nor does the president have the power to completely overhaul the global economy.
Sure, Trump could advocate for legislation designed to prevent outsourcing, perhaps through penalizing taxes on offshore manufacturing. But he would have to champion laws that would fundamentally alter free trade to make it financially advantageous for Apple to upend its manufacturing and supply chain.
Apple outsources because it maximizes profit, but that is not the only reason. Asia’s electronics supply chains are much larger than what the US has to offer. Not only would Trump have to come up with a way to penalize Apple for outsourcing so harshly that it’d make sense to change its manufacturing model—he’d also have to help US manufacturing catch up to China so that Apple could feasibly begin production here.
The weirdest part about all of this isn’t that Trump is making outlandish promises. That’s routine for the Trump campaign. The weird thing is that Trump is selling himself as a capitalist icon, yet here he is making speeches that suggest he will take a steaming piss on free trade.