In the past several months, we’ve all heard about the Occupy Wall Street and the complaints of some of the OWS movement about the “obscene profits” made by Wall Street firms. How about this news:
Apple earned $400,000 in profit per employee last year. That’s more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google. Not once did I hear any of these slackers complain about Apple. You know why? It isn’t hip to complain about a company that puts out cool products like the iPod or that new iPhone
According to SAI’s Business Insider, the profit is largely due to Apple’s excellent global operations, specifically with overseas factories that are more flexible and more affordable and are in areas that offer more industrial skills than here in the United States. When MSNBC asked Apple about bringing those jobs to the United States, a spokesman replied, “we sell iPhones in over a hundred countries. We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”
This is highlighted by the exchange President Obama had with Steve Jobs last February at a dinner the President hosted in California for some of Silicon Valley’s top luminaries:
Each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.
But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
Now the easy question or attempt at a takedown on this point would be to challenge the size of the companies as I’ve used a statistic that is relevant to the number of employees for each company. However, if we look at the 2010 data for each (latest I could find), Apple weighs in with 60,400 employees. Exxon-Mobil would have a slightly harder time matching a profit-per-employee point with 83,600 employees. But we’ve all heard about this obscene profit that the oil companies are making, clearly if Apple is outpacing that it must be some super iProfits. Google and Goldman Sachs are both about half the size of Apple and therefore would have an easier time (mathematically) matching Apple’s profit-per-employee number. Heck, with all the obscene profits that the OWS movement is complaining about right at the feet of Goldman Sachs’ New York offices, one would think that they have to be rolling in it.
So what we’re left with is that the OWS crowd and others who target oil companies or financial institutions for making “too much profit” are ignorant or lazy in that they don’t understand the bigger financial picture. In fact, to Mitt Romney’s point in the debate last week, profits are a good thing. Profits are part of one’s 401k plan or pension plan or other investment portfolio. It represents the ability for a company to create new jobs. Demonizing it is counterproductive to remedying this countries economic woes. And, after all this, one is still angry about profit, you might want to drive west over to Cupertino and set up your rat-infested, crime-ridden, violence-begetting, tent farm outside Apple’s headquarters. Besides being in a nicer climate than say, New York City or Washington, DC in late January, it would be protesting a company that better fits the misguided protest’s target.
As for me, I’m going to pop my iPod earphones back in, fire up a book on my iPad and tell GorT, Jr version 3 that he has 20 minutes left on iMac.