China, Immigration And The Presidential Debate’s Clueless Moment

The Washington Post
October 17, 2012

The moderator, CNN host Candy Crowley, asked a great question during Tuesday night’s presidential debate: “iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper here. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?”

It was clear, based on the candidates’ responses, that neither of them had a clue. Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney launched into a tirade against China for, among other things, manipulating its currency, while President Barack Obama talked about tax rates and loopholes.

The real answer is that complex technology manufacturing requires sophisticated assembly. You need workers doing routine, repetitive tasks – in other words, mindless grunt work that few Americans are willing to do. When they do, they earn salaries that are significantly higher than what the Chinese earn. They won’t work the long shifts and they won’t put up with the abusive labor conditions that China iPhone manufacturer Foxconn has become known for. So companies such as Apple have little choice other than to be in China if they are to meet the almost insatiable demand for their products.

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