Why Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: ‘I’m disappointed in Obama’

By Katie Kieffer

Steve Jobs

Image credit: Steve Jobs Demoes Quick Look by Bob Stanfield on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Two months before Apple Inc. co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer, he told his biographer Walter Isaacson: “I’m disappointed in Obama.” President Obama disregarded Jobs while he was alive—while using Jobs’ iconic image and entrepreneurial success story to further his political interests. Now that Jobs has passed away (and is unable to defend himself), Obama continues to rip off Jobs—using him as a false poster boy for his socialist economic agenda.

Jobs was a long-term Democrat. In practice, however, Jobs was a life-long capitalist—not a socialist like Obama. Isaacson writes in his best-selling book, Steve Jobs: “Communal economics were not for him.”

Obama largely ignored Apple and dismissed Jobs’ ideas while he was alive. However, during his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama made a point of inviting Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, to sit in the First Lady’s box (along with token guests like Warren Buffett’s secretary). Obama never mentioned or honored Powell (who Jobs adored and whose persistent love enabled his work) within his speech. Instead, Obama repeatedly attacked the capitalistic tools that Jobs utilized to achieve the American dream.

If Obama truly admired and respected Jobs, why didn’t he phone Jobs to congratulate him after he launched the iPad? Isaacson says the iPad was Jobs’ “pet project.” It was the culmination of Jobs’ life-long ideas, dreams and hard work and “it embodied everything he stood for.” When Jobs was just 26-years-old, he told a classroom of Stanford students about his vision to develop a book-sized computer. When Apple finally developed the multi-touch technology needed for a tablet, he decided to utilize it for the iPhone first because “Tablets appeal to rich guys with plenty of other PCs and devices already.” Upon its 2010 launch, 15 million iPads sold in just nine months and it is considered to be “the most successful consumer product launch in history.”

Jobs “noted at dinner [on the night he publicly announced the iPad] that the president had not called him since taking office,” writes Isaacson. Obama delegated the apparently onerous task of congratulating Jobs on his historical entrepreneurial feat to his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. And Obama never made a personal visit to see Jobs in his home after he publicly announced his third and final medical leave from Apple in January of 2011; Larry Page, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton took care to pay respectful last visits.

The reason Obama initially met with Jobs was because Obama’s aids thought that the meeting “fit into [Obama’s] new emphasis on competitiveness.” Jobs initially didn’t want to meet. He felt that the President should have personally requested the meeting and he said: “I’m not going to get slotted in for a token meeting so that he can check off that he met with a CEO.” It took five days for his wife to convince him to go.

When they met for forty-five minutes at the Westin San Francisco Airport in the fall of 2010, Isaacson says Jobs advised Obama to reform education by busting up teachers unions. He also told the president that his anti-business regulations were forcing American companies to move manufacturing to China. He warned: “You’re headed for a one-term presidency.”

Jobs became passionate about trying to teach Obama how to reform his policies and foster American innovation; he set up a dinner for Obama to meet with tech CEOs. Interestingly, the president’s “shared sacrifice” staff co-opted Jobs’ menu and insisted that the dinner include an extravagant “cream pie tricked out with chocolate truffles … [because] the president liked cream pie,” writes Isaacson. (Clearly, the First Lady of Nutrition was not in attendance.)

Isaacson writes that Jobs offered job-creating advice to the President: ‘he stressed the need for more trained engineers and suggested that any foreign students who earned any engineering degree in the United States should be given a visa to stay in the country. Obama said that could be done only in the context of the “Dream Act.” … Jobs found this an annoying example of how politics can lead to paralysis. “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me, [Jobs later recalled.]”’

At the dinner, Jobs also explained to the president that the reason Apple employs hundreds of thousands of people in China is because Apple couldn’t find “30,000” qualified American engineers. Jobs (a college drop-out turned billionaire) insisted that four-year degrees were unnecessary to train the engineers he needed. While Obama did call Jobs afterward to further discuss training engineers, he didn’t take actions to follow through on their conversations in a way that satisfied Jobs before he died.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs showing the new Apple Macbook Air laptop series during his keynote address at Macworld 2008 in San Francisco. Image credit: TechShowNetwork on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Jobs initially tried to make Apple “all-American.” For example, early on, Jobs held a global contest for Apple’s general designer and he flew to Germany to review designer Hartmut Esslinger’s proposal. He loved Esslinger’s idea to design Apple’s products with a “California global” flair and create a “born-in-America gene for Apple’s DNA.” However, Isaacson says Jobs would only hire Esslinger “on the condition that he move to California.”

Apple has consistently tried to use American workers and facilities as much as possible, but it is no longer practical given the lack of skilled workers, excessive government regulations and the 35 percent corporate income tax rate.

Apple is only profitable and successful because it currently does business in China. Without China, there would be no Apple. Contrary to popular opinion, technology companies spend more on materials than on labor overseas. For instance, rare-earths are key components to iPods and iPads that can cost up to $130 per lb. The U.S. used to lead the world in mining rare-earths through a California mine called Molycorp. However, environmental regulations sent this mine into extinction and the U.S. lost her competitive technology advantage. Today, China produces roughly 97 percent of all rare-earths.

Jobs’ instincts were capitalistic. He was not a profiteer. Nor was he into sharing or redistributing; his goal was to transform the world by producing “insanely great” products that would allow the masses (not just rich people like Obama and Buffett) to access freedom-enhancing technology. As his wife told Isaacson, “…he cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind and putting the right tools in their hands.”

Steve Wozniak was Jobs’ friend and initial partner in building Apple. Wozniak was the shy engineering genius behind Apple’s initial technology. However, without Jobs’ capitalistic instinct, Wozniak’s ideas would never have created a single job (even for himself). Wozniak told Isaacson, “I designed the Apple I because I wanted to give it away for free to other people.” Isaacson writes: “If it had not been for Jobs, he [Wozniak] might still be handing out schematics of his [circuit] boards for free at the back of Homebrew [tech information swap] meetings. It was Jobs who turned his ingenious ideas into a budding business.”

2011 was Apple’s last year with Jobs at the helm and Apple even outdid big oil (Exxon Mobil) in per employee profits, reports The New York Times. Profits allow businesses like Apple to create jobs, offer valuable stocks to millions of individual investors and provide millions of Americans with cutting edge technology tools like iPhones, iPods, iPads and MacBooks at the lowest possible prices. Ultimately, profit is the most powerful tool whereby businesses improve society. 

In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama promised to make things even harder for companies like Apple who are forced to do business in China, saying: “no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards [subsidizing the tax burden of smaller companies that only do business in America].”

Obama said his socialist plan of “shared sacrifice” would result in “an economy built to last” that supports “everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.”

And Obama “solved” Apple’s engineer issue by telling taxpayers to subsidize their educations: “Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need…” Meanwhile, he bullied taxpayers to subsidize costly four-year college educations: “Extend the tuition tax credit … States also need to do their part [by increasing college tuition subsidies]. Higher education can’t be a luxury—it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

Obama even bragged about how he’s going to crack down on piracy; I think he should start by walking the walk. Before daring to misrepresent and mooch off Jobs by mentioning his name in the same sentence as his anti-business agenda, Obama should read Isaacson’s biography. As Gov. Mitch Daniels diplomatically said in response to Obama’s speech: “…he must know in his heart that this is not true.”

President Ronald Reagan bestowed Jobs and Wozniak with America’s very first National Medal of Technology. In contrast, President Obama largely ignored Jobs’ success and advice during his lifetime and then invited Jobs’ widow to hear him attack the capitalistic system that allowed Jobs to succeed. Obama has rejected Jobs’ pro-business ideas like lowering the costs of doing business (taxes), reducing regulations and reforming education. If Jobs is looking down on earth, I’m sure he is still “disappointed in Obama.”

Key pages referenced from “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson: 39, 61, 73, 107, 192-93, 490-491, 495, 496, 498, 538, 543-545.

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  1. Norbit says:

    First off, very well-written article!

    Now, a broader point to Obama's insincerity, is that he's been disingenuous, if not outright duplicitous, about his entire Presidency, yet hasn't been seriously called on it by any of the mainstream media.

    A typical example is the silence from the White House over the carnage of the OWS protests, particularly and most recently in Oakland.
    Can you imagine the media frenzy if the Bush White House would have reacted this way had this same thing happened with the Tea Party?
    Would CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, the AP & NY Times have remained silent (complicit, some might say) in not holding that Administration accountable?
    It's rhetorical.

    The real question is, "What can be done to undermine public confidence in a blatantly dishonest media?" – and to expose the disconnect between Obama's rank political posturing using "props" like Jobs, and his governing.

  2. John Galt says:

    So in a nutshell: where there was Obama there was no Jobs.

    • Marie Frances says:

      So true and still true:

      "Where there IS Obama, there still is NO jobs."

      Good point, John.

      Love your article, Katie!

  3. Kris says:

    Awesome column. I learned so much about the TRUTH. President Obama's record on encouraging entrepreneurship and promoting innovation in America is non-existent. Young people know this. Businesspeople know this. Honest Democrats like Steve Jobs know it. I can't understand why Obama would refuse to listen to Jobs when he gave him the answers for creating American jobs.

  4. Sophocles says:

    It is ironic in a sickening way that the only way that the one of the greatest success stories of all time has been possible is because of cheap Chinese labor and material. The foremost American company has not been able to drink exclusively from the stream of American freedom for its prosperity.Rather, the suffocating, stale and sterile "sacrificical" vision for mankind has polluted this stream and forced us to look elsewhere for a source of invigoration.

  5. Lodzia says:

    Once again, Katie, another great article! Really interesting 🙂

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