The late Steve Jobs was a genius. He was an incredibly shrewd businessman. And he was a marketing wizard.
Jobs was the larger-than-life visionary behind Apple, which has been hailed as one of the all-time great American economic success stories.
But there's one big problem with this rosy picture. The fact is, Apple represents a great deal of what's wrong with the U.S. economic system today.
Since around 1980, the U.S. capitalism has increasingly become a "winner take all" system. This corresponded with a trend in which the very top elite in society began seeing an enormous increase in their compensation. These "winners" included everyone from CEOs to movie stars to hedge fund managers to sports superstars.
And nobody was more representative of this new breed of elite "winners" than Jobs.
The only problem is that, since 1980, wages started stagnating for the rest of us. Allowing for inflation, average workers' wages have barely budged in more than three decades.
The result is that America now has the income inequality levels of a Third World nation. In fact, the top 400 richest Americans now own a titanic amount of wealth that exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 155 million Americans.
And that's only the beginning of the problems with U.S. capitalism today.
However, if you talk to the vast majority of economists today, they'll tell you that the American economy is still the world's crown jewel economy. We have nothing to learn from the likes of East Asia or Europe nations, the economic "experts" tell us. In fact, Europe and China ought to be taking notes from us, they claim.
As an "Exhibit A" of their claims, economists usually point to the great U.S. corporate success stories that have emerged in recent years: Google, eBay, Facebook and, first and foremost: Apple Inc.
While Americans fret over the ongoing destruction of the nation's once world-beating manufacturing base, our free-market economists and globalist politicians tell us not to worry. After all, they claim, high-tech, prosperous companies like Apple will ensure that the U.S. remains economically dominant.
But out here in the real world, there's a big problem with these grand claims. They simply don't hold up to scrutiny.
America, after all, has lost millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs just in the past 10 years. We've lost over 42,000 factories, just since 2001. By contrast, even America's most prosperous and high-profile companies, like Apple, haven't even come close to replacing the job losses in the manufacturing sector. Hence, America's stubbornly high jobless rates (and the even more troubling absence of new well-paid jobs).
For all the grand claims made upon its behalf, it is important to note that Apple is still a remarkably small company. That shouldn't be surprising, considering that Apple doesn't actually manufacture the products it sells. Apple only employs about 50,000 people worldwide. That's a mere drop in the bucket, compared to the great U.S. corporate success stories of the past, like General Motors. In fact, even today, a vastly-shrunken GM still employs over 200,000 workers in the U.S. alone.
A second problem with Apple is that many of its workers are not particularly well-paid. Sure, the likes of Jobs and other company top elites have pocketed enormous pay packages. But the average Apple employees make mediocre wages. In fact, most of Apple's employees simply consist of the unskilled sales people in the company's retail stores.
All of this represents serious problems for any economist who holds up the likes of Apple as an "Exhibit A" of how America's economy still supposedly leads the world.