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Apple Computers Used to Be Built in the U.S. It Was a Mess (nytimes.com)
105 points by ingve 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 100 comments



This was a disappointing article on a few levels.

1) it doesn’t make a clear logical case for why manufacturing isn’t done by Apple (or many other companies) in the US, right now

2) it doesn’t give reasoning about why sotuation is unlikely to change, or if it does change, how it will not look anything like industrial-era factory labor manufacturing

3) it doesn’t explain that these realities have nothing to do with Apple, except that Apple finds these economic realities faster than other companies

4) it ends completey abruptly without drawing any real conclusion or thesis or adding any insight (based on solid reasoning)

===

The fact that Jean Louis Gassed can’t use a screwdriver has nothing to do with anything... Manufacturing of complex computer systems is complex, therefore requires many different competencies, said competencies must communicate to resolve challenges, and that in and of itself is hard. This hardness requires (literally) an ecosystem of skilled workers to address. Could Apple (or any other company) build such an ecosystem? Yes, if they did it from scratch early on, when the cost to build it was low because the ecosystem was relatively simple. But now, its not a simple ecosystem, and it would be painfully expensive to replicate.

It should be noted that there is probably a strong difference in the complexity (therefore difficulty) of manufacturing high tech products versus other consumer products like cars/trucks, general electronics. That difference is the velocity/pace of new features going to market, required to drive sales. Tech products literally compete on feature sets. Sales of cars and toasters and espresso makers can depend on many factors and so they are not constantly racing to update the product every 6-12 months. I could be wrong here, but I believe the conclusion that tech manufacturing is like all other kinds of manufacturing is baseless. And in fact, the fact that so much has moved to China is the strongest evidence that it can’t simply exist anywhere.


The article also doesn't mention that the Mac Pro line has been manufactured in Texas since 2013 (Admittedly a niche product compared to Apple's overall scale.)

Apple is also investing $390m in a chip plant in Texas to supply some of their custom silicon, and there are several suppliers of iPhone components in the area.


Texas Instruments (TI)?


Agreed. This is a remarkably information-free article for such an outlet that prides itself and is held up for the quality of its journalism.


This article is anti-trump pro-globalist propaganda. The lack of real arguements demonstrates that. This is meant to demoralize Americans and make them feel helpless and dependent on a global free trade regime that has decimated the working class and could be abolished easily by restoring the tariffs that existed through the 1970's.


Maybe not the best examples, since the companies don’t exist anymore, but weren’t NeXT and Sun Micros built in the bay area in the early days? I think Sun hung on to the newark facilities nearly to their shuttering. Were they a mess too?


Good examples but they didn’t really do volume compared to the consumer brands.

Gateway built computers in a South Dakota. Compaq and Dell in Texas.


I agree it's a disappointing article, but your second point is answered:

“You can’t bring manufacturing back because of those webs, you would have to bring the entire community back,”


It would have been nice to see some examples of what "those webs" entail and why they can't exist in the US.


They don't exist because China has protectionist policies that give them an advantage and the US elites abolished most of its tarrifs in the 80's and 90's. they could easily come back but the new york times doesn't want them to, and they don't want you to think it's even a possibility.


This is a very stupid article. It describes* the lack of economic success of two somewhat automated factories built to produce large numbers of computers during an interval when neither's products were popular enough to justify their scale. It's like judging the economics of the Edsel factory in 1959 and generalizing that large scale US auto production was a stupid idea.

*Fixed - bad wording choice


I found the article to be an interesting chronological journey. It's worth a look just for the photos of the 1984 Mac production line, and 1990 NeXT production line.

> It cites the lack of economic success

It describes the lack of economic success. I'm not sure what thesis you think the article is "citing" in support of.


>> It cites the lack of economic success

> It describes the lack of economic success. I'm not sure what thesis you think the article is "citing" in support of.

Nothing wrong with "cites" in this context. From the OED:

"4. To bring forward an instance, to adduce or allege (anything) by way of example, proof, etc."


Yes. The article doesn’t use the lack of economic success as an example or proof of anything.

Merely mentioning something is not enough to be citing it. There has to be a larger purpose.


In a talk Jobs gave at MIT [1] he described the NeXT automated manufacturing facility in a positive light. I can only begin to imagine how much better it could be done today than back then.

Articles like this one like to point out the number of people involved in the Chinese iPhone manufacturing as if that's somehow indicative of something other than simply using cheap labor instead of automation.

If we wanted to manufacture this stuff in the USA, we definitely could, and it would be done using fewer people through automation.

My understanding is the core reason we don't do manufacturing here anymore is it's a lot cheaper to do it where industrial pollution goes unchecked, where regulatory bodies are immature or entirely nonexistant.

When China gets its shit together enough to protect its lands and people from the toxic output of all this industrial activity, large-scale manufacturing will move on to the next victim.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk-9Fd2mEnI


I've read articles about the supply chain impacts of being in China, very near all your suppliers, compared to being in the US. When you need the screws in your first production run to be 0.1 mm shorter, you can call the screw manufacturer, they'll make a new mold right away and get you screws in 3 hours. Your screw manufacturer is almost certainly more than a 3 hour drive if you're in the US. [1]

Looks like labor flexibility is another factor. In the US, culturally, you can't summon people from their sleep to start making phones urgently. Apparently this happened after the iPhone prototype Steve Jobs had got a scratched plastic screen 6 weeks before launch. [2]

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-an...

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyshih/2018/11/05/apple-only...


> When China gets its shit together enough to protect its lands and people from the toxic output of all this industrial activity, large-scale manufacturing will move on to the next victim.

That's already happening: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-pollution-zibo/chin...

An acquaintance recently told me that Chinese ceramics production capacity is getting relocated to places like Cambodia.


Yet other personal computers were being built in the U.S. at that time and it was somehow not a mess... Jobs was a great idea man for technology and UX, but not so good at many other areas (such as we see here with manufacturing). I know that this article is trying to make a case that the problem was the US culture ETC (pro globalism), but if that was the case... why were so many other so successful where Apple failed?


Also one aspect not discussed in this article is that now China is dedicating huge efforts [1] in order to maintain and secure its access to natural ressources needed for manufacturing, while most occidental countries have likely lost this capacity.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belt_and_Road_Initiative


It seems to imply that because Apple didn't have success making computers in the Bay Area that manufacturing in the Bay Area isn't possible. Not true of course, Sun manufactured computers here, Force computers made millions of computers here, and there are still manufacturers around.

That said, today it is greatly reduced. But it isn't clear to me at least that this is a permanent state. There is definitely a "community" aspect to this stuff (that part the article seems to get right), but the causality is not clear. If people started manufacturing more things in the Bay Area the community would get stronger as supply chains were shortened.

As I see it, you start building things, and you order all of your components from far away. Then one of your suppliers creates a local factory / warehouse to cut down on shipping costs, then another. At which point you have a lot of things nearby. Similarly for services such as rework, tooling, and metrology.


Land (and thus labor) are way too expensive in the Bay Area to see a resurgence of high volume manufacturing. It'd be more likely to see manufacturing make a comeback a short flight away from SF where land is plentiful. That way you could easily make day trips to the factory and receive goods via truck within a day.


I disagree, there are already quite a few manufacturing facilities in the bay area. They don't grab the headlines but when you drive through the industrial parts of town they are all there.

There is the Tesla plant (fairly high volume), there are three glass/window factories in Oakland (fairly high volume), probably a dozen printed circuit board houses of various volumes, a number of tool and die shops around south SF and Berkeley and elsewhere, at least two sheet metal fabrication plants in south San Jose. Intuitive Surgical has a surgical robot factory in Sunnyvale I believe.

Nothing like a Foxconn "city factory", that is pretty clear. There is however the Gigafactory which is outside of Reno (to your point of being easy to get to).

There is a lot of activity though.


Manufacturing is fast evolving with the influence of high tech automation. As business relations gets too much to manage and brings more and more risks (trade war with china), I'd imagine companies will start investing in automated manufacturing plants stateside. Perhaps, the many of the components would still come from cheaper parts of the world, but I can see custom microprocessors being manufactured in the west, and say iPhones's body machined in the US, parts assembled into the enclosures at the US - by robots anyway.


>I can see custom microprocessors being manufactured in the west

This would really depend on the node used. For anything modern I think the only company left in the west that can do it is intel and I don't know how much of a market friendly option they are. Maybe with a lot of investment there could be some 28nm fabs in a few years which would then take forever to get a ROI, at which point it's anyone's guess what kind of technology will be used for chip manufacturing.


You'd think an NYT article about how Apple computers used to be built in the US would find it worthy of mention that Mac Pros are produced in the US today.


1. Do they still make them? I know they still sell them, but given that they have been unchanged for 5 years...

2. I would say assembled rather than produced (if I buy components and assemble a PC at home is it produced in Italy?)


> 1. Do they still make them? I know they still sell them, but given that they have been unchanged for 5 years...

There's no indication I can find otherwise.

> 2. I would say assembled rather than produced (if I buy components and assemble a PC at home is it produced in Italy?)

In that case, iPhones are not produced in China, since the parts thereof are manufactured in many different countries, including the US, and only assembled in China.

For what it's worth, photography from the plant shows there's a little more going on than is typical for building a desktop at home.

https://twitter.com/tim_cook/status/474935247335743489/photo...


Tim Cook loves the narrative that it's impossible to bring manufacturing culture back to the US. There was an article a while back about how lazy people were on the Mac Pro line. How is Tesla able to succeed? Something doesn't add up.


> Tim Cook loves the narrative that it's impossible to bring manufacturing culture back to the US.

Citation on "impossible"? Under Tim, Apple has invested $100 million in US manufacturing. The Mac Pro has been manufactured in Austin since 2013.


Firstly, he's alluded to lack of manufacturing skill many times. After all, imagine how difficult it would be to teach American's skills. This argument holds no water in my opinion. Just say it's because of profit margins. Anything else is absurd.

Secondly, a $100 million investment in manufacturing is not a small number. Unless you are Apple. Let's assume a wildly low profit margin on the average iPhone of $250. Apple would have to sell 400,000 iPhones to cover that investment with pure profit. In 2017, Apple sold 216,760,000 iPhones.


Tesla makes a super duper expensive car with arguable manufacturability and a lot of non standard parts. That works for a $100k a piece car, not $30k, let alone $10k.

You probably read comments that were Tesla be made by an established player, it would've been made for half the cost?

Tesla's success slash failure is thanks to that absence of the established manufacturing culture in light industries.

USA is still is a big manufacturing country, it's curse is that their industry manufacturers "invisible goods," and that its companies are low profile.

For examples, almost all "picoprobes" in the world are made by one small company in USA that you can't even google.

On the other hand, even a third tier smartphone maker in China has high media profile, and every highschooler will be able to name a few.


Wait, the iPhone is cheap? I had the first version ( well 3g actually) and never bothered since, because I thought it would only get more expensive


Apple doesn't wants its good to be cheap to make, they want them to be borderline free. Have you read that for every iPhone, Chinese economy only gains single digits of value?

Electronics is one of the most automated industries on the planet already. You can run in anywhere you want where you can put an SMT line. There are electronics factories even in African countries.

What matters is being able to run in cheaper and better than the next competitor, and you can't do it with three quarters of the global electronics manufacturing ecosystem sitting in a single city - Shenzhen.

IF Apple will agree to sell their products at less than triple digits markup, than they will be free to make iPhone in America.


You said, Tesla makes a super duper expensive car. Apple is also making an expensive phone.

You are ignoring your own argument by explaining that every car manufacturers wants to produce as cheap as possible, which is also the same reason why Tesla wants to automate everything.

The original comment/question was: how can Tesla do it and not Apple.

Ps. The price of a Tesla is actually okay. It's not 100k and it's avg market priced. iPhone was never avg market priced


Tesla Model 3's start at $35k.


Have you heard about them taking loss at every model 3 sale?


The US government subsidises purchases of electric cars with tax credits of up to $7,500, which apply to all of Tesla’s cars.


DEC computers used to be built in the US. As well as Cisco gear and much more...


This would have been a content-free article if not for the beautiful photos.

Here’s a video tour of the Macintosh factory that used to be in Fremont, CA:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk306ZkNOuc


I'm proud of HN for mostly seeing through the steaming crap in this piece.

This article is the latest entry in a many decades-long campaign of capitalist propaganda dedicated to promoting the concept of "markets" as choiceless forces of nature -- as weather fronts that determine outcomes. The forbidden truth is that markets are the result of decisions made by ownership, and you can't read this terrible article without leaving the truth very far behind.

This deterministic concept of markets is employed constantly to present howlingly absurd statements that serve as cover for the costly-to-the-US-middle-class commercial decisions that Apple made and still makes.

You can tell this article is propaganda because of what it delivers:

Deliverable #1: The headline alone tells you exactly what to think about a historic, complex outcome -- that is to say, this trillion-dollar company's hands were and remain tied by the market. Won't somebody please think of the trillion-dollar company?

Deliverable #2: Personal experience is very sketchily generalized to a historic conclusion. A French exec struggles with his (two whole days' worth!) of work on an assembly line, therefore the entire US factory-building effort could never have worked. Irrevocable factors that define Fordist manufacturing -- division of labor, training, choreography -- these all vanish, dissolved by the power of a irrelevant anecdote.

Deliverable #3: Orwellian ahistoricism deftly applied: Standing in North America, decades after success in WWII left it the only undevastated manufacturer on Planet Earth, someone actually states that the place "[Doesn't] have a manufacturing culture". No, really, that's something someone thought up and uttered, quoted in the NYT. See: "we've always been at war with Eastasia".

Deliverable #4: Eliding troublesome counter-facts: As persons here have pointed out, Apple is on its sixth year of manufacturing its heavy hardware in Texas. There is no "mess" there, and this fact will be lost on millions of laypersons who have taken in at minimum the headline in Deliverable #1 and now think exactly what Apple prefers they think.

There are more of these deceptions in even this short piece, but the point is made. Apple manufacturing is not centrally in the US because Apple leadership made that decision. The "market" did not, "culture" did not. Maximizing shareholder value -- at any social cost -- did.


Apple has the resources to make them without a mess now.


No it doesn't. Even with its 100 billion cash that they sit on, they can't. That was the conclusion of the article when it said it needs to bring back the entire web. Well, getting back that web is going to cost more then 1 trillion, the entire Apple value, so no, they can't.


I don't see how that follows necessarily - there is a severe lack of details supporting their conclusions. I am aware that the supply chain is complex but you really don't need to bring back the entire supply web. That is like saying that you can't build houses because you don't have iron mines which you need for the steel foundries you don't have which you need for the nail factories.

What you need to do is to start bringing back the parts which it makes sense to do so and expand from there. Assembly plants for cars sold in any significant amount makes sense period just because of the physical volume of cars vs their parts - the assembled cab takes up a lot of excess space - and that is before any tariff issues.


What if it doesn't make sense for any parts? What if the supply web has fixed points which make it impossible to transfer it in small-enough chunks?

I doubt Apple haven't considered all of this.

Currently China owns this space because the country invested absolutely insane amounts of money to build supply chains and manufacturing, to staff all of the above with competent educated (and mostly docile) workers, and to build supporting infrastructure.

The US (and the UK) have done the opposite - crapped all over public education, allowed infrastructure to rot, and deliberately moved manufacturing offshore, because profit. And also - in the UK at least - because it helps keep the workers from opposing you.

You can't turn around an entire sector by bringing parts of the supply chain home unless there's some obvious benefit. "Patriotism" is certainly a benefit, but if it kills your margins it's a double-edged benefit at best.

This is where the US political system has failed. The US (and UK) haven't had a credible industrial strategy - or actually much of a credible economic and social strategy either - since the 60s.

"Leave it to the markets" turns out to be an exceedingly stupid idea over the medium and longer term. You get your profits and your frothy stock market, and you get a stand-out sector or two which keeps some of the educated middle class minority docile. But you lose your industrial autonomy and your security, the rest of your middle class shrinks to nothing+debt, and ultimately your competitors eat your lunch.

In the end game - still to come - they eat you.


Productivity per capital in US remains high. Isn't the industrial strategy simply producing weapons and waging war around world to pump up demand for weapons?


While the weapons industry is somethung the US leads in it is a billions of dollars industry. The US manufacturing is in trillions.

The truth is that industry is doing just fine in the US - it is just largely high end and automated so it employees fewer people than services and is more arcane than just working at the plant making widgets day in and day out.


I've heard the “trash can” Mac Pro was and… well…


"But unlike Detroit’s automotive model of the mid-20th century, relatively few middle-class jobs were created, and the region is marked by a vast concentration of wealth in the upper, white-collar reaches."

After reading it about one thousand times, I still struggle with the definition of "middle class".

Is everyone working with a white-collar job considered "upper class"?

Are traditional manufacturing blue-collar jobs considered "middle class"?

What is considered "working class"?


American definitions of middle class seem to revolve around life goals and living standards. If you can afford to buy your own home and settle down with 2 kids, a dog, and at least one if not two cars, you're middle class.

Elsewhere, middle class is more defined by the nature of your work. If you work with your hands, you're working class, skilled, semiskilled or unskilled. Doesn't mean you're poor - tradesmen earn a lot of money. But you're probably not reading a lot of books and aren't as likely to send your kids to college as have them go into a trade or early work too. Whereas people who have a life of the mind, in work and play, are middle class, as are professionals and managers. (Arguably software straddles the line; IMO it's closer to a trade, but it's so malleable and the potential scope so large it can affect society too.)

Upper class is much more about social position than job or income. Who you know, who you're related to, who will take your call if you want to start a new project, or donate to your charity. Actually working for money is not upper class behaviour, it must be about some cause favourable to the social group.


Nah. Here in eastern europe it's purely based on incomes. If you go paycheck-to-paycheck, you're working class. If you can afford a nice housing/kids/travel/etc, you're middle class. If you got a mansion w/ a gardener, you're probably upper class.

Tradesman who makes €€€ can easily be considered middle class. Meanwhile if you're a poor kindergarten teacher... You'll probably be upper working class at best.


You're basically talking about income category rather than social class, at that point. Class is fundamentally about a kind of pecking order for judging appropriate company, a shorthand for determining if people will be able to relate to one another.


At least here, there's no separation between income category and social class. Either you make money or you don't.

You feel special in some obscure way to claim you're upper class? Well, go hang that on your wall, nobody gives a fuck about it outside of your private circle where that paper translate into money or respect or whatever.

If you want to talk education... Then there're smart people people who have no good manners. People who try to copy aristocratic manners but who're stupid as fuck. And lots of other combinations. But it's subjective at best. Nor most people care about that.

I don't see how people could be sliced into "appropriate companies" in very few categories. At least that's how it goes over there.

I could see how what you're saying might stand true with some blue-blood old-money. But even in countries like UK it's far from clear cut, at least in my experience.


Traditionally I think it's fair to describe the classes in terms of their future which I'll just describe as 'economic planning.'

- Lower class: No economic planning and living hand to mouth. Nearly all of what they earn goes often entirely to pay for the bare necessities needed to repeat the cycle against next month.

- Middle class: Basic economic planning. Able to save a bit for retirement, a rainy day, or just a family vacation. Traditionally could afford to support themselves, one other adult partner, and two children.

- Upper class: Extensive economic planning. Earns far in excess of their immediate or future needs meaning most of their money is spent in 'planning', often geared at earning more money.

---

Traditional manufacturing jobs would definitely have been middle class. White collar jobs used to generally be upper class, but now a days that's certainly not the case. Working class is a different distinction altogether and that is just talking about people that need to work in order to be able to sustain themselves.


Your last paragraph nails a lot of the source of modern middle class rage. White collar is now just barely middle class. Everything else is living hand to mouth.


You're right, economic security has indeed declined sharply for that formerly-privileged segment. Now, given that living standards are still quite high and growing over time, you'd hope they would react by being frugal and saving more, not by living even more hand-to-mouth than they used to! But ingrained habits are slow to change.


"Formerly privileged..."

This is dangerous race to the bottom thinking. The hidden assumption there is that previous generations of middle class people didn't deserve it and that our overall standards should be declining.

I was bringing up the decline of the middle class a while back in a discussion of why Trump won. Someone else said no, its racism, and people are just angry about the loss of their privilege. They pointed out that the black white income gap had shrunk.

Here's the thing though. That's conflating two issues. Racism is real, sure, and yes the black white income gap has shrunk in part due to activism against racial discrimination. But... if the middle class were healthier then blacks with their now-shrunken income gap would be doing much better. If the middle class is dying then the entire struggle for racial income equality becomes a squabble over deck chairs on the Titanic.

Also on saving: the problem is that necessities like housing and health care have exploded. Costs have exploded precisely in those areas that are hardest to trim in a budget. The price of optional expenses like gadgets and entertainment has fallen.


Relative poverty versus absolute. People get angry at clearly having less of the pie than someone else, even if they have enough in some sense.

Sometimes, trying to even the playing field (or outcomes) can throw the baby out with the bathwater and lead to "We would all rather be equally poor than unequally better off."


Yes. It also comes in the form of resentment or jealousy e.g. "those union fat cats make too much" vs "how could I make as much as those union fat cats?"

Race to the bottom mentalities are deadly at all levels from working class all the way up to corporate strategy.

In the corporate world you see it when companies focus only on their competition and struggle to undercut each other instead of focusing on creating customer value. You get a deflationary race to the bottom that kills both margins and product quality. It ends with a market full of gutted companies competing to make crap.


Future orientation, a.k.a. do you eat the marshmallow or not? (And note that if you're constantly hungry, cranky and stressed out, you're a lot more likely to go for that tasty, tempting marshmallow. Feedback loops are a thing!)


By income, I'd guess research assistants, teaching assistants, and college assistants are working class.

You can declare a PhD candidate's "tuition" is ten million dollars a year and then "pay" the worker $10M in tuition credits + $20k living expenses but we all know the actual pay is $20k a year.


But by aspiration, these people are middle class.

A teenager carrying a golf bag might still be upper class, if they're doing it because their father owns the golf course and sees it as a networking opportunity.


This is why actual social scientists talk about socioeconomic status instead of purely income-based categories (etc). Grad students usually have fairly little money, but a fair amount of social capital: people think they are smart, industrious, etc. It’s sort of like middle-class apprentice.

A factory foreman or hairdresser might earn more, but their job has less cachet.


... and I'm the 1% upper class by aspiration :)

Teenager is an extension of his family till he's making a living on it's own. If he manages to extend his family wealth then yes, he's upper class. But if he manages only to drink away his opportunities and his parents stop giving him money... He's not so upper class, eh?


Traditionally the upper class made a living based on what they owned and the lower class (barely) made a living based on the work they did. There were nobles and serfs. Labor and capital. This distinction worked for many centuries.

The rise of the middle class is a modern phenomenon, whereby a new class was created who still essentially worked for a living but were able to achieve a measure of security and prosperity that led to a dramatically more stable society.

Of course that development has caused some consternation within the upper classes, who are presently trying quite hard to roll that back.


The famous (in certain areas!) sketch [1] by John Cleese and the two Ronnies sums up the class system in the UK quite nicely!

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4QuSZ2Vvj4


Working class implies no assets. Think blue collar and retail folks with shitty benefits and highly variable income.

Middle class are professionals and business workers, usually making more than double the median income in most publications.

Upper middle is basically a household of two professionals making $100-350k.

It’s harder now as the economy is changing and the middle class professions are devaluing and many regions are declining as concentration keep happening.


A combination of the company you keep and the security of the quality of life you and they have. Can your wife afford to stay at home if she wants to? Can you work from home if need be? Do you need to budget when you go on vacation? Do you need to budget when you go out in town with your friends/family? If an emergency happens, how fragile is your support system? Which school system (zip code) can you afford? Do you have to work on weekends or overnights?

Household income and profession is probably the easiest way to numerically define it.

But I think (in the US) there are two distinct classes being formed, one that is and feels secure in their future due to having a well funded 401k or defined benefit pension, careers at large and prestigious companies with friends also at other large and prestigious companies (who can help you get work if need be), paid leave of various kinds, access to the better schools and health systems etc.

The other class will be those that are setback forever by 1 medical emergency or mistake, have jobs instead of careers, who aren’t really able to plan for the future because they’re skating by and hoping it all works out and they can keep making their debt payments.


[flagged]


You must be a fun person to be with, what a needlessly arrogant and abrasive answer.

It was cleary not a request for "education", but a way of starting a discussion on the use of this term, that neither seems to be used consistently in the press, makes little sense if used with 60s economy in mind, and does not have specific quantifiable criteria attached to it.


While my arrogance may be misplaced, it is simply a reaction to your less-than-honest bafflement at the concept of “middle class”. Because in the context of the article, it’s difficult to find a definition that does not work. Take the middle 50 percent income quantile: works. Say “the financial security of a married couple of a teacher and a long-term employee at a manufacturing company”: works. Take “anyone not experiencing food insecurity, but not owning more than one house or more than 100,000 in cars”: works. Take “the family in Breaking Bad, pre-cancer”: works.


Nobody agreees on any consistent definitions of these words.

Middle class in the UK means something wildly different (probably privately educated, doctor, lawyer, etc) to middle class in the US (someone doing ok financially.)


So the criticism here is the lack of specification as to what country’s middle class it supposedly refers to? I doubt that, but just in case: it’s probably the US.

Or is OP having a problem with terms that cannot be neatly defined with, for example, specific income cutoffs? That would preclude most any words from being used in journalism. “Is that an SUV, or a large sedan?” “Can’t say, let’s never use these words again”.


Some people think that income has nothing to do with being working or middle class, so the whole use in the article would make no sense to them.

Ultimately the person was asking for help understanding something, which is always fine in my book. If you don’t need help understanding the move onto the next comment. Plus you were being belittling by saying they were stumbling.


I guess this goes at the heart of the difference in interpretation between us: where you see a good-faith effort to better understand the article, I see an attempt to ridicule or otherwise undermine it by questioning the most basic assumptions needed to understand it.

As evidence, I point out that a simple search would be far better to achieve an understanding of what the term may be referring to in this context than sending us all on a wild goose chase. Not taking this more promising route, IMHO, undermines any claim of good faith.

Even if existing definitions are found lacking, they would certainly serve as a better base for discussion than the actual, unspecific dismissal of the article itself.

I may also be influenced by the general tone of discussion here. This threat is currently sandwiched between two comments calling the article “rather disappointing” and “very stupid” [0], respectively. This shallow reflex to find nothing but dreck in everything, especially if it’s written by anyone who may have an education in anything but JavaScript, is getting somewhat tiring.

0: somehow, it’s the “very” that really makes that particular commment what it is.


Why does it seem like every NYT article these days is usually pushing some absurd agenda? What happened to reporting the news?


I strongly suspect that it's because you read articles with some assumed agenda in your mind.


Because there is an audience for it which shares their agenda.


Pretty much this. It’s like asking why crappy sitcoms are made. It’s because there is a demand for it.


>Because there is an audience for it which shares their agenda.

Exactly true.


what kind of "absurd agenda" do you think this article is "pushing"?


It pretty clearly is arguing that manufacturing in the US is a bad idea, apparently because it "lacks a manufacturing culture" to quote Gassee. Whether or not that is true, it really isn't a news article.


That we couldn't possibly put any stinky, messy factories up and manufacture in the US. Because Gassée had a hard time with screwdrivers and "you can't bring manufacturing back." All that must be done in China now you see, because reasons

It's definitely an agenda, definitely pushed, and fairly absurd.


Are there any specific facts in the article that are wrong? Because otherwise, you just seem to be arguing that any facts that may be used to advance some side of some argument must not be published? That would seem to succeed only if the NYT were to ship a bunch of blank pages, seven times a week.

Here’s also a story, just three weeks old, that paints manufacturing in the US in a positive light: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/23/nyregion/the-brooklyn-arm...

The NYT seems to (also) suck at coordinating their “agenda pushing”. It’s almost as if it’s a newspaper publishing ideas that don’t always neatly align to ideology.


Not much about the reporting has actually changed, but the nu-journalism style of headline writing has thrown it into stark relief.


...because “reporting the news”, under your imaginary standards that, despite your assertion, never existed, would amount to listing new entries in the phone book?


I don't understand why Apple is still considered an American company today


About 80,000 of 130K worldwide employees are US-based, including the vast majority of upper management, design, and engineering. The fact that Apple doesn't do much of its own manufacturing nowadays is irrelevant to the location of the company.

https://www.apple.com/job-creation/


While employment is a good argument for company's locus, it's definitely not irrelevant for a company selling physical products where those are manufactured.

In fact, it matters so much that most western countries require the country of origin to be stapled onto the product.


And if you look at Apple hardware, it often says "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China".

I'd argue that the US got the better end of the value chain in this. Of course, it's possible for a company to outsource themselves out of business (cf Dell, which came quite close), but Apple does not seem to be on that trajectory.


> In fact, it matters so much that most western countries require the country of origin to be stapled onto the product.

AFAIK, country of origin labels aren't required in the EU, although there are efforts to change that.


Interesting. They originated in the 1880s in the UK (still part of the E.U.) in the hope that when people saw that goos were coming from Germany or France they’d reject them.


Please finish your thought. What should it be considered?


Not only an American company but a Californian company.

(Apple isn't registered in Delaware.)


Didn't apple re-register in Delaware after orginally registering in California?


California was given in the most recent annual report.

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/320193/0000320193170...


Making all the chips in Texas.


iOS, macOS, iCloud, the App Store, iTunes are made 100% in the US.


This depends on your definition of "made" but given the large amount of OSS in Apple software, I would disagree.


Yes, because it's a multinational.


I amazes me reading that they weren't even able to do a screwdriver level assembly in US, but that story is not that uncommon. I heard many horror stories about "Chinese company tries to run factory in US, runs away in horror in 6 months time."

1. Work culture - very few people with manufacturing experience

2. Work ethics - not stellar, were you fire people for low work attendance as they do in China, you will have to fire 70% of your workforce in US

3. Workforce education - US has a lot of high school dropouts, lots of PhDs, lots of community college educated clerks, but nothing in between.

4. Labour resources - cheap cities in US are small cities, having access to a lot of labour resources in one place is simply an unattainable dream for US.


Yes, replacing early automatic factories with an army of Chinese workers who slave away in so miserable conditions that a big logistical consideration becomes how many of them kill themselves... Good on ya NYT.

Keep shilling for the CCP, telling us how manufactoring can never, ever move out of China... Especially now when people start considering this, right?

Ugh.




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