In an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook for Thursday's NBC Rock Center, host Brian Williams wondered why the tech giant couldn't be a "made-in-America company" and outlined a political scenario in which President Obama was all-powerful: "Let's say our Constitution was a little different and Barack Obama called you in tomorrow and said, 'Get everybody out of China and do whatever you have to do, make these, make everything you make in the United States.'" [Listen to the audio]
Cook responded by suggesting American workers simply didn't have the capacity to manufacture Apple products: "Over time, there are skills that are associated with manufacturing that have left the U.S., not necessarily people, but the education system stopped producing them."
Here is a transcript of the December 6 exchange:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: It's his company to run now. And after the peaceful transition of power, he was quickly forced into crisis footing because of the situation in China, where so many Apple products are assembled by skilled workers. There's been trouble, and Cook traveled there after harsh criticism of poor working conditions and low wages. The situation was later parodied on SNL by cast members who actually make up the heart of Apple's demographic.
FRED ARMISEN: Oh, no, talk about Apple map. It no work, right? It take you to wrong place. You want Starbuck, it take you to Dunkin' Donut. That must be so hard for you.
WILLIAMS: China remains a major issue for Apple and Tim Cook seems to have a ready answer for it. Why can't you be a made-in-America company?
TIM COOK: You know, this iPhone, as a matter of fact, the engine in here is made in America. And not only are the engines in here made in America, but engines are made in America and are exported. The glass on this phone is made in Kentucky. And so we've been working for years on doing more and more in the United States. Next year, we will do one of our existing Mac lines in the United States.
WILLIAMS: Let's say our Constitution was a little different and Barack Obama called you in tomorrow and said, "Get everybody out of China and do whatever you have to do, make these, make everything you make in the United States." What would that do to the price of this device?
COOK: Honestly, it's not so much about price, it's about the skills, et cetera. Over time, there are skills that are associated with manufacturing that have left the U.S., not necessarily people, but the education system stopped producing them.
WILLIAMS: Cook says Apple has already created more than 600,000 jobs here in the U.S., that includes everything from research and development, to retail, to a solar power farm. He also points to the app industry, another one of those that didn't exist before Apple came along. All those icons and all those downloads employ a lot of people.