Wednesday’s big announcement that Apple Inc. would bring billions of dollars back to the United States, build a new campus in America, and create thousands of jobs was not just a major victory for supporters of last month’s tax cuts.
It also was vindication of a specific pledge that President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail back in 2016.
Then-candidate Trump spoke frequently about returning jobs to the United States — and he routinely singled out Apple.
“I think we’re going to get things coming,” he said during an appearance January 2016 at Liberty University in Virginia. “We’re going to get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”
Trump kept up the Apple rhetoric even after the election. He recounted in November 2016 during an interview with The New York Times that he had spoken after the election with Apple CEO Tim Cook.
“I said, ‘Tim, you know, one of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States, where instead of going to China, and going to Vietnam, and going to the places that you go to, you’re making your product right here,'” he said.
Trump told The Times that he said to Cook he would cut regulations and taxes.
Many experts ridiculed Trump’s promises as simplistic and unrealistic. New York Times economics writer Nelson Schwartz wrote in May 2016 that large companies were unlikely to respond to Trump’s jaw-boning if he managed to become president — a prospect the smart set considered equally unlikely.
“And in an era when Apple is willing to fight the Obama administration’s efforts to unlock an iPhone on national security grounds, more corporate defiance may become the norm,” he wrote.
But this week, the technology giant announced it would take advantage of a one-time provision of the new tax law and bring back almost all of the $252 billion it holds in cash overseas, while making a large investment in the United States. That one-time tax payment will send $38 billion to the federal treasury.
Apple also said it would create 20,000 new jobs in the United States and construct a multibillion-dollar facility in the country. Workers will benefit as well. Cook told employees in an email that the company would reward them with $2,500 stock bonuses, The Times reported.
“I think maybe the key point here is to contrast the Obama and Trump approaches.”
Alan Tonelson, an economic policy analyst who writes the RealityChek blog, said questions remain about exactly how much of the returning Apple money will go toward new investment. He said he suspects the company will use a large chunk of it to pay down its own corporate debt.
But he said Trump deserves credit.
“I think maybe the key point here is to contrast the Obama and Trump approaches,” he said.
Tonelson said Obama largely accepted the view that Apple’s production chain could not be altered. Trump has “very much proven the old adage, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.'”
Trump took a victory lap Thursday during a speech at a factory near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“I don’t imagine there’s ever been an investment that big in this country by a company,” he said. “And just think of what that means.”
Trump reminded the audience of his campaign statements.
“I think some of you remember. I said, ‘I will not consider our economic situation complete until we get Apple to start building some of those massive plants in the United States,'” he said. “They’re gonna build plants. They’re going to build a big campus. They’re really going to town.”