What The GOP Could Learn From Apple.   Leave a comment

January 24, 2013

Ideas and Ideas

My daughter called this morning. She had time to kill while waiting for her car to be repaired at a local Bay-Area garage, so she stopped in at the Village at Corte Madera, a high-end shopping mall in Marin County, California. She discovered something new and called to ask if I knew that Microsoft had a retail store. I told her I knew Microsoft had opted to move into retail a few years ago. My brain seems to have a memory that Microsoft (and other Wall Street-based psychics) originally pooh-poohed the idea of a computer or software maker going into retail when Steve Jobs chose to go retail with Apple stores in 1999 only two years after many of the same business people questioned Apple’s very ongoing viability.  (Computer maker Michael Dell suggested in 1997 that he had a simple solution to Apple’s 1997 woes: “I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders”.  Where and what is Michael Dell’s vision today?)

The first Apple Store opened in 2001, and the success of the Apple Store concept is breathtaking, as witnessed by 400 stores currently operating (or soon to open), the profitability of the stores, and the expansion of the Apple brand during the past decade. Mac enthusiasts were ready for a retail store to call home. With all deference to Circuit City, Best Buy, and so many other stores (here today or now out of business) that carried little or no Apple products, Jobs knew that the Apple brand needed something larger: a broader exposure to reach a larger audience. The proof of the accuracy of Jobs’ vision and the inaccuracy of the Luddites and doubters has been born out in Apple’s profitable stores around the world, in the cross-pollination of Apple products where shoppers can go in to look at an iPod and discover a MacBook Air; go in for an iPhone and come out with an iPad too. Regardless of the recent drop in Apple’s share price, this is still the most visionary company in the consumer electronics business, a proven innovator in consumer technology, and unmatched in the world of consumer enjoyment. It’s about refining ideas and bringing new ideas to the world. It is about not playing it safe. With apologies to grammarians everywhere, it’s about risking much to succeed much.

This is where the GOP connection comes in. The GOP cannot come to grips with an obvious reality:  the concept of risking much to succeed much. Microsoft may yet succeed with their venture into retail, although the traffic in their stores to date suggests otherwise. The GOP hasn’t had a new idea in 50 years. They continue to regurgitate old ideas and old philosophies in a high-speed race to the past. If only American television consisted of Ozzie & Harriet, Leave It To BeaverMy Three Sons, and The Lawrence Welk Show. That’s essentially the freshness of GOP ideas and, incidentally, the hue of their loyal followers.  Their mantra during much of the first Obama term (and publicly articulated by Kentucky’s Senator McConnell in October 2010) was dedicated to Obama’s failure: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  On November 6th the world saw just how that worked out. By contrast, there was almost nothing but support from the GOP for the George W. Bush march to war with Iraq in 2002 and 2003; there was no effort by the GOP controlled congress to budget for and pay for the wars President Bush initiated. They were, in congress-speak, “Off the books”. In layman’s terms, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were un-budgeted. Hence an additional (minimum) $3 Trillion in deficit spending was added during the Bush presidency. At the same time, no sacrifice (other than the demands on the lives of the military personnel and their families) was requested of us by the GOP.

Now we’re having renewed talks about the deficits. Yet the GOP has consistently chosen to demand one way to solve the deficit: cuts, cuts, and then, more budget cuts. Most Americans agree that we cannot cut our way to a balanced budget any more than we can tax our way to a balanced budget. We need a realistic approach to solving the problem, but this inauguration week, the GOP has elected to delay real effort to create a balanced approach. The house, under Mr. Boehner’s presumed leadership, voted to (essentially) freeze the debt ceiling for three months but “allow” the Treasury Department to exceed the ceiling without any further approval from congress. Boehner’s vision is all of three months. Here, once again, is a GOP unwilling to place a balanced bill on the house floor, or agree to negotiate the inclusion of revenue (tax) increases to help achieve the balance. In Boehner’s vision, he’ll sit down with Wally and “The Beav”, put on some Lawrence Welk music, and wait for something to happen. In Boehner’s world it is more important to continue as Speaker of the House than to show real leadership and negotiate with the Democrats. Mr. Boehner: it’s time for you to risk much to succeed much.

David Steffen

© 2013 David Steffen


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