Yet there is another reality in America. Based in Cupertino, California, Apple Inc. currently has over $110 billion in cash reserves- that’s billion with a B. That reality- whether you live it or watch it from afar- we all seem to worship. But why? Why do we worship this corporation? They have over $110 billion in cash reserves. That’s money that isn’t necessarily circulating or doing anything positive for the larger economy. It’s simply money sitting around, helping no one. Is it because they provide jobs? Apple only employs 47,000 people in America. At the same time, Apple has created around 700,000 jobs outside the United States. Apple’s prosperity has been supported both by sweatshop labor abroad and extensive, complex strategies to evade paying federal and state taxes at home. Those strategies include setting up an office in Nevada (where there are no state taxes compared to California’s 8.84%) and creating subsidiaries in places with very low taxes, like the Virgin Islands and Ireland. These “subsidiaries” that help Apple evade taxes might be as small as a letterbox or an anonymous office. Last year, the tech giant had a tax rate of about 9.8%. By comparison, Wal-Mart paid a tax rate of 24%.
On one hand, this California based multinational company travels the globe to save billions, just to store in their reserves. On the other, De Anza College, a community college down the street (a school one of Apple’s founders attended) has cut over 1,000 courses and 8% of its faculty since 2008. So ultimately these bitter realities extend beyond poor black neighborhood schools in New Orleans and East Cleveland. For poor, inner city school children, basics like running water, heat and updated facilities are often scarce. For working and middle class teenagers, however, course offerings and top notch instruction are increasingly becoming scarce even at colleges and universities. All the while, over $110 billion sits. All the while we worship Apple and extol our iphones.
Apple, nor any other corporation, is coming to save our schools. That $110 billion sitting in reserve will continue to sit there. It will sit there even as our children attend dilapidated schools all over the country. It will sit there even as 1.46 million households in America, including 2.8 million children, live on less than $2 per day (that’s the World Bank’s definition of poverty for developing nations). These problems are real. At the same time, so is the reality that it is in no corporation’s interest to care. Corporations exist to maximize profit. While I personally see this as amoral, as they say in my neighborhood, “it is what it is.” It is not profitable to ensure schools and colleges have adequate resources. It is also not profitable to care about people living on less than $2 a day.
So no, Apple will not come and save our children, nor will any other entity seeking to make profits. This is all on us. We must ask ourselves who are we voting for and what type of environment exists economically and politically that allow for the conditions at our schools. We must also ask ourselves how Apple began to amass so much money and thus power in the first place. The answer is simple- they got it from us. If we have the ability to empower Apple by collectively handing over our dollars, we can also collectively pool our money together to empower ourselves, our neighborhoods and our schools. These are choices.