Why Apple gadgets can't be made in the U.S.

President Obama asked Steve Jobs about bringing Apple jobs back to the U.S., but Jobs didn't think American workers were good enough.

During Thursday night's debate in South Carolina CNN host and moderator John King asked the four remaining GOP candidates their opinions about Apple Inc., which "has 500,000 employees in China" and (obviously) much fewer in the United States.

A New York Times piece published Saturday discloses that President Obama also posed a similar question to Steve Jobs at a dinner with Silicon Valley power brokers less than eight months before his death.

"What would it take to make iPhones in the United States?"

The NYT piece by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher is a must-read for anyone that carries an iPhone in their pocket or has an iPad in their bag. It's chock-full of insight into Apple's decision to move its manufacturing offshore, after making its products exclusively in the United States up until the Macintosh in 1984.

It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

The article is loaded with anecdotes and some of the most surprising tidbits are about contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology which makes most of Apple's hardware these days. It's referred to in the article as Foxconn City because it employees more than 230,000 -- many working six days a week, 12 hours per day, for less than $17 a day.

This is my current favorite:

The facility’s central kitchen cooks an average of three tons of pork and 13 tons of rice a day.

Wait, what?!

Read it, and then chime in in the TalkBack with your favorite anecdote.

Photo: The White House (via LA Times)

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