Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

How can these stats about apple possibly be real?

I will never understand the obsession that modern companies have with reducing headcount. Its almost pathological. I totally understand that the marketplace can be competitive and that sometimes you need to cut costs, but this obsession with not employing any humans hits the hardest with companies that quite definitely have the available cash to take on a few extra staff.

The nature of may business (very long established one-man biz, set in a remote rural location, lots of legacy code, home-brew engine) makes hiring people very difficult, purely for practical and technical reasons. I am definitely not opposed to hiring people, and I actually think I’d feel really good about it. Every month I have to pay out royalty checks to 3 different people, and also pay at least one contractor, and it doesn’t feel bad, it feels GOOD, knowing that I’m contributing to the wider economy, and improving other peoples standards of living by creating employment. In some cases, those payments can help kick-start other small businesses who then employ people, and thats just awesome. Isn’t this the sort of thing we are supposed to be proud of as entrepreneurs?

To see whether or not you fall into the category of business owners who are really not doing their bit, take this simple test:

  1. Is it technically difficult, or practically difficult for you to hire new staff for some reason? If so, then I’ll let you off.
  2. Check your profit margin. is it less than 5%? are your company finances looking shaky? are profits falling dramatically? If so, then I’ll let you off.
  3. When you call the phone number for your company as a customer, do you get through to a real live human within 15 seconds? If so, then I’ll let you off.
  4. If you email your company as a customer with a technical support or customer services request, do you hear back from a human within one day? If so, then I’ll let you off.

I’m guessing this still leaves a very large number of businesses who could be doing amazing things employment wise, who instead are sitting on money in a bank and twiddling their thumbs.

Apples current cash hoard is 267 billion dollars. Their profit margin is 21.63%. I’m guessing that you cant phone up and speak directly to an apple customer service person right now, anywhere in the world. Why on earth not? (I just tried…and its a slow, irritating computer voice…to save hiring enough people…). The current total apple workforce is 123,000 people.

So the cash on hand for apple would allow them to give every single employee a windfall payment of $2,170731.

Yup, I had to check that several times to ensure its correct because it absolutely fucking cannot be. They can make every single employee of the company a dollar millionaire twice over. Or they could just spend HALF their current *cash* and make them all dollar millionaires. Lets look at it another way. The average salary in the US in the bay area tech firms is $142,000. Lets almost double that (yeah right) to account for employment costs, office space etc, and call it $0.25 million per employee per year.

Apple could afford to hire one million and 68 thousand tech workers for a year and still not burn through its entire cash hoard.

Or to put it another way, assuming all 123k people earn that crazy bay area salary, apple could double its current workforce, have them all sit on their ass doing absolutely nothing all day, and it would still take 8 years for the resulting cash drain to wipe out their *current* cash mountain.

PLEASE someone tell me my sums are wrong because they MUST be right? It couldn’t possibly be the case that despite Tim Cook being a ‘nice guy’ the first openly gay tech CEO who is trendy and right-on, and popular and seemingly one of the good guys, that he would rather sit on that vast obscene pile of capital and not spend a penny of it on increasing the workforce or improving the income of apples employees? Surely that would not be the case, Especially as Donald trumps recent tax changes are apparently designed to boost employment?

And of course, lets not forget that in the very home of tech-financial excess, San Francisco, there is a MAJOR homelessness problem. Its actually truly shocking. Apple could fix this out of their spare change. In the UK today there was an announced plan to completely eradicate rough sleeping which was put at costing £100 million. Say it should be £200 million instead, which is $260 million, and this would be for ONE city not a country. Apple could do that with one thousandth of its cash hoard.

These companies are not innovators who are making our lives better. They are like pharaohs and emperors treating the rest of us like peasants, beneath their contempt, not even worth saving.


12 thoughts on How can these stats about apple possibly be real?

  1. Sadly this is the reality of big enterprise. They don’t care about the economy as a whole, only insofar as they themselves can squeeze it for as much cash as possible. Tax breaks are wasted on large corporations that will just hoard the extra cash or spend it on the board and the shareholders. Meanwhile small business owners like yourself (and hopefully myself in a year or so) pay higher tax rates and can’t afford the legal teams to dodge the taxes in the same way the big guys can.

  2. It’s the same with Facebook/Google/Twitter/Amazon/ebay having terrible customer service and not policing their systems for hate speech/illegal content/scams. They say it would ‘cost too much’ and then throw a cheap filter at it.

    What they mean is they can’t be arsed employing people to deal with the problems.
    And it’s not for lack of cash.

  3. You have to remember, they’re beholden to their stockholders. That’s where the real crime comes in- the mentality and nature of the stock exchange. Fiduciary responsibility over responsibility to the world that they live in. And if they did prioritize the world over their profits? You can bet that there’d be a lawsuit forthcoming…

  4. From an economic standpoint, though, that money is still being put to work in the global economy, somewhere, right? As long as it’s not been converted to gold, or withdrawn and stuffed under Tim Cooks bed, it’s circulating or being invested on Apple’s behalf.

    1. This is theoretically true, but the opportunity cost here is that the company has excess funds and a capability to wield those funds for social good. They could undertake large, long term projects with no short term return which yield huge social good, like medical research, or research into new forms of renewable energy, or at the very least, return it to shareholders.

      The real issue I have is that no company should *be* that cash rich. Companies are just vehicles for distributing resources and money, not an end un to themselves. They can easily afford, for example, to pay to have their products manufactured under way better conditions, with decently p[aid workers, without losing a competitive edge, yet they choose not to do so.

      1. I wonder what the rationale is though? I assume it’s to guard against instability/future losses, but even for that it seems extreme. Why do companies WANT so much cash, and why do investors accept it?

      2. I think you’re right, but the constraint is the fiduciary responsibility executives have towards the shareholders of public companies. They’re obligated to behave in this way.

        Society ought to start pushing for changes to the very definition of a public company that ensures a level of wider obligation.

  5. Probably because the stats aren’t real. If they aren’t believable then why believe them?

    Many tech sites and writers like to conveniently forget this fact (since they know who is writing their checks, or who is writing the checks for their boss) but Silicon Valley and DARPANET is a product of the military-industrial-intelligence complex, therefore everything in this sphere needs to be taken with a huge mountain of salt. If you think that latest pro-fascist article you read on Arstechnia or Wired was sponsored by the government then you are likely correct. Also when these tech-fascists get together behind closed doors they likely conspire to push (fake) sales and profits with their cousins running the big banks in Wall St. That way they seem more powerful and reaching than they actually are.

    Go ahead and do your homework on Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the other ‘pioneer’s’ of the tech boom and it becomes quite clear. These human-fronts were already filthy rich before starting Apple and Microsoft and are merely faces masking the true owners of these tech empires who are always hiding behind their corporate shunts and fronts.

  6. This is kind of where capitalism takes us, I’m not saying this to be political, more to highlight that Apple’s cash is a result of market forces.

    I’d expect that money to be going towards things like the national debt, etc. so how the money is really employed will be hard to say.

    That isn’t to take away from your point about the immorality of the whole thing. Corporate responsibility should be a major political talking point (especially in relation to the trend of major corporations overtaking smaller traders through economies of scale, increase in automation, rising population, out of hand disposable packaging, etc.) but somehow I never hear about it.

    In the end, I see the Apple-gold-pile to be the fault of regulation and government, currently there are no brakes on the system to allow major companies to become too big/powerful without enough ethical ownership.

  7. My company is reducing head count to fund executive bonuses. Instead of layoffs they’ve just stopped replacing people who quit or retire. We’re very profitable. Not like apple but pretty close.

  8. Of course rich people and their corporations are hoarding cash, how about you actually research how unequal the US is for example, since he US is world enforcer of lawless capitalism.

    The level of inequality is off the charts and has been for a long time, people are wasting away and the system is out of control because of the defeat of communism there is no political counterweight so the rich are just stealing everything that isn’t nailed down and the masses couldn’t give two shits.

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