Imagine President Barack Obama running Apple. (Hey, he has to do something if he should lose in November.) How hard could it be after his top-down remodeling of nearly 20% of the U.S. economy? Of course, Obamacare doesn’t just try and change how government operates. Insurers, doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and medical-equipment makers are just some of the private-sector actors that Obamacare forces to dramatically alter how they run their businesses. But rather than markets and competition and consumer choice driving those changes, it’s the mandates of government bureaucrats and theories of academics such as healthcare economists.And the chief executive office officer of this vast effort is Obama himself. And surely if Obama can be CEO of the $3 trillion, economy-spanning Obamacare Inc., then running Apple (current market capitalisation: $559 billion) would be no trouble at all. Here’s how Obama might run the consumer electronics giant — ObamApple — using his theories about refashioning the healthcare sector:
1. Get bigger. CEO Obama would take some of Apple’s huge cash hoard and use it to create an old-fashioned conglomerate in pursuit of operational efficiency. So what if achieving such “synergies” has proven elusive in Corporate America. ObamApple would not only buy content providers – music labels, movie studios, cable channels – but also manufacturing facilities like China’s Foxconn or build its own in America. Even plastic and glass manufacturers would find a home in ObamApple. One, big, happy corporate family. After all, vertical integration is a core Obamacare principle. Healthcare providers are encouraged to vertically integrate, combining hospitals, primary-care doctors, specialists – even insurers – to work as teams in gigantic “accountable care organisations” (which will really just be supercharged HMOs).
2. Create an individual mandate. All those people with iTunes listening to free Internet radio stations and podcasts, and those iPad owners using free apps! That just means everyone else pays more for downloading music and movies. So from now on at ObamApple, users will have to pay yearly “users fees” to enable their iPods, iPads, and iPhones.
3. Get government subsidies. If universal access to healthcare is a new human right, how about universal access to broadband? (The United Nations seems to like the idea.) And if that, how about universal access to Apple devices, the means by which more and more people access the Internet? Obama would fire up his team of lobbyists to get Washington to provide subsidies so that anyone up to four times the U.S. poverty level would get a tax credit to cover the purchase of an iPad along with either an iPod or iPhone — all financed with a (Steve) Jobs tax on millionaires and billionaires.
4. Bring the apps entrepreneurs in house. How can Obama run a company with all those innovative, independent developers doing who knows what? Too unpredictable. Too much a risk of creative destruction. Either they agree to join the ObamApple family or they’re out!
5. Create an iPad Price Administration Board (IPAB). Prices are too important to be left to the market forces like supply and demand. If ObamApple’s IPAB prices Apple products too highly and sales fall, time to get more subsidies from taxpayers. Even better, lobby either employers or government to actually pay for for Americans’ iPads, iPhones and iPods as a new fringe benefit exempt from income taxes.
And what if Obama’s great ideas caused a financial crisis at ObamApple? Well, such an important U.S. company would certainly be deserving of a government bailout or takeover. Then Obama could quit his CEO gig, get elected to president again — and run Apple from the Oval Office.
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