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Since its inception, liberals have supported Apple, Inc. loyally. But, the company has been a bad actor for many years without losing any of its standing. From worker exploitation to tax evasion, its reputation remains shiny. The latest news that Koch Industries has bought a major supplier for Apple has got to make some liberals take pause.

For decades, liberals have proudly stood by Apple, Inc. In the early days of the company post-1984, it represented the vanguard of high quality computers. If you could afford one, it was self-evident that it was better computer when compared to PCs which were notorious for crashing. Its recurring flaw was the difficulty of designing software for it, but by this point in time, the company and the computers had a following. One of the characteristics of that following was that it included a lot of liberals. The company presented itself as the alternative to conformity, especially following their infamous “Big Brother” commercial, and liberals have always been proudly non-conformist. They want to improve the status quo, progress beyond the limitations of the past, and seek alternatives to going along with the crowd. So, even as the company experienced ups and downs over the decades since its founding, liberals have been stalwart supporters.

There is no question the company has been innovative. How many people remember the clumsy, bulky Walkman replaced with the sleek iPod which could carry hundreds of songs, instead of just playing the radio or a single CD or cassette tape?  The advent of CDs made the Walkman even more bulky and awkward. But, the iPod made the Walkman obsolete. The library of songs available at iTunes, with an original cost of less than a dollar, was a music collector’s dream. The lure of Apple products just kept on. The iPhone broke new ground with its touch screen, a host of features ranging from music to video recording, and an endless supply of applications. The iPad was equally enticing: lightweight, potentially capable of replacing a laptop under many circumstances, and again, there are all of those applications. It is easy to see why the company continues to have millions of fans.

However, the past few years have revealed the nasty underbelly of the company. It started with the FoxConn suicides. Aside from the shamefulness of moving jobs overseas to exploit low-wage workers in communist countries (for which Apple gets a pass, since “everyone’s doing it), the news that Apple’s supplier of iPhones was such a miserable place to work that people repeatedly ended their lives by jumping out the windows the factory should have given American consumers pause. But, we’re good at compartmentalizing, and the reaction seemed to be, “Well, that’s awful. Something should be done about it, but I’m not giving up my Apple products.” The workers were too far away and too foreign to even raise the specter of a boycott. FoxConn promised to raise the salary of workers by 70% (how low salaries must have been to make such an increase possible). Better working conditions were also promised, but Apple eventually decided to move to another supplier anyway.

That’s when it got worse. A group called, China Labor Watch, announced in late July 2013 that Apple’s new supplier is “even worse than FoxConn.” Pegatron, the new supplier, employs 70,000 workers. According to China Labor Watch, the company has health and safety violations, poor living conditions in dorms, and coercion of workers by withholding their pay or identity cards. Apple promised to investigate, but one wonders why a multi-billion dollar corporation that sells so much of its market share to Americans can’t stop exploiting workers and won’t consider moving its operations back to employ American workers. Oh yes, profits. Because that’s all that matters. Doesn’t sound very non-conformist.

This year came a new revelation about the extent to which Apple is willing to shirk corporate responsibility, lack appreciation, and show disdain for the American people who make it so rich. Avoiding paying taxes on $74 billion dollars in profits by setting up shell companies in Ireland may not be illegal, but it is shady, underhanded, and just plain heinous.  The country is shutting down programs for the poor, for people with cancer, and making cuts to scientific research, but at least Apple didn’t have to part with any money for taxes. Even company co-founder, Steve Wozniak was appalled at what the company had done, and spoke out against the tax practices as “unethical.” In the category of “that’s rich,” Apple avoided paying taxes that would have helped fund education, only to turn around and criticize the country for not having enough well-trained workers.

However, the final nail in the coffin for liberal support of Apple should come with the announcement this month that the Koch brothers have now purchased a key supplier for Apple products. This means every time you invest your money into an Apple product, the multi-billionaires are saying, “Ka-ching.” This supplier, Molex, has 41 plants in 15 countries where they manufacture electronics components, and brings in $3.62 billion a year. The Koch brothers just bought the company for $7.2 billion dollars. Daniel Gross of the Daily Beast writes,

“Consumers tend to care that things are reasonably priced, that they work, and that they look cool. So I wouldn’t expect a boycott. In fact, Koch Industries’ acquisition of a major Apple supplier may reinforce Apple’s status as a hipster brand. Irony is a key component of the hipster aesthetic. And what could be more ironic than liberals funding Koch Industries?”
The sad thing is, he’s probably right. There will be no change in shopping habits based on the 1) exploitation of workers, 2) tax avoidance, or 3) support of Koch brothers.  It is true that competitors have produced their own touchscreen phones and tablets, often at lower prices, and with a greater capacity for programmers to create applications. Unfortunately, all of these competitors do the same nasty things that Apple does, so there is no escaping the corporate malfeasance. But, Apple doesn’t deserve to be seen as the “cool” brand by liberals. If we stuck to our principles, it would be time for liberals to stop giving Apple a pass.

11:27 AM PT: Based on the comments, there were clearly a lot of liberals who squirmed when their principles were put to the test. Rather than focus even on the most egregious, inexcusable action by Apple: using a more exploitative worker factory than it did even when it used FoxxConn, people rushed to make excuses for the company. Clearly, liberals won't be exerting any pressure on the company anytime soon to make change. But, that's because Apple gets a pass. Instead of focusing on their bad behavior, let's pick at whether liberals really use Apples or whether Wozniak really thinks Apple is wrong to pay so little in taxes, because we don't like the links provided. Those are pressing issues. Exploited workers and tax havens...Pffft. Who cares about that?

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