As I was listening to the coverage of Barack Obama’s frankly stunning statement that people who build businesses not actually owning them and I started to think about Steve Jobs. I’m currently working my way through Walter Isaacson’s biography (it’s excellent) and I’m up to the release of the Apple II. Jobs’s background is fascinating. He grew up in the Santa Clara Valley in the shadow of San Francisco during the 1970s. To say Jobs was a hippie would be an understatement. He spent his youth searching Eastern mysticism, walking around barefoot, and barely attending hyper-liberal Reed College in Portland. Frankly, Jobs was a Buddhist tramp. Yet from the early age, he understood capitalism. While he worked to find the perfect vegan diet and working at night at Atari (because his hygiene and attitude made working during the day with others impossible), Jobs was always tinkering and always trying to make money.
The most interesting part of the early Jobs story that struck me when I heard Obama’s words was about the first Apple. It wasn’t so much a computer as it was circuitry and schematics and hardware for hobbyists and techies to put together and run. Steve Wozniak was a good-hearted son of Santa Clara whose liberal beliefs in fairness gave him the instinct to simply give away his design. Woz was the main hardware man of this partnership while Jobs was salesman/tinkerer/idea man. Woz felt everyone should have access to this kind of thing. Jobs did not. He understood not only what he had but also what our country is all about. Jobs understood that to build a business you had to have something of value. His product was that value and he knew how to build something around it. It took a lot of people to help, for sure, but would Barack Obama argue that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple?
What is incomprehensible to me is that someone like Jobs, who in the 1970s went to job interviews without shoes on, bathed irregularly, and searched for Zen in India for seven months; understood capitalism and the good that can come from it. Jobs worked hard to build his company, put his genius towards a positive goal, and created a company that produced products that sustainably helped people. There is little arguing Jobs is a liberal, yet he understands America’s system. The President does not. And for the record, I’m not one of those conservatives who choke on sentences like Obama hates America or he wants to destroy America. I don’t believe that at all. I think Barack Obama loves America, but his vision based on his life experience has taught him that America is at its best when the government is at its biggest and most active. As a community organizer, his organizations relied on federal money, as does professional academia. When Republicans and conservatives sputter out “he hates America,” Americans who don’t believe that simply roll their eyes.
Even more eye-rolling is the Romney campaign. They are incapable of telling their story, instead they nit-pick and demand apologies, with countless senatorial and gubernatorial flaks uttering the same plea. The problem is that Mitt Romney is the exact same as Barack Obama, just the other side of the coin. Both attended fancy prep schools, both went to Ivy League Schools; both never worked a day in a real job. Mitt Romney’s problem is his business background is not one like Steve Jobs. Mitt Romney’s jobs was to takeover companies and do whatever it took to keep them in business or give strategic advice and money to start-ups. He never created anything; instead he was the gardener who nurtured growing vines. Some died, some lived, and it was all up to the market. The Obama campaigns demagoguery of private equity is shocking and repugnant. Companies would not exist without the Bain Capitals of the world. Yet Romney and his team, running for political office since 1994, have yet to be able to explain his work. They are amateurs, greased forward in our politics only by his money.
Everything that is wrong with our politics is represented by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. One is an entitled life-long ward of the state and the other is a hyper-wealthy businessman whom neither had to start anything from scratch in their lives. We aren’t getting real answers to our real problems because we have two presidential candidates who don’t even understand what our real problems are so they would have no idea what our real answers are. To make matters worse, Congress has ceased being an independent branch of government. Instead it’s politically polarized between pro-President and anti-President, reason goes out the door because it’s full of congressmen and senators begging for the money at the President’s disposal and an opposition begging for the money from donors who want that President out. There is no room for independent thought anymore. We are a control ruled by unserious men. And unlike the unserious men of the past, we have descended to an era of unserious men who have no idea what it’s like to be an average American. I honestly cannot think of any time in modern history when two candidates like this were running against each other.