Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

An Obama shout-out for Steve Jobs

December 23, 2010: 7:19 AM ET

Cites Apple's CEO as an exemplar of the American Dream

President Obama briefing the press Wednesday. Credit: whitehouse.gov

"We celebrate wealth," said President Obama in his year-end press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

"We celebrate somebody like a Steve Jobs, who has created two or three different revolutionary products. We expect that person to be rich, and that's a good thing. We want that incentive. That's part of the free market."

Obama, who went out of his way to schedule a one-on-one with Apple's (AAPL) CEO during his fund-raising swing through Silicon Valley in October, was responding to a question about whether there is a divide between middle-class and wealthy Americans.

His answer had it both ways. Yes, the divide between the rich and the middle class is wider than any time since the Roaring Twenties. And yes, most folks haven't seen an increase in real income in a decade.

But, he added, "something that's always been the greatest strength of America is a thriving, booming middle class, where everybody has got a shot at the American Dream. And that should be our goal. That should be what we're focused on. How are we creating opportunity for everybody?"

For people like Steve Jobs.

The full text of his answer is copied below the fold. Meanwhile, the Jobs shout-out is getting some blowback in the blogosphere. Take, for example, the reaction of FudZilla's Nick Farrell:

"So basically what the American dream is to be someone who repackages cheap components in foreign parts using cut price labour and flog it at greatly inflated prices back home. It is part of the American dream to earn cash flogging products with a limited shelf life and make your employees lives a nightmare with low wages and regular inquisitions to see if you are talking to the media.

"Apparently it is also part of the American dream to want to control others and create a cargo cult of personality where reality is out to lunch. If Americans are dreaming that, it is fairly clear why ultimately its Empire is doomed."

The full text of Obama's Steve Jobs' remarks:

CBS's Mark Knoller: Sir, is there a divide between middle-class and wealthy Americans?

THE PRESIDENT: I think middle-class folks would confirm what the statistics say, which is that they have not seen a real increase in their incomes in a decade, while their costs have skyrocketed. That's just a fact.

What is also a fact is that people in the top 1 percent, people in the top 1/10th of 1 percent, or 1/100th of 1 percent have a larger share of income and wealth than any time since the 1920s. Those are just facts. That's not a feeling on the part of Democrats. Those are facts.

And something that's always been the greatest strength of America is a thriving, booming middle class, where everybody has got a shot at the American Dream. And that should be our goal. That should be what we're focused on. How are we creating opportunity for everybody? So that we celebrate wealth. We celebrate somebody like a Steve Jobs, who has created two or three different revolutionary products. We expect that person to be rich, and that's a good thing. We want that incentive. That's part of the free market.

But we also want to make sure that those of us who have been extraordinarily fortunate, that we're contributing to the larger American community so that a whole bunch of other kids coming up are doing well. And that means schools that work and infrastructure like roads and airports that function, and it means colleges and universities that teach and aren't restricted to just people who can afford it but are open to anybody with talent and a willingness to work. And that's going to be I think part of the conversation that we've got to have over the next couple years. (source)

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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