The January 22, 2012 NYT article about Apple's jobs, along with Davidson's piece in The Atlantic about automated factories, point the way to a reality that will soon engulf China and other developing nations as much as it has engulfed the US. That reality is that, as with farming, we can now manufacture whatever we want with a very small fraction of the working population. Even the prescient Obama is not coming to grips with this.
I suggest that instead of trying to emulate what many others can do more inexpensively and just as well, instead of pushing to return to a manufacturing base, we as a nation should look to what we do better than anyone else: namely, invent and innovate. We have the cultural orientation, the employment flexibility, the institutional base, and the devotion to freedom of action that foster innovation, and by paying careful attention to the policies that inhibit invention and innovation we can build on those capabilities. We also have the wealth to spend on the necessary education.
Can innovation alone provide work for all? Quite possibly. Although Apple employs few people in the US, its enormous profits support a vast amount of labor providing entertainment, culture, education, and other services to those employees and to Apple's happy stockholders. To properly measure the economic impact of our innovators, we need to count those service providers who depend on the high salaries and profits of innovation. After all, what is America's largest industry? Entertainment.