From Joel Kotkin at newgeography.com AMERICA’S NEW OLIGARCHS—FWD.US AND SILICON VALLEY’S SHADY 1 PERCENTERS
Perversely, the small number of jobs—mostly clustered in Silicon Valley—created by tech companies has helped its moguls avoid public scrutiny. Google employs 50,000, Facebook 4,600, and Twitter less than 1,000 domestic workers. In contrast, GM employs 200,000, Ford 164,000, and Exxon over 100,000. Put another way, Google, with a market cap of $215 billion, is about five times larger than GM yet has just one fourth as many workers.
This is an equation that defines inequality: more and more wealth concentrated in fewer hands and benefiting fewer workers.
While Facebook and Twitter have little role in the material economy, Apple, which continues to collect the bulk of its profit from physical goods—computers, iPads, iPhones and so on—has outsourced nearly all of its manufacturing to foreign companies like Foxconn that employ workers, often in appalling conditions, in China and elsewhere. About 700,000 people work on Apple’s physical products for subcontractors, according to the New York Times, but almost none of them are in the U.S. “The jobs aren’t coming back,” Jobs bluntly told President Obama at a 2011 dinner in Silicon Valley.
Tech oligarchs control portions of their companies that would turn oilmen or auto executives green with envy. The largest single stockholder at Exxon, CEO and chairman Rex Tillerson, controls .04 percent of its stock. No direct shareholder owns as much as 1 percent of GM or Ford Motors. In contrast, Mark Zuckerberg’s 29.3 percent stake in Facebook is worth $9.8 billion. Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt control roughly two thirds of the voting stock in Google. Brin and Page are worth over $20 billion each. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the third richest man in America, owns just under 23 percent of his company, worth $41 billion. Bill Gates, who’s semi-retired from Microsoft, is worth a cool $66 billion and still controls 7 percent of his firm.
The concentration of such vast wealth in so few hands mirrors the market dominance of some of the companies generating it. Google and Apple provide almost 90 percent of the operating systemsfor smart phones. Over half of Americans and Canadians and 60 percent of Europeans use Facebook. Those numbers dwarf the market share of the auto Big Five—GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda—none of whom control much more than a fifth of the U.S. market. Even the oil-and-gas business, associated with oligopoly from the days of John Rockefeller, is more competitive; the world’s top 10 oil companies collectively account for just 40 percent of the world’s production.