Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Blames iPads For Unemployment

There really are no words:

On Friday, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) addressed the United States’s current unemployment crisis and claimed the iPad was “probably responsible for eliminating thousands of American jobs.”

Jackson, himself an iPad owner, expanded on his statement by pointing to the recent bankruptcy of Borders Books.

“Why do you need to go to Borders anymore? Why do you need to go to Barnes and Noble? Just buy an iPad and download your book, download your newspaper, download your magazine,” the Congressman said.

He also cited Chicago State University’s initiative to replace textbooks with iPads for freshman students. Jackson stated that the goal of the University was to create a “textbookless campus within four years.”

“What becomes of publishing companies and publishing company jobs?” Jackson asked the House. “What becomes of bookstores and librarians and all of the jobs associated with paper? Well, in the not-too-distant future, such jobs simply won’t exist.”

I am reminded of Bastiat’s famous Candle makers Petition to the French Parliament:

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us [1].

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights, and blinds — in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

Be good enough, honourable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.

First, if you shut off as much as possible all access to natural light, and thereby create a need for artificial light, what industry in France will not ultimately be encouraged?

Ironically, it was only a month ago that Jackson was praising the iPad on the floor of Congress. Then again, one really should expect intellectual consistence from a Congressman.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Vast Variety says:

    I simply refuse to ever own a single piece of hardware produced by Apple; but blaming the unemployment on the iPad is about as nuts as electing Donald Trump to be president.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    Does the man not know how heavy multiple textbooks can be? I’m thrilled by a “bookless” campus, something I’ve been hoping to see for years.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Actually, I think he has a point. If we restored the economy to what it was in, say, 1700, unemployment would be virtually unknown. Most of the population would be subsistence farmers. We’d be a lot poorer, do real physical labor (that makes much of today’s physical labor look like a day at the beach), our kids and wives would die young.

  4. Southern Hoosier says:

    And along with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) there is

    Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is afraid that the U.S. Territory of Guam is going to “tip over and capsize” due to overpopulation.

    Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) asked for during a visit to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories in late 2005. Here it is; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planting the American Flag on Mars in 1969 during the Apollo 11 Mars Mission to the Red Planet:

    Have to love the Democrats for electing people like these to run the country. At least Alvin Green (D-SC) didn’t get elected.

  5. Southern Hoosier says:

    Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) failed to realized the impact the iPad had on global warming. Think of all the trees being saved from being turned into paper. Think of all the fossil fuel being saved by not transporting heavy books and heating and cooling Borders and other now closed book stores, As an added bonus the industrial waste from manufacturing iPads stays in China.

  6. Tano says:

    Sorry Doug, but as this post stands, it is an utter FAIL.

    Don’t get me wrong – I am not dismissing the possibility that Jackson might have said something stupid, or might have some underlying stupid point he was driving – but you haven’t shown any of that here. Given the quote that you present, I see nothing whatsoever wrong with what Jackson said. In fact, it seems quite obvious.

    That the IPad, Kindle etc are helping to make the paper publishing industry extinct is hardly some absurd notion. That technology in general is responsible for putting lots of people out of work is also simply an obvious truth.

    There is nothing that Jackson said, in the clip you supply, that indicates he thinks that this process of technological progress should be stopped, or slowed down or that the government should, in any way, interfere with it. Although we do not see his entire speech here, it seems pretty clear that the point he is trying to make is that the Congress should do something to help the unemployment problem in America. He doesn’t specify what that is, but one can assume he is referring to the typical sorts of training programs, unemployment extensions, and gov’t investment in emerging industries that are the standard fare of Dems.

    It is not ironic that he was praising the IPad earlier. In fact, he essentially is praising it in this clip – he certainly freely admits to owning one and enjoying it. Where do you get this notion that you seem to have that he is making an argument against the IPad, or against technology.

    What exactly are you saying anyway?

  7. Tano says:

    Actually, I think he has a point.

    Perhaps you could explain how you conclude what his point is, based on what he says in this clip? I see nothing whatsoever that indicates that he is opposed to technological progress – he merely seems to be making an argument for taking care of those who suffer dislocation because of the process.

    Or is this just some communal mindless rant that I have stumbled into – where the rules are that everyone makes fun of Jackson and no one actually listens to what he said?

  8. Southern Hoosier says:

    I have a Nook, but at 3 a.m. when you can’t sleep, there is nothing better than the feel of a good book in you lap to help you sleep.

  9. Southern Hoosier says:

    Tano says: Monday, April 18, 2011 at 22:21 Or is this just some communal mindless rant that I have stumbled into – where the rules are that everyone makes fun of Jackson and no one actually listens to what he said?

    I just like making fun of politicians and liberals, regardless of what they say. Some are just easier than others.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    Sure, Tano. I think his point is that there are losers as well as winners in technological progress and change which I think is correct as far as it goes. However, I think it’s also fair game to point out that the benefits of technological change have far outweighed the costs.

  11. Tano says:

    I think it’s also fair game to point out that the benefits of technological change have far outweighed the costs.

    But that is hardly what the comments in this post have focussed on. Jackson was not delivering a lecture on all the issues surrounding technology. He was arguing, quite legitimately, that the onward march of technology is continuing to lead to actual human individuals being left in its wake – people who become unemployed and cannot instantly transition to jobs in new industries. And that the government should do something to help them, or should have a larger policy of helping new job creation.
    One can agree or not with this sentiment, but it is nothing like what is being charged here – some ridiculous stand worthy of ridicule.

  12. TG Chicago says:

    However, I think it’s also fair game to point out that the benefits of technological change have far outweighed the costs.

    Easy for you to say. I gather you didn’t work at Borders. Or Blockbuster. Or Gourmet Magazine.

    Are you saying that it’s impossible for a technological advancement to have a net negative impact on employment?

    If you can prove that the iPod (or e-readers generally) has had a positive impact on US employment, please do. If not, then please admit that what Senate Candidate No.5 said here really wasn’t as risible as advertised.