Apple's decision to buy back stock and pay a dividend seems very unApple-like. It was almost predictable in its narrow scope.
It was something an accountant might have suggested. Where else might have the company committed its money? Here are ten suggestions that, hopefully, offer a little more imaginative scope to the use of such vast wealth.
1. DEDICATE THE MONEY TO OUTER SPACE. Given that NASA has fallen on very hard times, Apple could have offered this money in an attempt to get ahead of Newt Gingrich, who, I understand, is ready to set up a pleasant gray homestead on the moon.
2. BUY FACEBOOK. Oh, I know that some people think Facebook is worth more than that. But a simple buyout would alleviate all the pressure and burdens associated with its IPO while fully educating Facebook on the Apple way. Which, happily, does include a splendidly draconian definition of privacy.
3. BUILD 16 BRIDGES. I know that some bridges cost more than others, so I'm taking this estimate from the cost of the new Bay Bridge being built between San Francisco and the East Bay. Apple has lately prided itself on all of the jobs it has created, so there would surely be far more here. And all of them would be in the U.S.
4. BUILD A HIGH-SPEED TRAIN NETWORK IN CALIFORNIA. Apple has always been into making things go more quickly. For us in California, it seems that transport can sometimes go rather slowly. How can this vast state have no high-speed rail network when France prides itself on hers? The $100 billion could have covered this nicely. Moreover, Apple's Scott Forstall is said to be a big fan of "American Idol", so this train would help him get to live shows more quickly.
5.MOVE SOME PRODUCTION BACK TO THE U.S. Oh, I know this is slightly controversial. Still, we are talking about $100 billion here and the Financial Times tells me that Apple represents 36 percent of the total increase of corporate cash since 2009. Because I'm an idealist and America is, well, struggling a little, you'd think this might have crossed someone's mind. Even if it's someone in Detroit.
6. PAY OFF THE PIRATES. I was moved to discover that, according to U.S. Representative Lamar Smith, the U.S loses a huge amount every year because of counterfeiting and piracy. You'll never guess how much. Yes, $100 billion. If Apple paid off the pirates American businesses would all be wealthy again. Allegedly.
7. SOLVE THE ILLEGAL ALIEN PROBLEM. It's astonishing how, when you search for things to spend $100 billion on, all sorts of worthy causes appear. For here I have found a clip from CNN that offered the interesting figure that illegal aliens cost the U.S. taxpayer $100 billion. It's a magical and revolutionary figure, it seems. So here's another issue that Apple could solve with just one signature on a check.
8. CURE AMERICA'S OBESITY PROBLEM. Perhaps you might be seeing a pattern here. However unbelievable it might seem, $100 billion seems to be the most important figure in American society. For here I present evidence that excessively large people are costing the nation, yes, $100 billion. Whom can one blame for a crisis is which 65 percent of Americans are said to be overweight? Why, according to the Wall Street Journal, your fellow workers are to blame. For they are stuffing you with cake. With $100 billion, Apple could stuff them with apples.
10. GIVE IT ALL TO APPLE EMPLOYEES. Please imagine if you had spent much of your life working under enormous pressure, rarely seeing your family, being berated by your bosses, often unable to talk about your work with friends, wearing a blue t-shirt with a corporate logo, explaining to the naive over-40s why they can't remove the battery from their laptop or simply cleaning store displays to keep them shiny. Wouldn't you like a cash bonus once in a while? In this case, with one stroke of generosity, Apple would see which of its employees are utterly dedicated to the cause and which are just doing it for the money.