The last thing Silicon Valley needed was interference from Washington. I think it’s clear that that’s one of the reasons why the tech elite backed the status quo candidate, Hillary Clinton, and denounced Donald Trump as a would-be disaster for innovation. Oblivious to the needs of working class Americans, they talked big, bet big, and lost big.
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Not that Trump treated them kindly. On the contrary, he complained that Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post to keep the government off Amazon’s back on antitrust and tax issues. He chided Apple CEO Tim Cook over offshoring jobs and sided with the FBI over his refusal to unlock an iPhone owned by a terrorist.
And now, Bezos and Cook are supposed to sit around a conference room table sipping Starbucks and having a friendly chat with the man they desperately wanted to keep out of the White House. One word: Awkward.
ICYMI, a who’s who of tech titans were invited to attend a summit Wednesday with the President-elect. Top executives of Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and others are expected to attend. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on a gold-painted wall at Trump Tower. There’ll be fireworks for sure, at least that’s what you’d expect.
Strangely enough, I don’t think that’s going to happen. While the media can’t seem to stop themselves from repeatedly hyping the heated rhetoric of a hotly contested campaign, I think the tech bosses will soon learn that Trump is not the big bad boogeyman he’s been made out to be.
If everyone shows up with an open mind and the interests of the American people at heart, they’ll come to realize there’s far more that unites them than divides them.
The cornerstone of Trumponomics is lower taxes, fewer regulations and better trade deals. By lowering barriers to business, Trump’s economic plan will benefit big corporations, small businesses and the American people alike. And that means it’ll be good for the tech industry and its customers.
Simplifying and lowering the corporate tax rate to a flat 15% with a one-time repatriation tax of 10% is itself a cause for celebration. Apple alone has more than $200 billion in capital parked offshore. If it brought even half of that back, imagine what a boon it could be – especially if the tech giant reinvested some of it in U.S. manufacturing.
Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz said in a statement, “I plan to tell the president-elect that we are with him and will help in any way we can. If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation and negotiate better trade deals, the U.S. technology industry will be stronger and more competitive than ever.” Now that’s the right attitude.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect everyone to lock arms and sing Kumbaya. There are legitimate concerns on both sides. But I do see this as an opportunity for Trump to clarify some of his incendiary campaign rhetoric, discuss major policy initiatives and listen to the perspective of some of the nation’s most powerful leaders.
The stickiest issue is likely to be immigration. Trump means to seal the border, deport or imprison felons who are here illegally and return a chaotic system to the rule of law. But the notion of rounding up and deporting millions of illegal immigrants rubs left-leaning coastal elites the wrong way. And the tech industry depends on a steady influx of immigrants through the H1-B visa program.
Then there’s the question of free trade. Trump has threatened to slap a tariff on Chinese imports if Beijing doesn’t start playing fair. China countered with its own threat to make it harder for Apple and Detroit automakers to reach its growing middle class. That’s got to be unsettling for Cook et al, to say the least.
Some say that tech leaders are looking for stability. That may come eventually, but not on Wednesday. If the former real-estate mogul stands by his campaign promises, Trump plans to upend a dysfunctional system that’s been run by incompetent leaders for far too long. And the price of change is always instability, at least for a time.
The great irony is that entrepreneurs whose success was built on disrupting markets can’t see that the status quo they seek to maintain is not working for working class Americans who also happen to be their customers. Funny that it falls on Trump to open their eyes and see their own users in a new light. Godspeed.