There are a couple of sectors that have largely been bypassed by the Trump rally this week. Hospital stocks are one, with the prospect of Obamacare being unwound.
Tech is another. Most of the biggies lost ground, in part because of the things President-elect Donald Trump has said about some of the tech sectors’ biggest names — Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos among them. But they also lost ground in part because of what Donald Rumsfeld would call unknown unknowns — the incoming administration’s tech policies.
We talked with senior tech correspondent Molly Wood about tech policies under a Trump administration.
So what do we know about President-elect Trump’s proposed policies for the tech industry?
We know next to nothing. In fact, the plan for the first 100 days that is up on the Trump campaign website says nothing about technology. I think there’s one line about technical education in a section about schools. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which is a non-partisan think tank, have done their best to try to cobble together what might be a bit of tech policy, and mostly, to be honest, it centers around how the business policies might affect the tech industry, specifically around lowering taxes and, of course, immigration policy, and as for the rest of it, it’s anybody’s guess.
What will happen to the H-1B visas that many tech companies use to hire skilled workers from outside the U.S.?
Silicon Valley is extremely concerned about the H-1B visa program. And Donald Trump has said that it is an excuse for people in the valley to hire outside workers and not American workers. But he has not, and is very unlikely, to implement any sort of corresponding funding for technical education in this country, STEM education. He maintains that we graduate more than enough people in fields of technology that should be able to fill those jobs.
Where does innovation in the tech industry go when we literally don’t know what the Trump administration’s tech policy will be?
I think you could argue that it’s an opportunity to innovate around that uncertainty, or to try to set an agenda to get in his ear quickly, and convince him, for one thing, that these issues are important. I think that what Silicon Valley’s really worried about is that this has been a really vibrant sector of our economy, and that technology touches every single part of every other business. It is integral to conversations about globalization, to conversations about job growth, because so many of the jobs that the Trump administration is talking about trying to create or bring home are jobs that have been or will very soon be automated. So I think that it’s an opportunity for Silicon Valley, if it can stop the freak out, to say, “How can we help shape this agenda in a positive way? Because that’s what we do.”
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