The speech the technology industry won’t hear from any candidate… but should

By Bradley Tusk  |  April 4, 2016

The issues that impact technology and startup entrepreneurs are issues nearly everyone, nearly every day. Issues like worker classification and national security have captured national attention, but not the eyes of presidential candidates. Not one of the 2016 presidential candidates stands out when it comes to ensuring that common sense technology and entrepreneurship policy will prevail. In the absence of these issues receiving the attention they deserve, what follows is the speech we can only hope one of the candidates will give:

If there’s one thing that everyone running for President from either party can agree upon (and there aren’t many) it’s that this has been a topsy turvy election season. And while we’ve had an endless number of debates, there’s been far too little serious discussion on far too many serious issues.

When you run for President, it shouldn’t be because you just want to fulfill your childhood ambitions or just get as much attention as possible. It should be because you have a vision for our country’s future and a clear plan on how to get us there.

Our nation has so many great qualities and so much to offer, but to me, our greatest resource is our talent. More successful people are born here, come here, work here and want to be here than any country at any time in history. And that always gives us a chance to succeed.

Today, so many of the truly smart, talented people — frequently young people — are working in technology. New ideas, new platforms, new approaches are what has always made our economy — and our country — grow. That’s true now more than ever.

The way we create millions of good new jobs — and do it without raising taxes and making the government bigger and bigger — is by doing everything we can to help the tech sector grow and succeed. Here’s how.

First, when smart, talented, energetic people come to this country to study at our universities, guess what happens? They want to stay — they want to create jobs here, build new technologies here, build new companies here. But we don’t let them.

Our current immigration laws force them to leave, no matter what they have to offer. We’re literally training people and then handing them over to go make money for other countries when we could be keeping those jobs right here at home. That’s like putting soldiers through boot camp and then shipping them off to fight for the enemy. It has to stop.

No matter what you think of the broader immigration issues at hand, we need more H1B visas and we need to make sure that anyone who’s been educated here as an engineer and wants to stay here can stay here. It’s that simple.

Second, we need to stop pretending this is 1957 and that throwing up roadblocks against the sharing economy is a good idea.

Candidates with 20th century mindsets will do everything possible to shut down companies like Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Instacart and so many others. They want to make sure everyone’s a full-time employee and even more important, they want to make sure everyone’s paying union dues, paycheck after paycheck after paycheck.

That world is gone. People don’t want to work like that anymore. They want flexibility. They want to choose when they work and where they work. They want to balance their home life with their work life. College students want to earn extra money to help pay for school. Senior citizens want to supplement their social security checks. And parents want the flexibility to be there for their kids.

This outdated vision makes sense for a society where only one parent works and everyone stays in the same job at the same company for 50 years. But that approach is insensitive to working mothers, it’s insensitive to seniors, to hard working students and so many others. It’s offensive. We need to treat our workers with more respect than that.

That’s why we’re going to create a new worker classification that allows people to remain independent contractors but still get health care, still get workers comp, still get disability, still receive training. We’re not going to force each state to deal with this on its own. We’re going to solve this problem ourselves. And it’s going to happen in the first year of my administration, working hand in hand with a Republican Congress.

Third, we need to stop subjecting new startups to attacks from so many special interests in cities and states all over the country.

People who love fantasy football shouldn’t see the games they love disrupted because casinos in each state give campaign donations to their Attorney General to go after fantasy sports.

Companies like Tesla and Solar City shouldn’t be prey to collusion amongst auto dealers or electric utilities. Companies like Uber and Lyft shouldn’t be prey to pay to play from taxi medallion owners. We need to use the tools of the federal government — the FTC, DOJ’s anti-trust division — to stop protectionism from killing jobs and stifling innovation.

Fourth, we have to anticipate the future. Self driving cars are coming. In fact, they’re almost already here. Rather than waiting until they’re ready to hit the road and then first start figuring out all of the rules and regulations around them, let’s get out ahead of something for once.

Let’s do it now – so that we can help the companies working on autonomous vehicles plan and so we can get the benefits of less traffic, fewer accidents, and more productivity as quickly as possible. The same thinking applies to drones. Like them or not, they’re here.

Let’s figure out how we regulate them and rather than dealing with 50 different sets of laws, let’s do it at the federal level so there’s a single set of rules that makes sense, everywhere.

Fifth, we have to level the playing field. Economies struggle and countries fail when they allow a handful of monopolies to control everything. Access to the internet may be the single most valuable commodity that exists today, and anyone who opposes net neutrality is basically saying “Let’s just give control of all information and all communication to a handful of big companies.”

I’m not for that. I don’t know why anyone would be. My FCC will prioritize net neutrality. We’re not going to make the consumer suffer just because a handful of well connected lobbyists throw fundraisers for politicians.

Sixth, we need a better trained, better educated workforce. Every politician talks about funding for STEM, but not many can outline a clear plan for how they plan to do it. Of course we need to do a better job teaching kids about science and math. Saying that doesn’t make you innovative. It just means you’re not totally clueless. We need to go a lot further.

In New York City, Mayor Mike Bloomberg realized that the one thing the local tech sector was missing was a steady supply of engineers. So he did something about it. He created a new college campus, right in the city, that just trains engineers. That will transform the city’s economy.

We need to do the same thing all over the country. That’s why I’m going to provide $25 billion in new funding to create 25 new engineering campuses across the United States. We’ll hold competitions for colleges and universities to receive funding to build engineering schools in cities across the nation and we’ll provide the funding they need for construction, for infrastructure, for labs, for professors, and for scholarships for students.

Seventh, we need to stop this war of words between Apple and the FBI and find the right balance between national security and privacy. The idea that it’s a binary choice is just wrong. We make choices and compromises every day that balance security and privacy.

We use EZ-Pass because we want to save time, even though we’re transmitting data about our travel. On the other hand, we go through metal detectors at airports because we want our planes to be safe.

That’s how life works – you make choices. This notion that everything has to be one way is absurd and we need to stop pretending otherwise. People have a right to digital privacy. It should be respected. And there are situations where privacy has to be balanced with security. If there’s a legitimate issue where we need information to stop a terrorist or catch a terrorist, then we should have access to that information. But if it’s just to help track down a low level offender, then we shouldn’t.

We need a President who doesn’t just engage in rhetoric or slogans or say whatever their pollster tells them to say. We need a President who can make smart decisions and smart choices. That’s what I have to offer.

And finally, the tech sector succeeds when our country succeeds. If our country is being run responsibly – if the economy is doing well and we’re not enmeshed in wars that don’t make any sense and we’re able to run a government that functions like it should, then everyone has a chance to do well.

So if you want a country that will function for all of us – if you want a Washington DC that is not not divided – then work with us. Help us win this election so we can give the people of our country the government they need, the government they deserve. We can do that together.. We can build this country to where it should be, where it can be. Together.

Thank you and God Bless America.

The above appeared in TechCrunch on April 4, 2016.