Trump shouldn’t cater to a tech industry that hates him

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On one level, the fact that President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner apparently both seek an olive branch to tech is unsurprising. The president’s campaign was, in many ways, a classic case of the kind of disruptive innovation that the sector thrives on: so much so that Peter Thiel, one of the fathers of disruptive innovation, became a major campaign confidante for the president and even spoke at the RNC. The phrase “move fast and break things” has been noted as applying with equal force to Facebook and to the White House’s burgeoning political operation as envisioned by Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. In theory, an industry and a political vision that work in such similar ways should have a lot to learn from each other.

In theory. But as with most theoretical alliances, the devil is in the details, and while Trump might have adopted the methods of tech to reach the White House, this should in no way be confused with an idea that he and tech can work as allies. Barring major changes on the part of either party, they almost certainly cannot.

{mosads}Witness a story in last week’s Washington Post revealing that not only some new tech startups, but Facebook itself, have begun giving employees paid time off to protest Trump’s administration. The grounds for this unprecedented private subsidy of political sabotage? Why, nothing other than the administration’s immigration policy on high skilled workers.


Today’s tech sector dislikes paying for labor almost as much as it dislikes free speech and living by the rule of law. But unlike a lot of other wage grubbing industries, tech relies on high skilled workers with specialized knowledge, particularly in the realm of computer science. Americans with expertise in that field understandably demand to be paid a wage that is commensurate with the amount they invested to gain the expertise in question, and to no one’s surprise, such a wage is usually quite high.

So what’s a tech CEO trying to impress a Hollywood starlet with ostentatious displays of wealth to do? Hire cheaper programming talent from the third world, of course. Except, of course, the Trump administration has had the gall to care about making sure American workers – including those who’ve taken out large government-backed loans to become proficient in computer science – don’t get the shaft. So naturally, our poor tech CEO has to oppose Trump, and what better way to do so while burnishing their progressive credentials than by giving their employees paid time off to protest the administration, all in the hope that those protests will change policy so that those very employees can be replaced by cheap labor from overseas?

Tech can be forgiven its self-interest, though the hypocrisy is palpable. But just because they’re acting in an economically rational manner does not mean that Trump should trust the group any farther than he can throw them. Granted, turning to such bastions of economic lawlessness as Ginni Rometty of IBM, or Elon Musk of Tesla, may simply be a clever act to exploit their knowledge. But it is easy to imagine Jared Kushner in particular being bewitched by the glamour of the tech community’s glittering, youthful sheen, and as Kushner goes, so often does the president go.

Bottom line: Trump should not let his operation’s superficial resemblance to a tech startup, nor his friendliness with dissident techies like Peter Thiel, blind him to the economic realities that make confrontations with the tech sector unavoidable. Nor should he expect an industry that is hostile by the very nature of its cultural background to suddenly roll over and become friendly with the right amount of White House access. Someone is going to have to change in the endless dance between the White House and the tech sector. It is essential both for the rule of law and for our system of self-government that those in tech be the first to blink. 

Mytheos Holt (@MytheosHolt) is a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty. He previously worked as a speechwriter for Sen. John Barrasso.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Jared Kushner John Barrasso Mytheos Holt Peter Thiel Technology

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