Phil Beauregard and Rob May are good friends with much in common. They’ve started and sold companies, invested in deals together, and share similar views on many topics. One thing they agree on: The presidential campaign has been profoundly disappointing, with the major-party candidates espousing positions they simply cannot support. But as they analyze which candidate would be best for the entrepreneurial community that is so important to them, they come to different conclusions. In the commentaries below, Beauregard, an independent who has voted Republican his whole life, explains why he will not back GOP nominee Donald Trump, and Libertarian-leaning May explains why he will not back Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Philip H. Beauregard:
This presidential election certainly has been unique. There’s no refuting that. It’s as polarizing a time as I can remember, and the stakes are as high as ever. But instead of trying to boil the ocean and argue who the best (or least-worst) candidate is and what her (sorry) election to commander in chief would mean for the future of our existence, I’d rather take a more manageable bite as it pertains to the world of startup entrepreneurship.
In particular, I’d like to discuss what a Donald Trump presidency would look like for those toiling away at building companies from the ground up.
It would look like the eighth concentric circle of hell.
Let me explain, before you cry communism and revel in the virtues of Adam Smith — because in large part I am a classically trained, invisible-hand, true conservative when it comes to micro- and macroeconomic theory. But in no way can I be convinced that Donald Trump would leave “we the startupers” in better shape than Hillary Clinton. A few reasons why:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. — Emma Lazarus
Granting screened and legal immigration status to those who requested it would add an estimated 150,000 jobs per annum, and $1 trillion to the GDP, according to the Center for American Progress. As of March 2016, more than 50 percent of startups valued at $1 billion or more were started by immigrants, data from the National Foundation for American Policy show.
Corporate giants young and old, including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, have long clamored for the increase of available H-1B visas in order to breathe life into the economy.
Donald Trump wants to build a physical and metaphysical wall. He has consistently supported legislation that limits the granting of H-1B visas. Shooting the elephant here, Donald Trump is inarguably anti-immigrant. With him as president, you no longer have the PayPals, Teslas, SpaceXs, and future vacations to Mars (Elon Musk). You don’t have Google (Sergey Brin). You don’t have the telephone, the clothes you’re wearing, computers, rockets, toothpaste, the medicine you need to survive. Simply put, immigrants have founded and shaped our country. They need be able to continue to do so.
Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. — Edward Everett
There is nothing more important to entrepreneurship than the formulation and fortification of the curious mind. Innovation and disruption live off the oxygen that a good education provides.
Donald Trump has strongly defended his proposal to cut the $73 billion education budget — the same budget that provides critical aid to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, programs that abet first-time business founders, and most importantly general education standards.
His policies could threaten to eliminate an estimated 490,000 teaching jobs, according to the Center for American Progress Fund. That’s 14 percent of public school educators. Let that sink in for a minute.
Can we all just get along? — Rodney King
There’s little doubt that Trump is a powder keg. Aside from a few nations that would stand to gain from his presidency (Russia, North Korea, any country that tells him he’s handsome), most would view his trade policy as downright hostile. China and Mexico wouldn’t appreciate the high tariffs he plans to impose. His deficit-elimination policy is riddled with macroeconomic fallacies. Consumer costs, production costs, and interest rates would rise. The stock market would fall. Lenders and venture capitalists would tighten their wallets, and small businesses that rely on their capital would be hurt the most.
Hillary Clinton is not perfect, but Trump is the worst candidate in recent memory as it pertains to startup growth.
Phil Beauregard is an entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist from Boston.
Entrepreneurship is a large chunk of the Massachusetts economy. With the election drawing near, it is important for us to ask ourselves what a likely Hillary Clinton win will mean for the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem. While there are some things to like in Clinton’s plans — automatic permanent resident status for immigrants earning graduate degrees, for example, and deferring of student loan payments for young entrepreneurs — there are also some things to be worried about. Here are my top concerns, as an entrepreneur, under a Clinton presidency.
Increase in government debt
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that a Clinton presidency would increase the federal debt to 86 percent of GDP, and we all know that presidents almost always perform worse on government debt once in office, compared to their campaign promises. We can’t keep up this level of fiscal irresponsibility as a society.
Investors love government debt because it is safe. When government debt isn’t an investment option, those funds are invested in other places, and much finds its way into the private sector, which ultimately benefits small businesses of all kinds, including technology startups. When government debt grows, a large part of the budget every year goes to pay interest on the national debt. That is money that can’t be invested in things that increase productivity and really drive economic growth.
Support for Net neutrality
Clinton’s position supporting Net neutrality is problematic for tech startups. By treating the Internet as a public utility, we suffer from extra regulation that offers no advantage to startups. Clinton has fallen for the fallacious argument that incumbents would somehow stamp out startups if Net neutrality isn’t in place. But the truth is, large incumbents like Netflix that use massive amounts of bandwidth don’t have to pay extra costs to compensate for the marginal slowdown the whole system could receive as a result of their traffic. Net neutrality is a benefit to the big guys that was sold to politicians as a benefit to the small guys. Clinton should stand up for nonregulation of the Internet if she wants it to thrive.
Ignorance of tech issues
Part of what scares me about Clinton’s economic and technology plans is what isn’t in there.
She says nothing about many of the more complicated technology issues facing our country today. When you consider robots, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and related issues, these are things that will have a bigger societal impact than any technologies that have come before them.
We aren’t prepared as a society for the legal, political, and ethical implications these technologies will bring, and Clinton’s plans do nothing to foreshadow how she will come to understand these technologies and develop policies that regulate them appropriately, when needed, without proving intrusive or hobbling growth and adoption.
The biggest thing, though, that scares me about a Clinton election is that it will perpetuate the phenomenon of the last few decades where, as a society, we look to government to solve all of our problems. There is often a naïve belief that government can be a powerful force for good and that smart people working toward noble goals can make society better. That view undermines the famous dictum that “power corrupts.”
I truly believe that by the time someone gets to be president of the United States, he or she owes so many things to so many people that the kind of independence of mind and spirit necessary to govern effectively is impossible. More than in any other year, this election has highlighted the flaws of our political leaders. If we really want a better economy, more entrepreneurial activity, a better educational system, and all of the other things that can improve our economic climate, maybe we should look at ourselves and ask what we personally can do, rather than passing the buck to Washington.
That’s why you will find me ultimately voting for Gary Johnson, and a platform of limited government.
Rob May is CEO of Cambridge-based Talla Inc. and authors a newsletter on artificial intelligence at www.inside.com/technically-sentient.