The Election and Tech: Hillary Clinton

5156413247_3a3fffcd0a_b

This is part of a three-part series of articles ahead of the 2016 US Presidential Election. 

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic candidate for President of the United States, has had a fickle relationship with tech this campaign trail. Her use of a private email server to send official information has become the backbone of opposition to her run for office, and the chicanery of her team—including the alleged attempt by one staffer to ask Reddit users how to delete a “VIP’s” email from records—has been met with widespread derision.

But there is far more to Clinton’s tech talk than those backtracks. Here are several key battlegrounds on which she will fight Donald Trump for the White House in just a matter of days.

Visas

Visas are one of the biggest tech battlegrounds for the two candidates. While Trump has shaken up Silicon Valley by vowing to curtail the H-1B visa program, which many tech giants use to lure the world’s best talent, Clinton has expressed support.

And, in a move that will surely have enthused Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, who has founded a lobbying group, Fwd.us, to push the H-1B envelope, Clinton has voiced support for a special ‘startup’ visa to bring foreign entrepreneurs to the US. She has also pledged to “staple” a green card to Masters and PhD students of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), clearing a path for permanent residence. Clinton has also promised to step up STEM education as a whole, as part of her drive at “building the tech economy on Main Street”.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has become a shibboleth for defense policy in general this campaign, as both candidates have sought to signal their opposition to government-level hacks—primarily from China—with stern words. Clinton’s rhetoric has been far more pointed on the subject, calling cybersecurity one of “the most important challenges the next president is going to face.”

Her private email server debacle has certainly muddied the water where web security is concerned. However Clinton has recommended the formation of commission to balance individual privacy and national security, which her position statement rejects as a “false choice”.

Diversity

Silicon Valley companies and executives, concerned at Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and sexist positions, have donated far more to his Democratic rival ahead of this year’s election. Alphabet (formerly Google) has donated $429,619 to become Clinton’s largest tech benefactor—while Microsoft ($246,236); Facebook ($159,952) and Apple ($156,893) have all backed her run for the White House.

The Valley, however, is far from without its flaws when it comes to the presence of women, ethnic and sexual minorities at the top of its key players. Clinton, unlike Trump, has addressed the problem directly. “Too few Americans are benefiting from the opportunity to access capital and put their job-creating ideas to the test,” her position statement reads.

“Hillary will support entrepreneurship ecosystems in all parts of the country, with the federal government playing its part to increase access to capital for SMEs and start-ups, especially for minority, women and young entrepreneurs,” the statement adds. Student loans will also be deferred to aid entrepreneurship.

Net Neutrality

Clinton has been vocal in her support of net neutrality, writing an op-ed at Quartz that championed the fairness of the web and federal governance of citywide Internet services. “Closing these loopholes and protecting other standards of free and fair competition—like enforcing strong net neutrality rules and preempting state laws that unfairly protect incumbent businesses—will keep more money in consumers’ wallets, enable startups to challenge the status quo, and allow small businesses to thrive,” she wrote.

Clinton has lamented that high-speed Internet services are costlier in US cities than in other major agglomerations, vowing to break up “local monopolies and implying that rollouts like Google Fiber would be supported. Access to ISPs is severely limited in many parts of the US, and huge mergers such as AT&T’s proposed deal for Time Warner will do little to assuage the situation. Hiring “aggressive regulators” is Clinton’s proposal to deal with the issue.

The voice from the Valley

Silicon Valley’s bigwigs tend to lean Democrat for a number of reasons, not least its tendency towards liberal politics and progressive tax and education policies. This year has been a little different thanks to Donald Trump’s protectionist stance, and the outspokenness of heads such as Peter Thiel towards Trump’s libertarian, nationalist stance.

But Thiel is in the minority. This September Clinton was given a boost by a group of Silicon Valley executives, who penned their support for the Democrat candidate. The group, which includes PayPal chairman John Donahoe; Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Expedia and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, appealed to Clinton’s “level-headed leadership” and lambasted Republican candidate Donald Trump’s apparent lack of experience.

  • Perturbed Pundit

    The H-1B visa, “staple a green card”, etc. are exactly why I will not vote for Clinton. These ideas are a cancer on American society. Here’s why:

    The GAO put out a report on the H-1B visa that discusses at some length the fact that the vast majority of H-1B workers are hired into entry-level positions. In fact, most are at “Level I”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who have a “basic understanding of duties and perform routine tasks requiring limited judgment”. Moreover, the GAO found that a mere 6% of H-1B workers are at “Level IV”, which is officially defined by the US Dept. of Labor as those who are “fully competent” (1). This belies the industry lobbyists’ claims that H-1B workers are hired because they are experts that can’t be found among the U.S. workforce.

    So this means one of two things: either companies are looking for entry-level workers (in which case, their rhetoric about needing PhDs and “the best and brightest” is meaningless), or they’re looking for more experienced workers but only paying them at the Level I, entry-level pay scale. In my opinion, companies are using the H-1B visa to engage in legalized age discrimination, as the vast majority of H-1B workers are under the age of 35 (2), especially those at the Level I and Level II categories.

    Any way you slice it, it amounts to H-1B visa abuse, all facilitated and with the blessings of the US government.

    The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has never shown a sharp upward trend of Computer Science graduate starting salaries, which would indicate a labor shortage (remember – the vast majority of H-1B visas are granted for computer-related positions). In fact, according to their current survey for Fall 2015, starting salaries for CS grads went down by 4% from the prior year. This is particularly interesting in that salaries overall rose 5.2% (3).

    References:
    (1) GAO-11-26: H-1B VISA PROGRAM – Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of Current Program

    (2) Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report to Congress October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014

    (3) NACE Fall 2015 Salary Survey, NACE Salary Survey – September 2014 Executive Summary

    • John80224

      I’m writing in Charles Grassley.

      • noh1bvisas

        grassely has been fighting this for YEARS

  • noh1bvisas

    “which many tech giants use to lure the world’s best talent, Clinton has expressed support.”

    they are luring the cheapest talent, not the best. h1bs earn, on average, less than 40% of what an American earns.

    70%+ h1b visas to go indian-owned IT bodyshops.

  • noh1bvisas

    Women’s rights? LOL, not hIllary.

    Hillary Clinton says men and women should make equal pay. But the Clinton Foundation’s leadership team had an average $81,000 average gender pay gap, according to the most recent figures available.

    The stark numbers come from the foundation’s public 990 tax forms for the year 2014, which list the highest-paid employees.

    The women earned 72 cents for every dollar a male executive made on average.

  • jakeleone

    If Offshore Outsourcing companies were barred from the H-1b, U.S. Federal Government program, we would never have seen a year, since inception, where we ran out of H-1b visas.

    The reality is our domestic tech originating companies barely use 1/3 of the H-1b visas. But Offshore Outsourcing companies stuff in an excess number of requests, thereby giving us an illusion that there is a shortage of H-1b visas.

    Silicon Valley should stop whining for more or unlimited numbers of H-1b visas, and instead start whining to get the Offshore Outsourcing companies kicked out of the H-1b Government program. The Offshore Outsourcing companies can use the U.S. free labor market, you know “Capitalism”, (same as any other business on Main St). They don’t need a handout of an indentured workforce, because they do nothing but destroy jobs in the United States.

    It is completely insane to give Offshore Outsourcing companies, Federal Government assistance.