What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for Tech?

The eight-year bromance between Barack Obama — who appointed the first chief technology officer for the US — and the tech industry is ending. Now what?

That’s the question the tech industry has been asking since a real-estate mogul turned reality star, with a spotty reputation with tech, was voted in as 45th president of the United States.

President Obama, a self-proclaimed geek and Trekkie, was the most tech-focused president in modern history, committing billions of dollars to support initiatives to spur tech innovation, improve education and encourage exploration and discovery. Unlike Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump said very little during the campaign about where he stands on most tech-related issues — though he did call for a boycott of Apple products over the company’s stance on privacy in its fight with the FBI

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One thing is clear. Silicon Valley in general isn’t excited about the next four years. In July, 150 tech leaders, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Vint Cerf, considered the “father of the Internet,” wrote an open letter calling a Trump presidency “a disaster for innovation.” Some in the industry, notably broadband service providers, criticized him for policies they believe would stifle investment in infrastructure.

The outlook is “beyond grim,” weighted down by fear that the industry and world would suffer from this election, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Ouch.

Since Trump, 70, didn’t say all that much about tech during the campaign (he did call out “the cyber” when talking about cybersecurity concerns during one debate), industry watchers are left reading whatever tea leaves they can find until the president-elect reveals more-definitive policies.

Given that the tech industry accounts for 12 percent of all jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and given Trump’s message about improving America’s economy and competitiveness, his technology policies will have a long-lasting impact.

“The onus is on him to convince us that what we have seen in the past, the erratic behavior that has been defining character of the campaign, is not what will lead policy and that we’ll see a more pragmatic approach,” said Evan Swarztrauber, communications director for the DC-based think tank TechFreedom.

Here’s what little we do know about Trump’s stand on some important tech issues.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality became a relatively big deal in the 2008 election, but little was said during this election cycle about last year’s policy.

Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. This means your broadband provider, which controls your access to the internet, can’t block or slow down the services or applications you use over the web.

That said, we do know Trump isn’t a fan of the FCC’s current regulations. In 2014, at the height of the debate to rewrite the rules around Net neutrality, he tweeted, “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.”

It’s possible that an FCC led by Republicans could eliminate all or part of the rules and strip the FCC of some of its authority. If that happens, broadband providers could create so-called fast lanes and charge internet companies, like Netflix, different rates to deliver their services.

Loosening regulations around telecom will likely benefit broadband and wireless carriers. The NCTA, the Internet and Television Association, which lobbies for the cable industry, said it’s eager to work with President-elect Trump.

“We look forward to participating in a constructive and robust discussion about policies that will continue to make America a global technology and entertainment leader,” they said in a statement Wednesday.

Industry Consolidation and Broadband

Trump also seems to have taken a populist view against mergers and acquisitions. That could spell trouble for big pending mergers, including AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of entertainment giant Time Warner. When that deal was announced last month, Trump vowed to block the merger if he was elected.

“As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” he said.

AT&T’s executives still like their chances of getting the deal approved by the US, pointing to statements Trump made in his victory speech about investing in “infrastructure.”

“His policies and his discussions about infrastructure investment, economic development and American innovation all fit right in with AT&T’s goals,” Chief Financial Officer John J. Stephens said Wednesday. “We’ve been the leading investor in this country for more than five years running, and our Time Warner transaction is all about innovation and economic development, consumer choice, and investment in infrastructure with regard to providing a great 5G mobile broadband experience.”

Encryption and Cybersecurity

The president-elect has made only vague statements about privacy and security, and downplayed Russia’s alleged hacking into the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign email servers. Still, when the Justice Department tussled with Apple over unlocking the iPhone of the terrorist suspect in the San Bernardino shooting, he called for a boycott of Apple products.

What he has said about cyber security is that there should be a review of US cyber defenses by a “Cyber Review Team.” He also told the The New York Times in July that “certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process… Inconceivable the power of cyber… you can make countries nonfunctioning with a strong use of cyber.”

RELATED: The Union Built Cloud Secure Data Storage Solution

Tax Policy

The biggest boost to the tech industry could come from Trump’s plans to lower corporate tax rates to encourage companies to invest their money in the US.

There’s a good chance that money could be invested in the US, said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). But it’s not a given. In 2004, the US allowed American companies to bring in the profit they’d earned overseas in the hope they would hire more workers. Most of the money went to executives and shareholders, instead.

Trump has also called for high import taxes on products, which could drive up prices for consumers on tech goods. In January, Trump said in a stump speech, “We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”

Apple, which declined to comment on Trump’s statements at the time, designs its products at its Silicon Valley headquarters, but uses a Chinese contractor to build them. If Apple products were manufactured in the US, the price of an iPhone could rise to as much as $900 to offset worker wages versus the $650 cost of an iPhone today.

YOUR TURN

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Additional Reporting by CNET

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The Strike At Trump’s Atlantic City Casino Is a Flashpoint for the Entire Labor Movement

What those striking are now bravely confronting in Atlantic City should resonate deeply with American workers, their unions, and beyond

In Atlantic City workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino hotel, members of UNITE HERE Local 54 wagered a struggle that should make it one of those crystallizing flashpoints that garner national attention and mobilize support from the entire labor movement, progressives, and working people at large.

Such flashpoints arise only occasionally in workers’ struggles for justice. In living memory, for example, Eastern Airlines, PATCO, Pittston, the Decatur wars, UPS, and most recently Verizon are among those that have attained that status.

Those flashpoints of national concern and mobilization occur when what particular groups of workers are fighting for and against connects with broader tendencies and concerns in workplaces and the society in general. Downsizing, speedup, outsourcing, privatization, capital flight, unsafe working conditions, profitable employers’ demands for concessions that imperil workers’ standard of living are all among conditions that have triggered those moments.

The striking Trump Taj Mahal workers are involved in precisely such a fundamental struggle now, one that should resonate far and wide among American workers and their unions.

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How It Started

Nearly 1,000 cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, cocktail servers and other workers there went on strike on July 1—the culmination of a twenty-month struggle to restore pay and benefit cuts that Donald Trump’s crony and notorious billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn imposed on workers after obtaining permission to do so from a bankruptcy judge. Last year, it should be noted, Trump indicated that if elected he “would love to bring my friend Carl Icahn” to his administration as Treasury Secretary.

The Trump Taj Mahal Bankruptcy Ruling’s Devastation

Following the bankruptcy ruling, Trump Taj Mahal workers lost health insurance, pensions, even severance pay. Workers have seen their average total compensation cut by more than a third. One striker with a chronic medical condition recently died alone at home without access to medical care, and there is no reason to believe that his case is unique. There are many other horror stories, including workers faced with losing their homes and apartments in addition to suffering other material and emotional hardships.

Why This Fight is Everybody’s Fight

The Trump Taj Mahal strike is an important moment for us all because these workers are on the frontline against forces that threaten us all and that lay bare what a Donald Trump presidency would have in store for millions of American workers.

trump-quotesBoth Trump, who built the Taj Mahal, and Icahn, who is the current owner, have taken millions from the property, driven it into bankruptcy, and left the workers holding the bag. Icahn, as Trump Taj Mahal’s sole debtholder between 2010 and 2014, took $350 million out of the business. Icahn has a long history—going back nearly thirty years to his takeover of TWA airlines—of bleeding companies of assets, gutting pensions and benefits, and then tossing aside the firms’ hollowed out carcasses. Manipulation of employer-friendly bankruptcy laws has also been a Trump specialty, one that he has used on several occasions to stiff contractors, going back to when he was the original “too big to fail” scamster at the beginning of the 1990s. Combined, Trump and Icahn have used the bankruptcy tool at the Taj Mahal multiple times.

Another reason we need to see the Trump Taj Mahal strike as all our fight—in addition to the outrageous injustice and hardship Icahn has perpetrated on these workers—is that this struggle in Atlantic City sheds light on some important mystifications that need to be clarified if we hope to turn the tide against the intensifying predatory assaults on American workers’ standard of living.

The Taj Mahal fight is a frontline battle in the systematic attacks on working people’s living standards in this country perpetrated by the likes of Donald Trump and Carl Icahn and their ideological affiliates Mike Pence, Scott Walker, Bruce Rauner, Pat McCrory, Paul Ryan and the Congressional Republicans, the education “reform” billionaires, the Koch brothers and ALEC, the many tentacles of the carceral state, all of whom are intent on destroying public goods and services, and good public jobs, if not the very idea of a public.  To keep the focus on Icahn and Trump, however, what better poster boys could there be for the predatory “billionaire class”?

If the Trump Taj Mahal was permitted to operate on the terms Icahn imposed, workers, the union, and the broader community understand that the result would be a local race to the bottom, as other casino operators would argue that they have to compete with Icahn’s sweatshop model to remain viable. As by far the dominant industry in the city, the hospitality and gaming sector is directly linked to the economic health and well-being not only of casino workers but of the community at large. It is decent hospitality sector jobs that enable workers to buy houses and provide the backbone for the entire local economy.

And Atlantic City is not alone. Icahn’s attack on Taj Mahal workers is of a piece with broader right-wing attempts to drive down workers’ living standards everywhere. This is what is behind the systematic attacks on teachers’ unions and other public sector unions and efforts to destroy the national postal service. Partly it stems from a desire to eliminate any organized expressions of workers’ power, to clear the way to realizing the other objective: creation of a world in which we would have no alternative other than to accept work on whatever terms employers choose to offer it.

That, of course, would be employers’ utopia and workers’ hell.

Key Takeaway

The issues at the core of the Trump Taj Mahal strike reflect the concerns shared broadly by workers in this country. The struggle presents a clear window onto the danger within the false promises Trump seems to offer some, and the strikers and their union provide a clear, practical model of the sort of movement we will need to change this country’s political direction to center on the needs of working people.

Making this fight a national issue on the order of those earlier key labor flashpoints certainly seems like a no-brainer.