As much of the United States and world sit stunned at Donald Trump’s historic and unprecedented Presidential victory, a few questions have gone unanswered. Most notably, we’re not sure where he stands on many issues related to the technology industry, which could be problematic for tech workers.
Via his website, which has been retrofitted for his campaign for the Oval Office, we learn the only tech-related thing he’s actually taken a stand on is Cybersecurity. Here is Trump’s entire plan:
- “Order an immediate review of all U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector.
- “The Cyber Review Team will provide specific recommendations for safeguarding different entities with the best defense technologies tailored to the likely threats, and will followed up regularly at various Federal agencies and departments.
- “The Cyber Review Team will establish detailed protocols and mandatory cyber awareness training for all government employees while remaining current on evolving methods of cyber-attack.
- “Instruct the U.S. Department of Justice to create Joint Task Forces throughout the U.S. to coordinate Federal, State, and local law enforcement responses to cyber threats.
- “Order the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide recommendations for enhancing U.S. Cyber Command, with a focus on both offense and defense in the cyber domain.
- “Develop the offensive cyber capabilities we need to deter attacks by both state and non-state actors and, if necessary, to respond appropriately.”
These are the words of an outsider campaign looking in; the text doesn’t delve beyond those bullet-points into the nuances of protecting IT infrastructure against threats.
Donald Trump Wants To Kill The H-1B Visa
In contrast to Trump’s limited scope on technology, Hillary Clinton’s views were outlined in a ‘brief’ (that’s polite; the page is exhaustive), wherein she touched on everything from Computer Science education in schools to STEM investments and Cybersecurity, down through creating a pipeline of tech talent and continued education for existing tech workers. She also wanted to make government services and tech more accessible to all, and was a proponent of an information free-flow across borders where applicable.
When it came to a forward-facing view on tech, Clinton’s views were undeniably more grounded and resolute. She wanted to lean on education and open-source to springboard us all to a new level, which makes perfect sense.
But with regard to the huddled masses worried about losing their technology jobs to foreign workers, Trump has definite opinions. Though he hasn’t yet outlined any specific strategy, he’s on-record as saying he’d like to eliminate the H-1B Visa program. From a Republican debate in March:
I know the H-1B very well. We shouldn’t have it, it’s very, very bad for workers. It’s unfair to our workers and we should end it.
Trump also admitted to using the H1-B Via program for his own businesses.
Clinton favored tempering ongoing education with the use of H-1B. From an interview with Vox in June:
… one of the biggest complaints I hear around the country is how callous and insensitive American corporations have become to American workers who have skills that are ones that should make them employable. The many stories of people training their replacements from some foreign country are heartbreaking, and it is obviously a cost-cutting measure to be able to pay people less than you would pay an American worker.
I think it’s also a very unfair and sad commentary that we don’t want to invest in training American workers because that’s just “time-consuming.” And it’s a cost — so even if they could do what we’re wanting them to do, it’s just easier to get someone who will be largely compliant because they want to stay in the country. And that’s just wrong.
What Does It All Mean?
On the surface, it’s pretty clear that Clinton understood the temperature of tech in today’s world, both inside the government and the private sector.
Trump is a lesser-known entity. To date, he’s done little more than announce broad ideas, although his shoot-from-the-hip messaging has clearly resonated with much of the United States. Speaking to Recode, Kik CEO Ted Livingston said: “The biggest people in technology, media and finance were all trying to figure out how to stop Donald trump and he still won.”
And that’s indicative of a problem; not because he has unfavorable positions on any tech issue, but because we don’t know what his actual policies are. He’s never actually laid out a plan on issues related to tech (or much of anything else); we can’t quite hold him to anything.
But that could also be positive. Perhaps Trump quietly knows that he doesn’t understand the issues all that well, and will keep an open mind moving forward. He could surround himself with people much more knowledgeable of the issues, and defer to their good judgement.
At least that’s what we’re hoping. Saying you’d like to end H-1B without any sort of contingency for how businesses will fill in their gaps is problematic, even if it makes for great headlines. Regardless of your political leanings, the Trump presidency represents absolute caprice, and we just can’t say how that will affect the tech sector.