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A Harsh Wakeup Call for Tech Companies
[ Issue 150 Page 13 ] Friday, November 25, 2016, 13:02:22 Hyunseung Hwang Staff Reporter aguno@kaist.ac.kr

     The level of political involvement of the tech companies in the 2016 US presidential election was higher than ever, with over 57 million USD (over 98 percent of which went in support to the Democratic Party) donated to the elections. Back in July, over a hundred major tech companies signed an open letter against Donald Trump, calling him a “disaster for innovation”. The only high profile silicon valley figure to support Trump was Peter Thiel, the Paypal co-founder and Facebook investor. He was ridiculed within the industry. After all the hard work, however, they could not stop the “majority” from voting Donald Trump as the next president.

     During Obama’s presidency, smartphones and social networking services became as important as the traditional petroleum and manufacture focused businesses. Companies such as Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon became some of the most valued and flourishing companies in the world. The tides have changed. The Americans have decided to support a government that may harm their own companies responsible for the United States’ supremacy in technology. Trump is supporting traditional energy sources like gas and coal. Companies that invest a large proportion of their budget on renewable energy such as Tesla have already seen their stock plunge. If government subsidies go away, green energy companies will not be able to invest in solving long term but non-profitable issues, such as global warming. The reduction of subsidies is more likely to harm the already sluggish growth of the tech industries as the economy has not completely recovered from the recession in 2008. The new president did not get along with the industries that well during the campaign. Donald Trump has been directly attacking several tech companies during the campaign. Trump has slammed Amazon for not paying its fair share of taxes. He blasted Apple for refusing to unlock the San Bernardino gunman’s iPhone and demanded the company to manufacture its products in the United States.

     More than seven million people are hired by the tech companies. The companies say some of their best talents comes from high-skilled foreign workers. More than half of billion-dollar startups are funded by immigrants according to the National Foundation for American Policy. The new government, however, may turn its back to the interests of these companies by reducing the number of immigrants. In March, Trump claimed he would “eliminate the abuse” of H1-B, a visa that most of the tech companies rely on to hire foreign talents, as a “cheap labor” program and instead set a hiring quota for American workers as a priority in March. The conservative Congress is likely to moderately support limiting the number of immigrants. Silicon Valley lobbied hard to increase the number of foreign skilled workers coming to the United States as the companies have more unfilled jobs each year. The current education system cannot produce enough experts to meet the demand of the ever-growing industry. For instance, there are only 400,000 computer science students compared to the 1.4 million computing jobs by 2020 according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 85,000 workers receive visas every year which is only a third of the qualified applicants are able to work in the country. Todd Schulte, the president of a lobbying group that advocates for immigration reforms, said “America’s greatest competitive advantage has always been where the nation welcomes immigrants” and stated we should be opening doors for more immigrants, not less.

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