Steve Case, a co-founder of America Online, is chairman and chief executive of Revolution and author of “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future.”
I’ve been involved in policy for three decades, since AOL played a pivotal role in getting the nation online in the early days of the Internet. Initially, my focus was on commercializing the Internet, expanding access and putting appropriate rules of the road in place. In the past decade, my focus shifted to encouraging pro-growth policies that foster innovation, generate jobs, help start-ups and create opportunity. I was proud to work with a Democratic president and a Republican House to help get the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act passed four years ago, and I have spent countless hours meeting with members of both parties on immigration reform, patent reform and pro-start-up economic ideas.
Despite my active engagement on policy, however, I’ve tried to steer clear of politics. I’ve avoided endorsing candidates or making big contributions to campaigns. I’ve wanted to be nonpartisan, able to work with people on both sides of the aisle. Indeed, I’ve been troubled by the hyper-partisanship that has defined our politics of late, and by the resulting gridlock that has set in. The United States faces many challenges, but in my view our greatest threat may not be external forces but rather our inability to work together to move our country forward.
So my inclination is to continue to stay out of politics and continue to quietly build working relationships with both Republicans and Democrats. I’d prefer to be positioned as a builder of bridges and consensus.
But I’ve decided to make an exception this election. I have concluded that I cannot sit on the sidelines this year. At this pivotal time, the choice is too important.
I’ve decided to back Hillary Clinton for president for four reasons.
First, I think she’d be better for our economy, especially with respect to innovative technology and start-ups. Donald Trump knows business, but his campaign has been backward-looking on the economy and oddly absent of ideas to spur creation of the jobs of the future. Clinton understands what we need to help start businesses and will invest in education, advanced manufacturing and basic research. She’s not promising a return to a bygone era — she’s focused on making our economy strong for our children and their children. These forward-leaning policies are essential to ensure continued U.S. economic leadership.
Second, Clinton is right on immigration. To win in the global economy, our country must win the global battle for talent. Immigrants don’t take U.S. jobs; they create them. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children: Think how many fewer jobs we’d have in the United States if these entrepreneurs and their parents had been kept out by a wall. Trump’s harsh policies will cost us jobs, and his even harsher rhetoric will chase away immigrant families whose children could grow up to be the next Steve Jobs (whose father was a Syrian refugee) or Sergey Brin (an immigrant himself).
Third, while Trump has been largely silent on technology issues facing the new economy, Clinton has put forward an agenda that has won considerable acclaim among technology leaders. She wants to appoint a chief innovation adviser, expand science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education and more. And she shares my view that it’s not enough to support a booming Silicon Valley — we need policies that promote the “rise of the rest”: a spread of start-ups to all parts of our country. We need to level the playing field so anybody, anywhere, has a shot at the American dream.
Fourth, I agree with Clinton on the need to control the deficit. Despite his populist rhetoric, Trump wants to give huge tax breaks to people like me, the very folks who have benefited greatly from the innovation economy, while many others have been left behind. In the process he would blow up our deficit and make the economy more unequal. I agree we need to simplify the tax code, but if we are going to give tax relief, let’s make sure it is in incentives for start-ups to grow and create jobs.
I think I get why Trump has been such a potent political force this year. I am well aware that millions of people are angry about their prospects and fearful that the forces of globalization and digitization have left them behind. I also recognize many are frustrated by politics and feel we need an outsider to shake things up. But I don’t think Trump is the answer, for those people or for the country.
I don’t agree with everything Clinton has said and done. I take issue with some aspects of her platform, and I worry about her inclination to all too often view the government as the solution to problems. If she becomes president, I’m sure there will be plenty of times I will disagree with her. But for 2016, I believe Hillary Clinton represents the best choice for the United States — and our best hope to remain the most innovative and entrepreneurial nation in the world.