Posts from Politics

Trickle Up Economics

For something like 30 years, we have been hearing about trickle down economics in which we lower tax and other burdens on the wealthy, these wealthy individuals invest in the economy, and the benefits of those investments “trickle down” to the middle and lower class. That may well be what happens when the burdens are lowered on the wealthy, but as we all know the wealthiest in the US are gaining ground on everyone else and have been for a long time. This is not a critique of trickle down economics per se. There are other things going on, including a transition of value from labor to capital as a result of technological progress, that are driving the gains of the wealthiest right now.

I would like to propose another approach that I call “trickle up economics” in which we lower the tax and other burdens on the lower and middle class, we invest in educating their children (and them), we make sure they have the skills to get good jobs in the economy of the future, and we make sure they have access to things like good transportation, safe neighborhoods, healthy food, quality health care services, etc that are required for them to be fully functioning citizens in our society.

If we do all of that, we will have a stronger workforce and a more entrepreneurial and innovative society, and that will drive wealth creation in the US that will “trickle up” to the wealthiest people in the US.

The american dream has always been about opportunity. You start out with nothing and through hard work and a good body and mind, you make it and lead yourself and your family to a better life. That, by the way, is the story of the Gotham Gal and me. We arrived in NYC in 1983 with not a penny to our names. Nada. Nothing. I am not even sure how we came up with the security deposit for our first apartment. But we had good educations and had secured good jobs. And we worked for everything we have. We made it.

I am so optimistic about the United States and our economic prospects. I am optimistic about our people. I just want to see us invest in our people. All of them. Because I am sure if we do that, the benefits will trickle up throughout society.

Fun Friday: Debate Recap

I don’t know how many AVC community members watched the first Republican debate(s) last night, but I did and I thought it might be fun to talk about them today.

I’ve never been taken by Trump or Bush and wasn’t last night either.

I thought Kasich and Rubio were the best of the bunch. Kasich because he’s real and substantive and Rubio because he’s impressive and articulate.

I’m curious what others thought. If you didn’t see the debate, you should still feel free to weigh in. It’s fun friday afterall.

Feature Friday: In App Advocacy

Web and mobile companies have been using their consumer facing apps to advocate for policies that they care about for a while now. Back in the PIPA/SOPA wars, Wikipedia, Tumblr, and a number of other high traffic apps went black and made a big impact on that debate.

Yesterday Uber added a De Blasio mode in NYC to their rider app.

no cars see why

Which takes the rider to this screen:

de blasio's uber

It will be interesting to see what impact this in app advocacy will have on the Uber debate in NYC.

The Mayor and his administration want a temporary hiatus on additional Uber drivers on the roads in NYC while they complete a congestion study to see what impact the massive influx of Ubers on the roads in NYC are having on traffic.

Uber is fighting this as hard as they can and using in app advocacy as one of their tools to amplify the political pressure.

While this is a smart move on Uber’s part, I am not sure it will work because the constituency that elected Mayor De Blasio is more of the subway rider crowd than the Uber crowd.

But NYC politics are complicated and Uber is working the system hard. And using in app advocacy to further their cause.

The Gig Economy

Warning: This post touches politics. The comments will likely be incendiary and polarizing. Don’t go into the comments if you don’t want to be annoyed or irritated.

Many in the tech industry are taking these comments by Hillary Clinton yesterday as an ‘attack on Uber and the tech sector’:

Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

The first example is Airbnb, the second example is oDesk, the third example is Etsy, and the fourth example is Uber.

My view on these comments is that Hillary is right. These companies are creating exciting new economies and unleashing innovation. And she is also right that these companies raise questions about work place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

We should not be afraid of this discussion. We should embrace it and have it.

Can you be a freelance worker if you don’t own the data about your work and earnings history and be able to take it with you when you leave a platform or export it to a third party for optimization? Can you be a freelance worker if you are indentured to your employer because they loaned you the money to purchase the asset you are using to earn your income? I think the answer to both is obviously no. But there are companies who argue that it is yes.

Let’s have that argument. It is important and it is also a good idea to have a President who understands where the economy is headed and the significance of the policy issues raised by all of this.

I also really liked what she had to say about women and the workforce. The entire transcript of her remarks is here.

What A Week

I’m on an eight hour flight back from Europe today and have plenty of time to write so I’m going to skip video of the week this week (but not entirely) and write down some thoughts about the week that was in the US.

Three important things happened this week.

The first was the Supreme Court rejecting the argument that the Affordable Care Act should be struck down because the federal government was subsidizing health care in states that refused to set up their own insurance exchanges. This was a big legal victory for the Affordable Care Act (the second one at the Supreme Court) and could be the thing that seals the deal for this legislation. The Affordable Care Act is performing much better than most people, even its proponents (including me), thought it would. Many more americans are insured, insurance rates have not skyrocketed, nor has the budget deficit, and it is hard to find any indications of job losses resulting from it. Every year that it remains the law of the land make it more likely that it will remain the law of the land. It has become more popular as it has become better understood and people are actually getting affordable health care insurance when they can’t get it from an employer.

The second was another ruling by the Supreme Court. This one on marriage equality. You could feel this coming for a while now. As more and more gay people have come out of the closet over the past thirty years, more and more people know and love gay people. And we want them to enjoy the fruits of life the way we enjoy them. It is only natural that society would come to this place and it is wonderful that our Supreme Court got there in more or less the same time. If you haven’t read Justice Anthony Kennedy’s closing paragraph in the majority ruling, you should. It says it well.

The third was The President delivering a moving rendition of Amazing Grace at the funeral for Clementa Pinckney.

This wasn’t noteworthy because of the President’s voice. It is good but not great. It was noteworthy because it showed his considerable leadership skills and ability to connect with compassion in a time of national healing. Say what you will about Barack Obama, and it has all been said again and again in the comments to this blog, he is a very talented leader and politician and has grown into the role nicely in his second and final term. He was not just singing for those murdered in a church in Charleston last week. He was singing for America to find a way to come back together and heal the racial wounds that have been front and center in this country for much of the past year.

I particularly like the way he emphasized and paused at the word United as he was saying United States of America at the end of that clip. He was sending a message and I got it loud and clear.

It was a good week for Barack Obama and it was a good week for America. I’m landing in America in a few hours. I’ve missed it. It is my home and I love it dearly, particularly this week.

Why be civically engaged if you’re in tech?

Tomorrow, Ron Conway and I are going to kick off Disrupt NY 2015, with a fireside chat with Kim-Mai Cutler. We plan to discuss philanthropy and civic involvement. I’m looking forward to this talk. I think folks in the tech sector need to embrace philanthropy and civic involvement and I look forward to making the case for that.

I’ve been working in the VC business since the mid 80s. And for most of that time, I’ve felt that the tech sector was surprisingly uninterested and uninvolved in things outside of the tech sector. That’s a great strength of the tech sector, it’s is focused on innovation, making things, and building companies. And it does not get distracted by things outside of that realm.

But we know that the things we make and the companies we build have great impact on those outside of the tech sector. It can be for the good, like building cars that don’t use carbon fuels and showing the auto industry that it can be a good business to do that. It can be for the bad, like automating away jobs that once paid the way for a middle class lifestyle.

It feels to me that our economy and our society is now deeply entwined with technology and being significantly impacted by it. If that is true, I believe it is shortsighted to avoid getting engaged in the discussions and debates about what kind of world we need to work toward. I think one way or another the tech sector is going to get pulled into these debates. It will be one thing if that happens thoughtfully and positively and another if the tech sector is pulled into them kicking and screaming.

Regular readers of this blog know that my partners and I have been involved in these discussions since we started USV over a decade ago. We spend our time, energy, and capital in areas like policy debates, philanthropy, and civic engagement. There are others in the tech sector who do the same. Ron Conway comes to mind as someone who has spent a similar amount of time, energy, and capital on this stuff. And I am thrilled to share the stage with him tomorrow as we discuss these issues.

We go on stage at 9:05am eastern tomorrow. I’m hoping the talk will be livestreamed and you can watch it live. If it is, it will be somewhere like here.

The Anti-Science and The Anti-Economics Parties

Marc Andreessen delivered a lot of good one liners in this interview with Dan Primack, but my favorite was about the upcoming Presidential election cycle:

I’m really struggling between between the anti-science party and the anti-economics party. I’m highly tempted to sit this one out. I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Last week I was at a meeting of some NYC tech entrepreneurs and investors with a Republican Senator. After I made a few comments, the Senator turned to me and said “you sound like a Republican” to which I replied “I could never be that.” The Senator continued to press me and said “but you are a business person” and I replied “but I am also a human being.”

Now I don’t mean to say that Republicans aren’t human beings. I was just saying that I can’t and won’t put my business interests before other factors that enter my mind when I think about the orthodoxies of our two parties.

Marc’s construct of anti-economics vs anti-science is his way of describing the conundrum. It is a good one.

As we enter the 2016 Presidential cycle, I am reminded that there isn’t a candidate out there who sees the world (or at least admits seeing the world) the way I do. It’s a struggle for me and, it seems, many others as well.


I am very proud to see tech leaders like Mark Benioff and Tim Cook speak out on the rising tide of discriminatory legislation being proposed around the country.

I believe we must continue to work as hard as we can to make America a place where people are free to do as they wish. This was the goal of the founders of our country and we must continue to uphold it. If people want to believe certain things, we must allow them to do that. But we cannot allow people to use religious freedom as a license to withhold liberty and freedom from others.

There is a direct and discernible relation between tolerance and economic health. William Penn brought religious tolerance to Philadelphia which in turn led to an economic boon which was the envy of the other colonies. That led the other colonies to embrace religious tolerance to compete with Philadelphia. Paul Romer, an economist at NYU, explains this in his “charter cities” work.

America is the best example of the relationship between tolerance and growth in the world. It has been a place that welcomes others and allows them to live freely and pursue their dreams. There are many people in our country who would prefer we move away from that model. They want to lock down our borders and discriminate against others on the basis of religious beliefs.

We must oppose these desires with urgency and strength. They go against our founding beliefs and they are hurtful to our economic growth and progress. The tech industry has been a strident supporter of immigration reform and is now also standing up against discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. I am proud to work in the tech industry and I stand with the leaders on both of these important issues.

The Clinton Email Affair

The fascinating thing about the Clinton Email Affair is that it illustrates a central truth of our time; someone is storing and reading your emails. That someone could be your employer, your government, your email provider, or all of the above. A very small percentage of email users choose to run their own email servers and avoid this fate. It turns out that the woman who wants to be our next President is one of those very few.

What does this choice say about her and how she would approach digital privacy? If Edward Snowden is the person who told us what we always suspected but were in denial about, then Hillary Clinton is the person who opted out of the system and lived to tell us how she did it.

The media wants her to tell us why she did it. As if there is any question about that. She did not want the witch hunters in Washington to have access to her emails. That’s it. She has been there and has the scars to show for it and did what any intelligent person with balls would do. She opted out. And she got away with it for four years.

Of course, this affair could get in the way of her desire to get back to the White House. We will see about that. In which case she will have not gotten away with it.

But even so, I would hope that this affair, along with the Snowden revelations, clarifies things for people. Your emails are not private messages. They aren’t much different than posting on Twitter and Facebook. If you do anything that a lot of people care about, your emails will be read and shared. Unless you run your own email server and encrypt your messages.

Sadly this email affair is playing out like all other Washington scandals when it could be anchoring a much larger national discussion about the privacy of personal communications and what are our rights are in that regard. Maybe if this email affair blows over and Hillary ends up in the White House, she can lead that discussion. She will be well suited to do so.