How Silicon Valley’s Oligarchs Are Learning to Stop Worrying and Love Trump

Joel Kotkin
Editor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

The oligarchs’ ball at Trump Tower revealed one not-so-well-kept secret about the tech moguls: They are more like the new president than they are like you or me.

In what devolved into something of a love fest, Trump embraced the tech elite for their “incredible innovation” and pledged to help them achieve their goals—one of which, of course, is to become even richer. And for all their proud talk about “disruption,” they also know that they will have to accommodate, to some extent, our newly elected disrupter in chief for at least the next four years.

Few tech executives—Peter Thiel being the main exception—backed Trump’s White House bid. But now many who were adamantly against the real-estate mogul, such as Clinton fundraiser Elon Musk, who has built his company on subsidies from progressive politicians, have joined the president-elect’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Joining Musk will be Uber’s Travis Kalanick, who half-jokingly threatened to “move to China” if Trump was elected.

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Legislative advocacy, member activism priorities for NFIB/Small Business in new year

Tom Scott
CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

As we wrap up 2016, NFIB California reflects on what has been an overall successful year for our members and the organization, but not without important legislative and electoral challenges along the way. 2017 will bring new challenges at the State Capitol which we intend to face head-on with our 22,000 members to defend our small business policy priorities while increasing engagement with members directly across the state.

Following the November General Election, we certainly acknowledge a level of optimism on the federal level with the incoming Trump Administration and what this may mean for small business. A number of key NFIB policy priorities in Washington are now revitalized following the Presidential Election, such as the Overtime Rule injunction and the EPA Waters of the United States regulatory challenge. These federal victories will certainly benefit small business owners across the nation, but an aggressive 2/3 supermajority party in both houses of the California legislature threatens to overshadow them.

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A Success on Roads Through Compromise

Lucy Dunn
President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council

For the last two years, I had the honor to serve as facilitator for meetings toward settlement of the south Orange County toll road issues among members of the Transportation Corridor Agencies and executive leadership of the Save San Onofre Coalition. SSOC is comprised of 12 of the nation’s leading environmental advocates, including Surfrider Foundation, California State Parks Foundation, Audubon, Natural Resources Defense Council and Endangered Habitats League. Native American Heritage Commission, as well as the office of the California Attorney General, representing several state agencies, were also engaged.

The battle was at least 15 years old, even older perhaps, dating back to the besieged 1996 completion of SR-73 toll road in the San Joaquin Hills. The subsequent construction of its sisters, SR-241 and 261, to the east, are part of a long-planned 67-mile network, making Orange County the toll road capital of California. They are also one of this state’s few successful “public-private partnerships” — where private investors fund construction through the sale of bonds instead of taxes — while a public agency comprised of locally elected officials manages the system in alignment with Caltrans.

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Black Bart Nominee: Zuckerberg Brings New Look to Giving

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

There are plenty of people in the tech world who have lots of experience – and an outsized interest — in making buckets of money, but far fewer of them are talking about the best way to give that cash away.

For making that connection between the money that comes in and the good it can do for the world –- and putting his checkbook where his press release is — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, is my choice as Californian of the year.

That’s not to say that giving money away is the focus of Zuckerberg’s life. The success of his social media giant has made him the fifth richest person on the planet, with a net worth of around $50 billion, depending on which way the market is moving.

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Make California Great Again in 2018?

John Seiler
Former Editorial Writer at the Orange County Register

In politics, as in just about everything, success breeds success. Ronald Reagan’s supply-side tax cuts quickly became the top mantra of Republican candidates. Bill Clinton’s “triangulation,” of shifting to the center, won for Democrats, including President Obama – until Hillary ignored her husband’s advice this year and abandoned the white working-class vote, which won it for Donald Trump.

For the 2018 gubernatorial election and the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Dianne Feinstein, you can be assured of one thing: at least one GOP candidate in each race will imitate Trump’s policies and style, calling – in these words – to Make California Great Again. We don’t know who, but someone already is designing MCGA hats and taking out a Twitter account.

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Overcaution in Sacramento vs. Overreach in Washington

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

In one American capital, the party in power is making big plans to overturn decades worth of policies, and boldly pursue controversial policies that change fundamental systems, from public safety to health care, despite fierce opposition.

In another American capital, the party in power is preaching caution, noting that just winning elections isn’t any kind of mandate for big change.

Which capital is which? Bizarrely, the bold party in power is the Republicans of Washington D.C. They’re pursuing massive changes –ending alliances, reversing policy on China, privatization of Medicare and the end of Obamacare, mass deportations in immigration, reversals on climate change-minded regulation — despite the fact that their president-elect got 2.5 million fewer votes than his opponent, and despite the fact that the party now has narrower majorities in the U.S. House and Senate than it did before the election.

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Looking Ahead: Solving California’s Housing Crisis in 2017

Tom Bannon
CEO of California Apartment Association

In these closing days of 2016, we are reflecting on the past year. California made progress on many important public policy fronts, but unfortunately failed to solve our housing crisis. It’s been reported on this website, and in nearly every California news outlet, that Californians are suffering from a lack of adequate housing stock and high housing costs. Cities are not adding enough new housing to meet demand, families are spending too much of their incomes on housing, people are enduring long commutes because they can’t find affordable housing close to their jobs, and too many talented workers are moving out of state.

This is a problem we must solve in 2017.

At our recent California Housing Forum, held in Sacramento in September, leaders from all sides of the housing conversation convened to discuss the importance of the problem, reasons for the crisis and possible solutions.

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Association of Pension Funds Blacklists Reform Organizations

Ed Ring
Ed Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

In a press release from the National Conference On Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) dated December 19, 2016, the California Policy Center, and its spinoff online publication, UnionWatch, were both chosen, for the 2nd year in a row, as one of only 28 “policy and research organizations” that NCPERS has deemed to be “Think Tanks that Undercut Pensions.” Ponder the significance of this excerpt from that same press release: “Under the Code of Conduct, NCPERS urges its corporate members to disclose whether they contribute to these organizations.”

What exactly were the transgressions of the California Policy Center, and UnionWatch, that earned them a place on this list of undesirables? That earned them an admonition from NCPERS to its corporate members to boycott us, or else? Here is their list of criteria – and, briefly, our response:

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Shared Values, Shared Success

Ginger Galloway
Vice President of Talent at Entertainment Partners.

There has arguably never been a more important political moment for Americans – from policymakers to constituents – to rally behind commonsense, bipartisan solutions that advance American workers and the American economy. And while most were hard-pressed to find such a policy this past election cycle, we at Entertainment Partners (EP) know there’s one sound economic policy that works for all: employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). Fortunately, our legislators, at the state and federal levels, agree with us, too.

As leader of our talent operations at Entertainment Partners, I witness the benefits of employee ownership every day, as we have proudly been a one hundred percent employee owned company since 2004. ESOPs ensure employees can take ownership of their work while building their retirement savings with a plan that consistently outperforms traditional options. In fact, the average retirement account for an S corporation ESOP worker is three to five times larger than a typical 401(k). With a recent Experian report suggesting 71 percent of Americans save too little for retirement, employee ownership is a reliable way to provide meaningful retirement savings for millions across the country. 

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Black Bart Award Nominee: Kevin McCarthy

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

As this year moved along there appeared to be a number of possible candidates for the annual Fox and Hounds Daily Black Bart Award. Then came the political earthquake on Election Day and everything looked different.

Sure, Governor Jerry Brown held firm on the rudder of the good ship California, tamping down ambitious legislators so that the state could live within its means, fighting off attempts (so far) to undercut his pet projects of the Delta Tunnels and the High Speed Rail, and firming up his reputation as a fighter against climate change.

Senate President pro-tem Kevin de León seemed to be everywhere establishing himself as a strong senate leader which seemed uncertain when he took the reins given the shadow of his predecessor, Darrell Steinberg.

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