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If you show me your bobbers I’ll show you my pole beach short
They’re interested in free markets — whether or not that’s product markets, financial markets or labor markets. It’s about the image and reality of America: “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty. That’s the spirit of it. But it’s also this: If the U.S. Is not seen as a comfortable, attractive magnet for the world’s best talent, we’re in trouble. We don’t want all this technological expertise to be siphoned away to our trading partners, and that’s starting to happen.
[Business leaders] are upset about immigration policies. Around this time last year and into the summer, the universities were somewhat inept in their lobbying efforts [on the issue], and even the immigration attorneys were underperforming. They were kind of relying on the same K Street nomadic lobbyists who hop around from place to place, shun controversy, don’t want to create waves, who were kind of checking boxes but not having a meaningful impact. It was the business leaders, four major tech companies in particular, who went off to see Jared Kushner — and I know this point blank; I was in the middle of it, and this has not been out there, by the way — and say, “You can’t condemn us for outsourcing this work to China or India if we can’t bring these highly skilled workers here. We’re already now leasing space in Vancouver and Toronto, and we’re working on wiring the infrastructure so this will be on U.S. Time zones. If we can’t get [these skilled workers] into the U.S., we’re still going to function as a North American company with the talent we need.” If you show me your bobbers I’ll show you my pole beach short
They have different priorities [than the Republican Party seems to think]. They’re upset about the [anti-LGBTQ] “bathroom bills.” They’re upset about gun violence; hundreds of companies severed ties with the NRA or stopped dealing in semiautomatic weapons — from Wal-Mart to Dick’s Sporting Goods. As we talk about “regulatory rollbacks” during the Trump administration, they were almost entirely EPA-directed; nobody was lobbying for that in corporate America. With the automakers, it became the entire industry fighting the [Trump-era] EPA, saying, “We like working with California. We think that in addition to what we’re doing with hybrids and [electric vehicles], we are pretty sure that we can get a 50-mile per gallon efficiency in the old-fashioned internal combustion engine. Don’t stop us.” So [Attorney General Bill] Barr was told to unleash the antitrust division to sue the auto industry for conspiring in [agreeing to stricter environmental standards]. It was ridiculous.
You’ve spent a lot of your time at Yale working with business leaders and studying how they think. I’m curious how a CEO makes the calculation of whether or not it makes sense to speak out about an issue. Can you walk me through that?
Yeah, there are five parts, really.
First, they have to know what is in the strategic interests of the business. As a steward of other people’s resources, they have to be mindful that it can’t just be their personal values alone — and when it is, then they have to be willing to put their job on the line, as Ken Frazier did at Merck [following Trump’s comments after Charlottesville].
Second: Is it a defining element of their brand? How does it reinforce their brand and their brand values? Google retreated from China because of invasions of privacy and theft of intellectual property. They drew a line in the sand about what their brand is. Frankly, Apple did not.
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