Trump, Jobs & Tech

As some of you know, I’ve tried to stay out of politics my whole life, instead focusing on creating and funding startups — which in turn create jobs.

My core belief is that if people have great jobs, you’re going to have a great society. That’s why so many elections seem to revolve, predictably, around the issue of employment.

This election was about jobs, specifically the blue collar ones.

The consensus view, from everything we’re reading, about what happened on November 8th is:

  1. Trump won because non-college educated, white voters who feel disenfranchised came out in greater numbers than anyone anticipated, while Hillary didn’t draw out as many voters as Obama did. [1] [2] [Chart 3]
  2. Many voted for Trump, despite some obvious and significant concerns, because they wanted a profound change in Washington.
  3. Polling was significantly off, causing false confidence for the Democrats.

This leads to a lot of questions:

  1. Why didn’t Hillary inspire more voters to come out? Have things gotten that much worse for middle America under Obama, or was it just Hillary (i.e., her “unlikable” tag)?
  2. Why did women vote against Hillary in such large numbers, even after Trump’s comments about women?
  3. Is this a one-time surge of the dwindling majority? How many more elections can this base, commonly referred to as “angry white men,” be sustained?
  4. Is this outcome about race, gender, personality or jobs?
  5. What is the future of the political parties if the GOP got elected by winning the Democratic base of blue-collar workers?
  6. Can anyone be president now? Is political experience still a requirement for the top job in the land, or is Trump a one-time Black Swan event where a person who didn’t serve in the military or hold political office somehow got the top job?

At its core this election is about jobs.

We believe we have an unemployment rate of four or five percent, but our system of reporting unemployment is inherently, and intentionally, skewed. [4] We don’t count people who have given up finding work, and those are the people — and families — I believe won the election for Trump.

If we want to bridge the gap between the “two Americas” I have a simple suggestion: we start telling the truth about employment.

In talking to the smartest kids in the class, I’ve learned that the true measure of how we are doing with jobs is simply calculated:

  1. What percentage of American adults have a job (the participation rate) [5]
  2. What they are getting paid (relative wages)

You can argue about what that money buys (#2), or if people are living in new ways that offer less employment and more leisure time (#1), and most of all you can study why the people who are no longer participating have opted out (aging out plays a big role).

At the end of the day we need to talk about real numbers — not politically motivated massaged ones.

We need a plan to increase wages and create jobs, that’s obvious, but we need to set the goal posts and have a politically neutral conversation about what “winning” looks like for Americans and America.

Adding to the political fun with numbers I’ve mentioned above, we now have two very important questions to answer:

  1. What does “acceptable employment” in the 21st century look like? (more below)
  2. Will the number of jobs rapidly go away due to massive advances in robotics and AI?

Here in Silicon Valley we have been really thinking about this because, candidly, we know we are starting to have an impact.

On “acceptable employment,” consider a former retail worker who loses or leaves their job and decides to contruct a life in which they Airbnb their home a couple of days a month and work two days a week for DoorDash. Doing so cuts their income by 20% but they double their leisure time, reduce their stress by 50% and are 100% happier — is that failure or success?

How do we report this person in our labour stats? According to our reporting today, they would be a failure, but the truth is they might have a much better life.

Adding to the confusion, the leisure time example above might be considered successful or a failure by the same person in the same lifetime. Heck, they might flip back and forth between full-time employment and a “lifestyle employment” every couple of years.

We are going through a reset of the 40-hour work week.

I’m guessing you’ve run into, or know, a ridesharing driver who says they drive into a major city from 60+ miles outside of the city two days a week, doing the arbitrage of 1/4th the living costs with XX%+ of hourly wages. Is this person a success or failure for figuring out how to pay <$1,000 a month for 3x the living space as someone paying $4,000 a month in the city?

How do we account for that individual in our stats? Are they happy and productive, or unhappy?

Will self-driving cars make living 60–90 miles outside of a city and commuting possible because you can work/sleep/netflix in a car going 90 MPH in no traffic? Does that solve a lot of problems around cost of living?

How do we account for that?

Candidly, we must remember that as Americans, we’ve already won when compared to the global scale — but past performance might not be indicative of future success. [6]

Things are moving quickly and it’s confusing for everyone. 2016 is a wake-up call, but it’s our game to lose. We are still the greatest country in the world, and with continued innovation, candidness and empathy we can lead humanity through this seismic shift in employment.

Best @jason

Further reading:

[ 1 ] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/how-trump-won/507053/

[ 2 ] http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/trump-us-politics-poor-whites/

[ 3 ] https://twitter.com/yanagiz/status/796382521688727552

[ 4 ] http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-is-the-real-unemployment-rate/

[ 5 ] https://twitter.com/Jason/status/796797519980204032

[ 6 ] http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/HDI

[ 7 ] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-was-stronger-where-the-economy-is-weaker/

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