Moving forward together: Our thoughts on the US election

Like so many people across the country, we woke up in Redmond, Washington this morning thinking about yesterday’s election. And like so many Americans, regardless of who we supported through our vote, we strongly share the view that this is a time for the nation to come together. Every president-elect deserves our congratulations, best wishes and support for the country as a whole. The peaceful transition of power has been an enduring and vital part of our democracy for over two centuries, and it remains so today. As a company, Microsoft joins many others in congratulating President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

As a company, we also look forward to working with the new administration and Congress on issues of common concern. As we think about the future, we know we don’t have all the answers, but four issues rise near the top as we think about the country and information technology.

First and foremost, the vote yesterday registered a strong concern about the plight of those who feel left out and left behind.

In important respects, this concern is understandable. In recent months we’ve been struck by a study from Georgetown University. It shows that a quarter-century of U.S. economic growth under Democrats and Republicans alike has added 35 million net new jobs. But the number of jobs held by Americans with only a high school diploma or less has fallen by 7.3 million. The disparity is striking. The country has experienced a doubling of jobs for Americans with a four-year college degree, while the number of jobs for those with a high school diploma or less has fallen by 13 percent.[1]

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We know we have a lot to learn, but we believe this makes one conclusion abundantly clear:  in a time of rapid change, we need to innovate to promote inclusive economic growth that helps everyone move forward.  This requires a shared responsibility among those in government, across the private sector, and by individuals themselves.

As we’ve had the opportunity to learn more, we’ve concluded that new technology tools can play an important role.  This was part of the conviction that led Microsoft to decide earlier this year to acquire LinkedIn, a deal that has already been cleared to close by regulators in the United States.  LinkedIn is a good example of what one increasingly sees among both tech companies and tech-based non-profit groups.  New technology services and tools help individuals develop new skills and connect with new jobs.

As we look to the future, these can better help more people develop so-called middle skills – the types of technical skills that can ensure that those with less than a college degree can not only learn valuable new skills, but obtain the certifications and credentials that will be valuable in the workplace.  And we believe that new data tools such as LinkedIn’s Economic Graph can serve even more cities and states to help those in government match their worker training and economic development resources with the strongest opportunities in the market.  These are but a few of the roles where new technology can help.

We also believe that these issues represent the next frontier for innovation in public policy.  We’re enthusiastic about new potential initiatives at the federal and state levels that can promote broader education and training, bring labor laws into the 21st century, and ensure portable benefits and a stronger safety net for the tens of millions of Americans that are working part-time, acting as an independent worker, or participating in the expanding tech-based gig economy with companies such as Uber and Lyft.  In short, while the problem is clear, potential solutions are manifold and more than anything, we need to come together to pursue them.

Second, as a company that does business around the world, we believe there’s a clear opportunity to invest in infrastructure.  As the American Society of Civil Engineers concluded in 2013, our water pipes too often are too old, our highways too often are congested, and our bridges too often are deficient.  We don’t claim to be experts in the field, but we know a traffic jam when we see one, in part because most days around Seattle we sit in one.  It was encouraging to see both presidential nominees endorse new infrastructure investments, and we believe that new data analytics and cloud technologies can contribute to these improvements.  We especially appreciate the role that broadband and computing infrastructure can play in creating broader economic opportunities, perhaps especially in areas of higher rural unemployment.

Third, as we think societally about these new opportunities to address those who have been left behind, it’s critically important that we appreciate the continuing national strengths that serve the country so well.  We’ve benefited from the opportunity to see so much of this firsthand.  We invest over $12 billion a year in research and development, as much as any other company on the planet, and over 85 percent of this work is done in the United States.  Over a third of our engineers have come from other countries – 157 countries, in fact.  We have employees from every race, ethnic background and religion.  If there’s a language spoken on the planet, there’s a good chance that it’s spoken by an employee at Microsoft.  And we’re committed to promoting not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but the type of inclusive culture that will enable people to do their best work and pursue rewarding careers.

We know that this is the only way we’ll fully succeed as a company.  And we believe it’s the only way we’ll fully succeed as a country.

So while we all need to do more to support those who haven’t moved forward in recent years, we share the conviction that this is a time to bring the entire nation together.  And that means everyone, with an appreciation for the spirit of generosity and mutual respect that has often represented the best of the American spirit.

Finally, it will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time.  As this election demonstrated, technology now plays a ubiquitous role in our daily lives.  But people will not use technology they do not trust.

We’re committed to developing technology that is secure and trusted, both for Americans and for people around the world.  We literally have thousands of employees who make this their focus and priority.  And we know that we’ll benefit from stronger government policies as well.  That’s why we’ve not only advocated for clearer and more modern U.S. laws, but have filed lawsuits four times in the past three years against the current administration, standing up for what we believe are the vital rights of people both here and abroad.  As we’ve won the cases we’ve brought, we’ve been reminded of one of this country’s greatest strengths, its strong Constitution, independent judiciary, and the overarching rule of law.

Between now and Jan. 20, we’ll all participate in what is perhaps the most defining aspect of our democracy, the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another. Today is a day that finds some Americans celebrating and others commiserating about the electoral result.  But it’s also a day that reminds us of what makes the country special.  It’s a day that provides an opportunity to look beyond disagreements and divides, identify bold solutions to common problems, and find new ways to work together. It’s a good time for all of us to listen and to learn from each other.

[1] Georgetown Center on Education and The Workforce, America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have Nots, 2016, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Americas-Divided-Recovery-web.pdf.

About the Author

President and Chief Legal Officer

Brad Smith is Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. Smith plays a key role in representing the company externally and in leading the company’s work on a number of critical issues including privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion, among others.