In a speech in Denver today, and on her website, Hillary Clinton has unveiled a lengthy and far reaching Initiative on Technology, a set of proposals intended to strengthen America's tech sector, creating jobs and boosting the economy. Not incidentally, her proposed initiative is clearly intended to boost Clinton's appeal to Millennial voters and to Silicon Valley insiders. Both groups favored Bernie Sanders during the primary season, and Clinton clearly wants them in her camp come November.
Here's what you need to know:
1. Deferring student debt for young founders.
The most noteworthy portion of her plan aims to reverse the recent decline in young people starting new companies by deferring student debt payments for three years for company founders and for the first few employees of a startup. If the startup is located in a distressed area or creates a measurable social benefit, the program would forgive student loans up to $17,500.
The concept tackles the right problem--there's no doubt that the frightful burden of debt facing most new graduates today has both reduced entrepreneurship among the young and created a host of other ills as well. But her solution is the wrong approach. Admittedly, student debt is a bad reason to avoid starting a company. But it's an even worse reason to start one. Clinton's plan raises the prospect of graduating students filing DBAs (or whatever would be required) just to get a breather from their loans for a little while, or starting companies they aren't passionate about or that don't have much of a market.
And reduced entrepreneurship is only one of many problems with student loan debt, which is also preventing Millennials from pursuing low-paying but altruistic careers, becoming artists or performers (often a low-paying career, especially when starting out). Student debt is also stopping Millennials from starting families, and may even be damaging their health, research suggests. This is a huge national problem that needs a bigger solution than Clinton has proposed here.
2. Defending net neutrality.
Net neutrality, the controversial rule that Internet providers must treat all applications and content equally and cannot, say, provide faster connections for large companies than small ones. The Federal Communications Commission's pro-net neutrality rule has been found an overreach by appeals court with some hoping the Supreme Court will hear the case. Silicon Valley, needless to say, is a big proponent of net neutrality and Clinton's vow to go to court to protect the principle was certainly welcomed there.
3. 'Stapling' green cards to advanced STEM degrees.
Silicon Valley is also a big proponent of immigration reform for a very practical reason: Most tech companies struggle to hire the people with the skills they need. Clinton says she will "staple" a green card to a STEM Masters and Ph.D degrees from accredited institutions. "Far too often, we require talented persons from other countries who are trained in U.S. universities to return home, rather than stay in here and continue to contribute to our economy," her statement about the initiative explains.
4. When it comes to privacy vs. law enforcement, Hillary won't choose sides.
Earlier this year, the FBI and Apple went to court over the FBI's call for Apple to provide back-door access to an encrypted smartphone used by a shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks last year. That battle may still not be completely settled (some are hoping the Supreme Court will take it up).
It's a delicate topic for a candidate to have to publicly choose sides between law enforcement and the tech industry. She doesn't. "Hillary rejects the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe," the statement on her website says. As Business Insider noted, that language seems to echo Tim Cook's comments about the affair and so reads that statement as Hillary siding with Apple.
On the other hand, the statement also says she was a proponent of the USA Freedom Act, the successor to the Patriot Act--which could certainly be interpreted as a nod to the needs of law enforcement in such situations. Finally, she says she supports the McCaul-Warner Commission on Digital Security, which plans to bring together representatives from both law enforcement and high-tech to make recommendations on how to balance the conflicting priorities of privacy and public security. It's a great idea. It's also a much safer approach than supporting either over the other.