If there’s one thing Republicans can offer startups, it’s a healthy dose of tax breaks and deregulation. Everything else though is a matter of debate.
The 2016 Republican platform is still being decided, and even after a decisive Nevada win by Trump, it is effectively a three-man race for the party’s nomination. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are picking up most of the headlines, but Marco Rubio seems like the last ‘establishment’ candidate the GOP can offer in the primaries. Rubio is by far the most outspoken in his party’s leadership on startups, the sharing economy and other matters of concern for entrepreneurs. But, his views might not exactly be popular when compared to Clinton’s, Sanders’s or Bloomberg’s views on startups.
Here’s a quick rundown of what Rubio is offering.
Boosting the sharing economy
This is the theme of Marco Rubio’s platform for startups. He lauds Uber, Airbnb and anyone who is able to push on-demand platforms that reach customers more quickly. In a speech last year, he showcased NY startup Handy for its 11,000-strong user base for cleaning and maintenance freelancers. He has also mocked NYC taxi companies among others for their protests of Uber.
In a speech in October, he said, “The on-demand economy is a miracle that only American free enterprise could produce. That’s why it’s so shameful that the biggest obstacle to the growth of this platform is our very own government.”
He also stated that the tax code is out of date for dealing with workers on these platforms. “They can either be classified as full W2 employees or as 1099 independent contractors. But neither makes perfect sense.” He implies that employers should be able to add perks and extra training without the added responsibility of taking on a full employee, which would negatively affect workers’ ability to get healthcare through their employer. He points to the German third option, the “dependent contractor,” as an interesting blend of the two designations that might help companies like Uber weather their current, controversial relationships with their drivers.
Fewer regulations and clearer taxing rules
On lessenging regulations, he explained, “Federal regulators usually provide cost-benefit analyses for proposed regulations. But the status quo neglects the important question of whether the proposed rule will be an impediment to innovation, cause industries to consolidate into just a few firms, reduce consumer choice, or otherwise inhibit genuine competition.”
He has spoken out in support of the “disruptive” nature of the modern sharing economy, explicitly naming Uber and Airbnb as promising leaders here. Calling regulations “outdated” and prohibitive, he smoothly transitions between talking up regulatory hurdles and how new taxes on online sales would inhibit the darlings of Silicon Valley. Along these lines, he also proposes to block tax measures like those of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which in his words potentially subjects “online retailers to thousands of different tax systems and audits from those jurisdictions.”
He goes on to demand “clarity” for taxing digital goods and to avoid multiple taxation by state and local authorities. Far from being the first person to propose this, there have been bipartisan attempts to address multiple taxation of digital goods, such as the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act proposed by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) in 2013.
“Internet freedom,” not net neutrality
Net neutrality has been a partisan ballgame since the FCC instituted new regulations treating the internet like other telecom services, effectively preventing telecom companies from offering premium services to certain online services and websites such as faster internet, which could affect free speech. Rubio and other Republicans think that the government regulation is contricting speech anyway and inhibiting free enterprise.
On his website, it states, “President Obama’s net neutrality takeover of the internet, which subjects 21st century technology to an early 20th century regulatory system, will hamper innovation and raise costs for Internet users.”
That also means crushing public internet companies like those in Wilson, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee, in favor of private telecoms like Comcast. Rubio wants to “reallocate wireless spectrum controlled by the federal government, to shift it toward commercial wireless services.”
A Republican opening up immigration
While this might sound interesting at first glance, it has the hallmarks of a traditionally pro-business Republican. Rubio wants to increase the number of H-1B visas given out to foreign professionals recruited by hi-tech companies. That definitely contrasts with his rivals Donald Trump and Ted Cruz but places him on the same side as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and if he enters the race, Michael Bloomberg.
It remains to be seen if Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs and successful businessmen are going to go for a message that opposes net neutrality and argues that minimum wage should remain low so workers don’t get replaced with machines (looking at you McDonald’s). But if you’re a conservative in the San Francisco Bay or any emerging tech market in the United States, Rubio is probably the clearest choice in the Republican field to get your vote. Otherwise, make piece with Hillary Clinton or Michael Bloomberg.