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Gary Shapiro Talks Tech with Congressman Kevin McCarthy


It was July 19, one of those blistering hot summer days in Washington, DC, when CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro visited Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s ceremonial office at the Capitol.

It was July 19, one of those blistering hot summer days in Washington, DC, when CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro visited Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s ceremonial office at the Capitol. A striking crystal chandelier hangs above paintings of the American flag and the fag of California (McCarthy serves California’s 23rd district). McCarthy was elected to Congress in 2006 from Bakersfield, CA, and became Chief Deputy Whip, and later Majority Whip. In 2014, he was elected Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, he has been committed to policies that give small businesses and entrepreneurs the confidence to hire, expand, invest and innovate.

The grandson of a cattle rancher and the son of a firefighter, McCarthy grew up in a working-class family. At 21, he started his own small business called Kevin O’s Deli. He sold his business to put himself through college and graduate school at California State University, Bakersfield where he interned for Congressman Bill Thomas and later became a member of Congressman Thomas’s staff. In Congress, he focuses on fighting for individual liberty, an efficient government and free markets. McCarthy recently introduced and shepherded legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives giving the Department of Veterans Affairs $75 million to start a pilot program to provide accelerated computer courses in everything from robotics and basic programming to artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The following is an edited version of their discussion.

How can technology make the world better?

I was involved in the JOBS Act a number of years ago dealing with capital for startups. Since that JOBS Act passed, a number of companies have benefited, for example, Snapchat didn’t have to go for an IPO to grow and get capital. We looked at old regulations and laws that were made decades ago and modernized them — taking the tradition of the past and applying it to a changing future. I worked with Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-NC) on the JOBS Act. I started taking members to Silicon Valley and giving different tours. I wanted members to start thinking about what America should look like in the next 50 to 100 years. We often get bogged down in Congress and Committee worrying about a small amendment instead of thinking about what overall it should look like. One of our big bipartisan bills that will affect us a great deal is the Modernizing Government Technology Act. Look at the VA system that was created in 1921. When a veteran had a problem then, they would write the claim on a piece of paper, to get news they would turn on the radio. Today we look at our cell phones for news but if there is a claim at the VA, they still write it on paper. We spend $80 billion a year on technology and government. Eighty percent of that $80 billion goes to legacy programs. Technology gives us better data so we can serve constituents better. Today, if someone calls their congressman or congresswoman and has a problem with a federal government agency, they will mail you a form to fill out before anybody can do the casework, even if it is a crisis. We are moving to make that electronic. We can make government more e£icient, more effective and more accountable.

How can the U.S. remain the most innovative country?

CTA’s Tiffany Moore and Gary Shapiro met with Congressman McCarthy.

There are these little Silicon Valleys in different areas based around our higher education university system. Have you heard of Udacity? Sebastian (Thrun) invented the technology that gives you nanodegrees. When our son was going to Georgetown I saw on my credit card that I was paying for Udacity. I went on a tour and took a number of members there. Sebastian, who was working for Alphabet, taught a class at Stanford and offered it online. You can get a nanodegree in web and software development, robotics or artificial intelligence, and many (graduates) are hired by the top companies in America like Facebook, Alphabet and Google. But our GI Bill denies our veterans from going to Udacity or other educational systems like it, which is why I introduced the Vet Tech bill. One of the interesting things about disruption is that it equals the playing field. If you take that same platform and apply it to the Veteran’s Administration, a veteran could make a doctor’s appointment using an app. They can rate the doctor, the doctor can rate them and they can have all of their medical records. I have been working closely with Jared Kushner at the White House. We have already been able to get the medical records in one central place and move technology into these agencies so we get better data and we are more effective and accountable.

Many students in the STEM area are immigrants but we kick them out of the country when they graduate. What can be done?

We are working closely with Darrell Issa (R-CA) and others. Today we educate somebody in America, they get an engineering degree and then we tell them to go someplace else and compete against us. Or if they want to stay here, the visas fill up in two days. We need immigration reform. The current system is broken. This is an integral part — we can tie a great deal of our immigration towards education itself. There are a number of us working on expanding H-1Bs. Innovation and the rule of law are two major factors that keep us ahead of other countries. Many times when I was growing up, I heard that there was another country rising up that was going to surpass America. It is innovation that continued to allow us to leap ahead of the others. It is in every walk of life providing someone with a greater service, equalizing their ability to get something at a lower cost, making our technology when it comes to the military stronger so we are freer and the world is safer. The other thing about technology is that other countries can grab it and that can be harmful to us. And the idea that someone craves to be an American — if you think America is a place, then protect it and don’t let anybody in but if you believe America is an idea, you want to foster it and make it grow. I firmly believe this country is an idea that is different than any other country in the world.

Who are some other tech savvy members of Congress?

There are some on both sides of the aisle. Will Hurd (R-TX) is very innovative in his thought. Susan Brooks (R-IN) does a great deal. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and I are very tight on different items. I already mentioned Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Garrett Graves (R-LA). It is not a partisan issue. To me, every company is a technology company. For example, Dominos makes pizza but they have improved their sales because their CEO invested in technology, so now 65 percent of all orders come through an app. Their sales have almost doubled due to technology.

How do you see tax reform playing out?

Many of the challenges in this country will be solved by growth. If you take the highest growth rate in the last eight years, it is still lower than the lowest year under Clinton. That is why the middle class is hurting. That is where we can unshackle those things that hold us back and why tax reform is so important. I believe that we will get the momentum and get tax reform. We have been meeting with the Senate, we have been meeting with the administration — there is a lot of anticipation for this. Think of the trillions of dollars sitting overseas that are just holding there. Structure dictates behavior and our current structure of our tax code punishes people for bringing tax money back to America. When we fix that with repatriation, they will bring the money back and invest in their business, they will do R&D and they will go through new expensing and buy machinery and other items that make us more productive in the end. You know what else they will probably end up doing? Returning to shareholders in the form of a dividend. You’ll see an economic boost rather quickly but what we will do is invest in America for more jobs.

CES is the biggest business event in the world. We would love to have you there.

I would love to be there. I think it’s very important. We work on the challenges today, but if we don’t plan for the future, we won’t be in such a strong position. Every generation in America has improved on the generation before it. We want to make sure that we make that commitment to make it happen. It is an education for so many with the relationships and knowledge that you gain especially with the policy that we are making here. It is important to understand the latest technology and see the future of what is going on. I look forward to being there next year.

Tiffany Moore

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