|Bid||0.00 x 1200|
|Ask||0.00 x 1200|
|Day's Range||186.54 - 187.97|
|52 Week Range||123.02 - 208.66|
|Beta (3Y Monthly)||1.28|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||31.66|
|Earnings Date||Oct 28, 2019 - Nov 1, 2019|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y Target Est||235.55|
(Bloomberg) -- A House panel investigating big tech companies for potential antitrust violations is seeking information from customers of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook about the state of competition in digital markets and the adequacy of existing enforcement, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.It’s the latest development in the bipartisan congressional investigation being conducted by House antitrust subcommittee chair David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island.The eight-page survey doesn’t mention any companies by name, but it seeks information about the industries they dominate such as mobile apps and app stores, search engines, digital advertising, social media, messaging, online commerce and logistics as well as cloud computing.The survey asks respondents to identify the top five providers for the various digital services and how much it paid each of those providers since Jan. 1 2016. It also asks for any allegations of antitrust violations or business practices that hurt competition. The committee offered respondents the possibility of confidentiality if they desired.The panel has asked for responses to its survey by mid-October.Assessing AntitrustThe survey appears geared toward businesses that pay the big technology companies for services such as cloud computing, digital advertising and help selling mobile apps and products online. It doesn’t appear to focus on general retail consumers that buy products from Amazon or iPhones from Apple.It also shows how regulators are relying on customers and competitors of Big Tech to help them better understand digital markets and and how dominant players can stifle competition. The Federal Trade Commission has been quietly interviewing online merchants that sell goods on Amazon to better understand the business.The questionnaire shows the House panel trying to assess the grip big technology companies have in various markets, a first step in probing for antitrust violations. If the panel finds competition is so scant that the customers of big technology companies have no viable alternatives, it justifies further scrutiny of business practices as well as mergers and acquisitions.The questions also suggest the panel is open to examining how antitrust laws are applied in digital markets and if enforcement and laws need to be updated.A Google spokesman declined to comment. Apple didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Amazon and Facebook both declined to comment, but pointed to previous comments by executives in which both companies said they welcomed government scrutiny and maintain they exist in markets with healthy competition. Emails to representatives for the House committee weren’t immediately answered.The survey sent to customers follows the public disclosure of letters the House antitrust subcommittee sent to Google parent Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. Those letters, posted online, seek detailed information about acquisitions, business practices, executive communications, previous probes and lawsuits. The letters followed a July hearing in which lawmakers grilled tech executives.The House panel has been the most visible of various probes of technology companies. Representative Cicilline has been a vocal critic.Speaking at an antitrust conference in Washington, D.C. last week, he said, “you would be amazed” at the number of companies that have come forward with concerns about the potentially unfair way that big tech companies compete. Some have even expressed fear that the tech giants will respond with economic retaliation if the smaller companies’ concerns are made public, Cicilline said, without providing more detail.The House panel’s probe is part of a broader examination of the control companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook have over the U.S. economy. The FTC is investigating Amazon and Facebook while the Justice Department is probing Google. Separately, 50 state attorneys general have announced an antitrust probe of Google.(Adds requested date for survey responses in fifth paragraph. An earlier version corrected the spelling of David Cicilline.)\--With assistance from Naomi Nix and Ben Brody.To contact the reporter on this story: Spencer Soper in Seattle at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ian FisherFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Google has agreed to make a one-time settlement of over $945 million euros to the French ministry. The ministry accused Google of evading taxes.
(Bloomberg) -- The message to Adam Neumann was clear: You’re not Zuckerberg.Over the past month, as Neumann’s grandiose plans for We Co. started to fray, bankers began warning that he would have to loosen his iron grip on the company.The old era of Mark Zuckerburg was over, WeWork executives would soon learn. Back in 2012, Zuckerberg could take Facebook Inc. public and still retain extraordinary voting power. But that was then.And so it was that Neumann, the polarizing co-founder of WeWork, begrudgingly agreed this week to cede some of his powers. The question now: Will that be enough? Already, WeWork’s hoped-for valuation has plunged by more than half, or some $70 billion.By Friday morning, Neumann’s company had hastily filed an amended prospectus for an initial public offering -- one that will test not only WeWork and its guru-CEO but, in many ways, an entire generation of money-burning, grow-at-all-cost startups.In a matter of weeks, WeWork’s IPO has gone from one of the most hotly anticipated deals of the decade to perhaps one of the most dreaded. Despite growing skepticism over WeWork’s business prospects, Neumann has resisted corporate-governance changes that would be considered standard elsewhere.The chaos was apparent Thursday and Friday, as WeWork picked a stock exchange, emailed bankers and filed its new prospectus -- all in about 12 hours.Nasdaq ListingDefying skeptics -- among them, some of its own financial backers -- WeWork is plowing ahead with plans to go public on the Nasdaq stock market. Not even Nasdaq officials knew for certain that the company would chose the exchange until the last minute on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter.Emails were flying into the night. The new prospectus hit just after 6 a.m. on Friday.Now, yet another deadline looms: September 27, the Friday before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Neumann is expected to observe the holiday and be out of communication for several days, people familiar with WeWork said. WeWork representatives did not respond to a request for comment.Neumann didn’t get where he is, atop one of the most talked-about startups of the decade, by sharing. But in a new prospectus WeWork disclosed that Neumann would wield less power via an unusual class of high-voting stock.Now, executives must persuade investors that their company -- which has raised $12 billion since its founding and never turned a nickel of profit -- is worth billions on the stock market. As of late Friday, it was unclear whether they would be able to start marketing the stock via a roadshow starting on Monday, as many had expected.$65 Billion Value?Unclear, too, is just what WeWork might fetch on the open market. Only months ago, some bankers whispered it might be worth as much as $65 billion. Now that figure has fallen to as little as $15 billion.Beyond a page or so of steps WeWork would take to tighten up its corporate governance practices, Friday’s amended prospectus was little changed from the initial one in August.The dedication, even the second time, is pure Neumann:TO THE ENERGY OF WE –GREATER THAN ANY ONE OF USBUT INSIDE EACH OF USAmong other things, the company will trim the voting advantage that gives Neumann sway over the board, and no member of his family will be allowed to sit on the board. WeWork will also announce a lead independent director by year’s end.The move leaves in place a rare three-class stock structure and Neumann still maintains a voting majority, so it’s unclear how much the changes will appease both investors and the banks in charge of managing WeWork’s IPO.Valuation QuestionsQuestions remain about how investors will value the fast-growing, money-losing office leasing business that’s backed by SoftBank Group Corp. Both of the company’s lead financial advisers --JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. -- have previously voiced concerns about proceeding with an IPO at a valuation around $15 billion, people briefed on the discussions have said.Looking to save the IPO and limit its downside, SoftBank is in discussions to buy about $750 million worth of additional stock in the offering, the people said.The board will have the ability to remove the CEO, and the updated prospectus has taken out a clause that previously said Neumann’s wife Rebekah -- who’s listed as a founder and chief brand and impact officer of WeWork -- will have a role choosing any new chief. Some criticized the changes as not going far enough.“This is an example of posturing,” Jeffrey Cunningham, who teaches management at Arizona State University and has served on several corporate boards, said of WeWork’s changes. The company appears to be facing pressure “to go public at a time that is inappropriate and with a governance record that is questionable.”Still, the moves drove WeWork bonds to be the biggest price gainers in high-yield bond trading for part of Friday. A Fitch Ratings analyst said the changes addressed many of the issues that the ratings company raised in downgrading WeWork’s credit grade last month.“A key component of WeWork’s model is the ability to restrain growth in the event of a downturn and these governance changes increase the likelihood that an independent board will have the power to enforce such a decision,” Kevin McNeil, a director at Fitch, said in an emailed statement.\--With assistance from Michelle F. Davis, Anders Melin, Tom Giles and Crystal Tse.To contact the reporter on this story: Gillian Tan in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Liana Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org, ;Michael J. Moore at email@example.com, David GillenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Facebook Inc revealed lofty plans to establish a cryptocurrency called Libra in June, but the project quickly ran into trouble with sceptical regulators around the world. Opposition deepened on Friday, when both France and Germany pledged to block Libra from operating in Europe and backed the development of a public cryptocurrency instead. Facebook's goal is for Libra to be run by an association of other corporate investors and non-profit members, with an expected launch in the first half of 2020.
Lawmakers asked Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple for a broad range of documents, another step in Congress's anti-trust investigation of the big tech companies.
This week has been rough for big tech companies. On Monday, 50 states and territories announced that they're launching an antitrust investigation into Google.
“It's never going to be perfect but at scale it is a remarkable achievement,” says John DeVine, Vice President of Global Operations.
(Bloomberg) -- A House panel conducting a broad antitrust investigation of the technology sector is demanding that companies turn over a trove of internal records about their business practices as it ramps up scrutiny of the industry.Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline, who is leading the House antitrust subcommittee’s inquiry into large internet companies, said it is sending letters Friday to Google parent Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. asking for detailed information about acquisitions, business practices, executive communications, previous probes and lawsuits.The letters, which were addressed to the top executives of each company, mark the most aggressive demands by the House panel since June, when it began a bipartisan investigation into whether large tech platforms are harming competition.“We made it clear when we launched this bipartisan investigation that we plan to get all the facts we need to diagnose the problems in the digital marketplace,” Cicilline said in a statement. “Today’s document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our members need to make this determination.”The letters were also signed by the top Republican on the subcommittee, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, as well as the top Democrat and the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, of which the antitrust panel is a part.The requests come as the technology giants find themselves swamped by antitrust inquiries by the federal government as well as state attorneys general, which announced probes of Google and Facebook this week.The lawmakers also requested executive communications about prior government probes and lawsuits and said they would not recognize attorney-client privilege as a reason for the companies to refuse to provide requested records.The panel asked Facebook about its purchases of the WhatsApp chat platform and the Instagram photo app, which were both approved by federal antitrust regulators. They asked to see communications from Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, former general counsel Colin Stretch and policy chief Kevin Martin.The committee wants to know whether Google is shutting out rivals on its platforms or imposing restrictions that could harm competition. It asked for discussions by executives about whether non-Google companies with competing ad technology can participate in Google ad auctions or place ads on YouTube. The lawmakers also asked for discussions about any agreements between Android and smartphone manufacturers that give Google exclusive rights to collect data from devices.The lawmakers asked about 24 Google products and services, including its mobile operating system Android, Gmail, the Google Play store, YouTube and its mapping service Waze. The letter seeks information on executives’ discussions of major acquisitions including ad technology company DoubleClick, YouTube and Android.Asked about the request, Google pointed to a Sept. 6 blog post by top lawyer Kent Walker, who said the company’s “services help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States.”The other companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.The panel asked for details about 12 of Apple’s products and services, including its App Store, Apple Watch, iPhone, Mac and Siri. It wants to see communications to and from Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and 13 other executives about policies and decisions involving the company’s App Store, such as the algorithm that determines the search ranking of apps and whether to allow other app stores on the iPhone. They also requested records about Apple’s offer to replace ailing iPhone batteries.The lawmakers’ request to Amazon focuses on the company’s online marketplace, including how it handles proprietary data of third-party sellers on its platform and how its product search algorithm works. They demand answers about Amazon’s 2018 deal to sell new Apple devices on its website, which has also attracted questions from the Federal Trade Commission.The lawmakers seek information about acquisitions by Amazon, including audio book company Audible, upscale grocery store chain Whole Foods, and pharmacy delivery company PillPack.The antitrust panel has already held a hearing on the effect of digital platforms such as Google and Facebook on the news industry, as well as a session on innovation and entrepreneurship in July that featured appearances by executives from Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.(Updates with Google response in 11th paragraph)\--With assistance from David McLaughlin.To contact the reporters on this story: Naomi Nix in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mark Niquette, Kathleen HunterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
France and Germany said on Friday that Facebook Inc's Libra currency posed risks to the financial sector that could block its authorisation in Europe, and backed the development of an alternative public cryptocurrency. The criticism came as the European Central Bank said it was working on a long-term plan to launch a public digital currency that could make projects such as Libra redundant.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The amount of debt paying a negative yield now stands at a staggering $17 trillion worldwide. This is something that, growing up as an economist, I was told could never happen: An increasingly connected world was supposed to make it easier, not harder, for capital to find a higher return — and besides, negative yields were thought to be impossible.Clearly this received wisdom was wrong. Yet so is a lot of current thinking about negative interest rates. The problem is not necessarily a surplus of capital, but a shortage of labor.There are various hypotheses attempting to explain the development of negative interest rates: expectations of a recession, a global growth slowdown, the growing search for safe havens, the notion that a lot of corporate investment involves less physical capital than it used to (compare the General Motors of yore to the Facebook of today). Without dismissing those possibilities, I would like to add to the pile by thinking more specifically about the difficulty of starting a business. Venture capitalists will tell you that there are plenty of great ideas; what’s lacking is execution. There simply aren’t enough talented founders to go around. Indeed, economic research shows that the number of new companies has been slowing down. That is a troubling sign for the economy, and it also may help explain those negative yields.Consider this scenario: You are invested in German bonds at a negative yield. This is not a very attractive proposition. Yet maybe you are already heavily invested in German and U.S. stocks. And since stock markets move together more than before, due to globalization, you may be reluctant to raise your level of risk. Furthermore, in the U.S., by far the single largest equities market, the number of publicly traded companies has been shrinking dramatically.So you might seek out less correlated equity investments that will give you a higher return. In particular, you might consider investing in venture capital. That is one way of investing in new companies.But while new companies can eventually become highly profitable, most of them fail. Under one estimate of the return to venture capital, perhaps only 20% of funded projects succeed, and that is in the portfolios of the top venture capital firms. (The estimates vary considerably, but everyone agrees big winners are hard to come by.)Now consider a scenario from an alternate universe: There is greater opportunity and mobility all around. Educational inequality is being addressed. There is less discrimination against women, minorities and other groups. America has a sensible immigration policy, and its cities are taking steps to become more affordable. All of this makes it easier for startups to attract and keep talent.The result is that there is a lot more talent for startups. When it comes to venture capital, rather than having 2 out of 10 companies do well, maybe it is 3 out of 10, with more mega-winners too. That brings a big increase in returns, roughly 50% more, if the new talent is proportional in impact to the old.Under this scenario, capital would flow out of negative yield securities and into the venture arena, or into other ways of starting and funding new companies. It is then probable that yields on government securities would move into positive territory, to attract the funds from portfolios. In other words: The great stagnation in returns stems from a stagnation in finding and mobilizing talent.There are plenty of lamentations about how the world is squandering human potential. There are also numerous hand-wringing discussions about negative yields. Rarely, however, does anyone note that these two problems are related: They reflect an imbalance between how well we mobilize human and non-human resources.I am not suggesting that the shortage of talented labor is the only reason for negative nominal yields. But the negative yields are now so widespread that they can no longer be dismissed as an aberration. It is also noteworthy that the U.S. has the most developed venture capital markets in the world, and it has not yet moved into negative yield territory.I agree with the notion that negative yields are the result of larger structural forces. That’s precisely why the best way to think about them is not in purely financial terms but as a symptom of the difficulty of finding talent.To contact the author of this story: Tyler Cowen at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include "Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Investing.com -- The House Judiciary Committee has asked Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) for a broad swathe of documents related to various business issues, ramping up its antitrust scrutiny of the Internet giants.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- For the last seven years, the free world has been largely quiet as the Republic of Georgia has fallen under the sway of its wealthiest citizen, Bidzina Ivanishvili.There have been some warnings. Transparency International and other nongovernment organizations have warned of “state capture,” the systematic corruption of institutions at the behest of powerful individuals and interests. The country’s fractured opposition accuses the Georgian Dream party, which Ivanishvili founded and currently leads, of doing far too little to counter Russian pressure.Nonetheless, Georgia’s press remains free. Ivanishvili faces a real political opposition. And the country holds competitive and regular elections. So the U.S. and Europe have continued to treat Georgia as an independent country and an ally.Now this fragile republic is beginning to slide. This week Georgian Dream members of Parliament approved a new prime minister, Giorgi Gakharia, who has promised to crush the opposition. There is reason to take his threat seriously. Over the summer, when he was interior minister, Gakharia presided over prosecutions and at times violent dispersals of anti-government demonstrations.The protests themselves illustrate the other danger for Tbilisi: the prospect of falling under Russia’s sphere of influence. The story began in June, when the Georgian Dream party invited three members of the Russian Duma to address Parliament. The invitation was an opening for the opposition, according to Giorgi Kandelaki, a member of the European Georgia party: One of the speakers, he learned, appeared to have participated in Russia’s proxy war in Abkhazia in 1992 and 1993. That conflict remains an open sore for most Georgians; Russian forces invaded in 2008 and remain there to this day.“A Communist was sitting in the speaker’s chair,” Kandelaki told me. “Georgian Facebook was boiling. People went nuts. It was clear we had to do something about this.”What began as a protest about a symbolic affront to Georgian sovereignty turned into something bigger. The opposition demanded more proportional representation in the Parliament. It wanted Gakharia to resign after his riot police injured protesters; in return, he accused the opposition of plotting a coup.At first, Ivanishvili’s party negotiated. It agreed to new reforms that would force the winners of parliamentary elections into broader ruling coalitions. In the last week, though, the party and its leader doubled down on Gakharia.That should alarm the U.S. and Europe. Gakharia was a relative unknown when he first joined the Georgian Dream party five years ago. While most Georgian politicians spent their careers building the new republic after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gakharia spent time in Moscow as a businessman and only gave up his Russian citizenship in 2013. And while he has said that the U.S. remains Georgia’s most important ally and criticized Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he has also launched investigations into the most anti-Russian political parties.In this respect he has much in common with his political patron. Ivanishvili, too, has often said the right things when it comes to Russia. But the fact that he made his estimated $5 billion-plus fortune in Russia in the 1990s raises suspicions about how much leverage the Kremlin wields over him.Fortunately, the U.S. also has leverage over Ivanishvili. Batu Kutelia, a former Georgian ambassador to Washington and currently the vice president of the Atlantic Council of Georgia, told me that Ivanishvili keeps some of his fortune in the West, opening it up to oversight from U.S. authorities.Georgia is not today a Russian puppet. Nor has it slid into authoritarianism yet. But whether Georgia can remain a reliable ally of the West largely depends on how well its pro-Western opposition does in future elections. The U.S. should send a message to the leader of Georgia’s ruling party, who also happens to be Georgia’s wealthiest citizen, that those future elections must be free, fair and meaningful. If Bidzina Ivanishvili wishes to act like a despot, America should treat him as such.To contact the author of this story: Eli Lake at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Well, that was long. Those who thought the Democratic debate Thursday night — a marathon session lasting more than 2 1/2 hours — would be important because it was the first showdown between former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren were bound to be disappointed, because politics doesn’t actually work that way, at least outside of bad movies, TV shows and Marco Rubio campaigns (OK, it sometimes works that way). Political disputes aren’t actually settled in direct combat, especially the high-school debate version of it. The ABC News personality George Stephanopoulos nevertheless tried to bait Biden and Warren (and, to a lesser extent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont) into fighting over health care, and all three of those candidates dominated the early part of the event, but no one threw a knockout punch because those are, for the most part, fictional. Indeed, Biden, Warren and Sanders — the best-known candidates, with plenty of party actors who support them and plenty of other resources — didn’t really have much at stake in this debate. Sure, it was a chance to impress some people or to slip up conspicuously, but most debate effects are short-term and wear off quickly. That’s always been true, and those who forgot it from previous cycles could have watched the short-term dip Biden took in the polls after doing badly in one encounter in the first debate back in June. He recovered within a few weeks.No, the candidates who had the most at stake were those who haven’t caught on yet but might well be serious contenders if they do ever break through because they have conventional presidential credentials and orthodox positions on public policy. That was especially true for Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and for former Housing Secretary Julián Castro. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke might fall in that category, too. Each of them still theoretically has a chance at the nomination, but their windows are closing, and so this debate and the next one in October really are critical for them. Moving up only a few percentage points — a five-point mini-surge up to 6% or 8% in horse-race polls — really could create a larger surge, and perhaps a top-four finish in Iowa, where the caucus on Feb. 3 will be the first presidential contest of 2020. (Senator Kamala Harris of California is probably doing well enough that her window isn’t closing yet; the remaining candidate on the stage, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang, is actually polling a little better than some of the others, but there’s little sign of any support from party actors, and he would be unlikely to get the nomination no matter what happens in the debates.)Here’s where immediate debate analysis, however, runs into a wall, because what really matters is what happens next. Booker, Klobuchar and Castro all had what seemed to me to be good moments Thursday night. So did Buttigieg and O’Rourke. But there’s no way to guess whether those moments will be highlighted on MSNBC and CNN, or become clips that get momentum on Facebook or Twitter, or otherwise get people talking and thinking about candidates other than the polling leaders. Of the five, the one who came most committed to an apparent high-risk, high-reward strategy was Castro, who directly confronted the 76-year-old Biden with a thinly veiled attack on him over age. Most of the political scientists and journalists in my Twitter feed thought it went poorly, but who knows how it will look to regular voters — or, perhaps more importantly, whether it will get enough pickup to make voters aware of Castro’s presence and start treating him as a major candidate. Meanwhile, the horse race is only part of the campaign. Debates are important because of policy discussions, with candidates forced to stake out policy positions and priorities as part of their party’s efforts to reach consensus on what they will do if they win. I heard a lot of complaints from journalists as the debate went on because the ABC News moderators went over familiar ground, especially on health care. But that’s how the process is supposed to go: Candidates set out positions, get pushback, assess what’s viable, and either modify their ideas or stick with them.That process works best when moderators toss out policy questions, especially simple ones that let the candidates go where they want. ABC’s moderators sometimes did that, but sometimes fell short, resorting to gotcha questions. In a long segment at the end asking the candidates to riff on professional setbacks, they abandoned policy altogether. As a result, a fair number of topics, from Russia to reproductive rights, were ignored or touched on only briefly. Of course, that’s one of the reasons to have multiple debates. Meanwhile, the 10 candidates on the stage (half the number that participated in the June debates) comprised a respectable group; with the exception of Yang and perhaps the relatively inexperienced Buttigieg, it’s easy to imagine any of them being competent presidents. Not, to be sure, presidents who would draw a lot of Republican support; even the supposed moderates such as Biden and Klobuchar are mainstream liberals who would probably be similar ideologically to former President Barack Obama if they were elected. But they all seem comfortable talking about public policy, foreign and domestic, and if anything the conversation moved too deep into process — except to those of us who are thrilled by discussions of budget reconciliation and Byrd rule reform. And it’s only a few more weeks until they do it all again.To contact the author of this story: Jonathan Bernstein at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Landman at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- It’s a classic Silicon Valley story: A shoestring operation disrupts the way business has traditionally been done, smashing experts’ expectations while drawing wary glances from sober-minded analysts.Except this time the product isn’t some new gadget or app, it’s a presidential candidate. Since he began his unorthodox campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination, New York entrepreneur Andrew Yang has broken with a lot of traditional advice about campaign proposals, fundraising and public relations. And so far, it’s kind of worked.Endorsements from big names like Elon Musk, along with many small individual donations from software engineers—among the biggest givers to his campaign—have catapulted him into the middle of the winnowing pack of remaining Democratic candidates. He’s managed to win over the tech industry’s support while making its negative impact on society his central focus, and he’ll be on the debate stage on Thursday night, trying to convince everyone he can fix it. An outsider with zero political experience, Yang has outlasted a senator, two governors and three members of the House in the crowded Democratic field. He’s currently beating two senators, former liberal heartthrob Beto O’Rourke and Tom Steyer, the billionaire burning through his own cash while floundering in the polls. And Yang’s fundraising and poll numbers were strong enough to qualify for nationally televised debates three times. But it’s the next phase that proves trickiest, in both tech and politics. Yang, who is currently at 2.5% in a Real Clear Politics aggregation of polls, needs to scale up quickly, building more name recognition and financial support before the primary season starts. In short, it’s time for Yang to go public. His plan to do so involves a campaign centered on one big idea: a $1,000 check sent monthly to every U.S. citizen over the age of 18, no strings attached. But he’s also touting more than 150 other proposals such as legalizing marijuana, creating a postal banking system, paying college athletes, eliminating the penny and making Puerto Rico a state. It’s those ideas that make more traditional pundits view Yang as a fringe candidate—Yang is undoubtedly the first presidential campaign to have taken a stance on circumcision, even if he later backtracked on it. But an embrace of oddball causes may also be part of the secret to Yang’s success so far.Connor Farrell, a progressive fundraising consultant for Left Rising in Washington, D.C., said that Yang’s campaign features the kind of niche ideas with passionate fan bases that drive online donations. Those voters can be reached much more efficiently through free viral videos and memes than can, say, potential supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden who prioritize electability. And they’re easier to convert into small-dollar donors who can be tapped again and again, Farrell said.“Candidates who advertise about a specific issue have an easier time targeting the people that are likely to give to them,” he said. “You’ll make more money spending less money.” Yang recently sat down with Bloomberg in a cramped conference room in San Francisco to talk about his ideas. Surrounded by stacks of his book The War on Normal People, the former tech entrepreneur quickly launched into his case that the tech sector bears responsibility for many of America’s problems.Retail jobs vaporizing and shopping malls closing? That’s Amazon. Suicide and mental health issues on the rise? That’s Facebook. Journalism on the decline? Google’s ad network carries a bunch of responsibility for that. And, he argues, there’s worse to come, as automation comes for clerical, call center, retail, food preparation and trucking jobs. “It’s not immigrants causing these problems,” Yang said, in counterpoint to President Donald Trump. “It’s technology.”And then he turns to his solution, which his campaign calls the Freedom Dividend but Yang informally describes as a “tech check.” To help pay for its estimated cost of about $255 billion per month, he wants to ditch corporate taxes on earnings and instead institute a value-added tax, or VAT, a tax on consumption. The VAT is used by a majority of developed counties, but is considered a non-starter in the U.S. for both parties: Republicans look at it as a tax hike, and Democrats believe it’s regressive because poor people’s consumption represents more of their income. Yang argues that if the tax were set at 10% (or about half the amount Europe charges) it would easily cover his $12,000 annual stipend for every American.While Yang believes the tech sector has created a lot of problems, he also thinks it’s uniquely positioned to solve some. Yang wants to allow voting by mobile phone using blockchain security. He favors net neutrality, letting consumers have a property right to their own data and increased investment in quantum computing and encryption technologies. He wants to bolster artificial intelligence to remain competitive with China and create a new agency to monitor the addictive nature of smartphones and social media.And, more importantly, he doesn’t rail against the companies’ creators themselves. It’s a neat trick: He vilifies the effects of innovation while absolving the innovators, saying that’s a job for government regulators. “This is a natural place where the government needs to come in and set parameters,” Yang told Bloomberg. “If you ask [tech companies] to self-regulate, they would literally be doing their shareholders a massive disservice if they were to scale back in any meaningful way.”To help garner support for such policies, Yang wants to create an agency to educate elected officials on artificial intelligence, data privacy, online ad networks and other technology topics they often don’t understand but are expected to craft laws to regulate. Such misunderstanding, he suggests, is what led candidate Elizabeth Warren to propose a break up of big tech earlier this year. “She’s recommending 20th century solutions to 21st century problems,” he said of Warren. “It’s not like breaking Google up into four mini-Googles would somehow improve the marketplace because no one wants to use the fourth best search engine. There’s a reason why we’re not using Bing.” Yang has early roots in the tech industry. He grew up in upstate New York, a self-described nerd who often spent more time with computers than people. His father, who worked at International Business Machines Corp. and generated 69 patents, encouraged his son’s early interest in technology. After Yang earned a law degree from Columbia University, he found he didn’t like being a lawyer and launched a startup allowing people to donate to celebrities’ favorite charities (it failed), then he drifted to a health care startup and eventually joined an online test prep company as an employee. By the time test titan Kaplan Test Prep bought it a few years later in 2009, Yang had risen to become its chief executive. He used part of his windfall to start a non-profit called Venture For America, matching recent college graduates with tech startups in sometimes-overlooked cities like St. Louis, Detroit and Pittsburgh.The people most likely to donate to Yang’s campaign have job titles like programmer, developer and software engineer. Many of them have jobs at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp., but Yang also has a steady stream of contributions from workers with the same jobs at companies around the country, such as Capital One Financial Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Walmart Inc.He's also gotten support from tech workers at small startups, ranging from companies developing artificial intelligence platforms to apps that teach "Unified Mindfulness," a meditation technique.Workers at tech firms contributed $321,664 to Yang through the end of June, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That was less than the $1.3 million the sector gave to Pete Buttigieg, tops among Democratic presidential candidates, and about as much as Joe Biden, who is polling far higher but whose late entry into the race gave him less time to raise money.Like most of his rivals, Yang's big three locations for raising money are the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas, but tech enclaves rank higher on his list than they do for other candidates. Seattle is fourth and the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area—the heart of Silicon Valley—is seventh.Richard Shank is one of those donors. A software developer in Beaverton, Ore., he was working on a project to automate school scheduling and listening to a Ray Kurzweil audiobook a few years ago when he had a realization that automation was going to cause a lot more disruption to the economy. After reading more on the issue, Shank, 50, settled on the universal basic income—sometimes called UBI, or in Yang’s case, the “tech check”—as a solution. He backed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 in part because he’d said favorable things about the idea, but when he heard Yang on Sam Harris’ podcast, Shank had finally found his candidate.“I was immediately sold,” he said. “UBI is probably the single most important issue in this race.” Shank listened to the audiobook of The War on Normal People and checked out every podcast interview with the Yang that he could find. He sets aside a portion of each paycheck to send to Yang’s campaign, and is about $1,000 toward his goal of hitting the Federal Election Commission maximum of $2,800.Neil Malhotra, a political economy professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has studied political attitudes in Silicon Valley and the tech sector. One study of tech founders in Silicon Valley found that they favor low regulation to allow businesses to innovate but they also support redistributing wealth and are liberal on social issues. A separate study found similar attitudes among computer science majors at Stanford.“If you look at the Yang campaign, it’s very consistent with what we found,” Malhotra said. Yang may not like social media’s effects on society, but his campaign is certainly benefiting from them. Online, fans have blended his image with funny and sometimes outrageous messages that spread fast on Twitter and Reddit as well as more controversial sites like 4chan. Yang’s campaign staff say they try to keep tabs on the ever-multiplying memes, but have no control over what gets published, where or how fast it spreads. “As important as social media and everything is, the core driver is still email and fundraising,” said Digital Director Eric Ming, who leads the campaign’s efforts in social media, digital advertising, email and online engagement. He said he and his team don’t generally make memes, but see the power of the images in real time.When a meme strikes a chord, like the image of a boyfriend doing a double take on a new girl (Yang) while walking with his girlfriend (Trump), it spreads quickly, contributing to the candidate’s digital fame. One clip of Yang dancing the Cupid Shuffle in a women’s exercise class got 1.6 million views. A slow-motion video of Yang standing barefoot on his deck kicking off a water bottle cap without knocking over the bottle got 1.4 million. Another video shows supporters hoisting him above their heads, enabling him to crowdsurf his political rally like a rockstar.They may seem trivial, but like any media appearance, viral clips can drive voters to learn more about the candidate. These images play an outsized role in driving political decisions, according to Joel Penney, an associate professor at Montclair State University and author of The Citizen Marketer: Promoting Political Opinion in the Social Media Age.Penney described memes as amateur-produced political ads that played a “massive” role in helping Trump win the last election. Their power, he says, lies in their simplicity. It’s an easy way of consuming often complex information that’s easy to share, is topical and hits emotional triggers.“Memes get votes,” Penney said. “It’s not a one-to-one correlation, but it’s absolutely what’s shaping meaning and perceptions.” (Updates with donation information in the 24th paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected a cost estimate for a universal basic income.)\--With assistance from Bill Allison.To contact the authors of this story: Lizette Chapman in San Francisco at email@example.comRyan Beckwith in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at email@example.com, Brad StoneFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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