Kemp Foundation Sponsors Forum on Opportunity in the New Digital Economy
In Partnership with the Internet Association, Walmart, and Nelson Mullins
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, the Jack Kemp Foundation gathered scholars and policymakers to discuss work and opportunity in the new digital economy.
Jimmy Kemp, president of the Kemp Foundation, opened the Forum saying, “We’re here to talk about economic growth more broadly shared… that’s the purpose, connecting more people in a way that allows us to achieve our hopes and dreams.”
The first panel featured Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association, Bret Swanson, president of Entropy Economics, and Dr. Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. They explored how technology contributes to rising productivity and better incomes for millions of workers, including those without advanced degrees.
“The digital economy has been growing fast, has been innovating, and has been rapidly increasing in productivity,” Swanson remarked to open the panel, “So the companies of Silicon Valley, the companies in media, the companies in finance have seen lots of productivity growth. It’s the companies in the rest of the economy that have really seen the concentration in the productivity slowdown.”
The past decade has seen slowed economic growth. But, Swanson and Mandel agreed, this stagnation does not have to be the new normal.
“One thing that we’re seeing right now is the penetration of information technology in the internet into the physical industries,” Mandel commented, “most importantly, the clearest place it’s happening right now is e-commerce.”
Beckerman concluded the panel by saying, “It’s clear technology is a great equalizer, it will allow disadvantaged communities to compete with others and have advantages they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
The second panel featured Secretary of Labor Alexandra Acosta, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Dan Bryant, Senior Vice President for Global Public Policy and Government Affairs at Walmart. They discussed the shifting nature of the economy in the new millennium and considered ways the government can adapt to empower workers in the digital economy.
Secretary Acosta said, “Lifelong learning and lifelong earning are not exclusive. We need to teach skills at the same time that we teach the ability to learn.”
In an age where innovations such as the iPhone, Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are all relatively new, it is vital to be forward-thinking and adapt to the changes that are a result of these new industries.
Senator Sasse emphasized “multi-decade thinking about what it looks like to find work that’s new for someone who’s mid-career, even as their local networks and support structures are disrupted.”
Facebook and other technology allow for the creation of new communities. Government should keep pace with regulating employer and employee rules, and changes in the private sector.
Bryant added that “It feels like we need a political, policy, business, framework that embraces the premise that we all have to be nimble in continuing to innovate.”
The third panel featured Chris Liddell, assistant to the President and director of Strategic Initiatives at the White House Office of American Innovation, Terrell McSweeny, Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, and Representative Will Hurd (R-TX). The conversation focused on how innovation is critical to the private sector and the ways the government can enable innovation.
Liddell stated “There is tremendous entrepreneurial opportunity to help advance government tech innovation.”
Representative Hurd cautioned, “We can’t be afraid of technology but we need to understand what we’re doing with it.”
Privacy and security are not mutually exclusive. The government can protect civil liberties while chasing threats to the American people.
Commissioner McSweeny added, “I don’t think we want to get rid of the notion of having major industries that are shaping all of our lives be accountable to democratic institutions.”
The next discussion focused on Two Marines Moving, a company that was founded by U.S. Marine Nick Baucom. Co-Founder Christy Keder explained, “Our story is the American dream. We did not have anyone giving us money, we come from lower middle class families, my dad was a union factory worker, we didn’t have donors or angel investors. We had some great mentors, desks in our apartment, and iPhones and google calendars.”
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) discussed his Opportunity Agenda, a portfolio of legislation designed to train Americans to engage and maximize opportunity in the digital economy.
Senator Scott reflected that when businesses investing in the next generation of workers are “willing to take a chance on that person, someone who has the patience, the perseverance, and the margin in their profit to invest in the next wave of workers” then both the employee and the employer thrive.
The event concluded with a conversation about Year Up – an organization that helps provide urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.
Year Up’s National Capital Region director Guylaine Saint Juste explained “what is the cost of debt that these young people emerge with to be able to get a job for $25,000 and how long does it take them to pay off that debt?”
The day proved to be a fruitful conversation about the best ways to advance opportunity in the digital economy.
Panel 1: The Coming Productivity Boom
Jimmy Kemp, President, Jack Kemp Foundation
Michael Beckerman, President and CEO, Internet Association
Michael Mandel, Chief Economic Strategist, Progressive Policy Institute
Bret Swanson, President, Entropy Economics
Panel 2: How the Digital Economy Changes Work
Dan Bryant, Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs and Government Relations, Walmart
Secretary Alexander Acosta, US Department of Labor
Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE)
Panel 3: Practical Policy Approaches to the New Digital Economy
Mark Jamison, AEI, University of Florida and former FCC transition team
Representative Will Hurd (R-TX)
Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, Federal Trade Commission
Chris Liddell, White House of Office of American Innovation
Two Marines Moving
Nick Baucom, President/Co-Founder
Christy Keder, Vice President/Co-Founder
Guylaine Saint Juste, Executive Director, Year Up National Capital Region