The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories
While the world was transfixed by the legislative train wreck of the Obamacare repeal effort in the House, the Senate was busy with its own mischief. On Thursday, it passed a bill that would remove Obama-era privacy restrictions from internet service providers (Buzzfeed). Republicans supported the bill, arguing that they were barring onerous rules that impede innovation, while Democrats maintained that the rules protect consumers. The bill still needs House approval and a presidential signature, but those are expected to come soon. “The Senate Prepares to Send Internet Privacy Down a Black Hole,” Wired headlined its story.
The FCC rules that are being trashed drew a distinction between ISPs like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, and online firms like Google and Facebook that build services on top of the internet access you pay those other companies for. The distinction may feel abstract and increasingly outdated in an era when your ISP might also be peddling its own content. Why should one kind of media company be more heavily regulated than another?
But it’s also a fact that most Americans have very little choice when it comes to broadband access in their homes. Most local markets are controlled by one provider, and “stay off the internet” is no longer really an option. The ISPs, even more than the search and social media giants, know where you live, what you do, who you talk to, and what you say. You might want them to ask your permission before selling your browsing history and location data.
Chobani + Refugees = Big Yogurt Win
Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya, a Kurd who fled the Turkish government in the ‘90s for the U.S., has done more than conquer the $3.6 billion Greek yogurt market, writes Fast Company’s Rob Brunner. In leading Chobani, Ulukaya has “begun to forge a new kind of business leadership, one that fuses competitiveness with an unusually strong sense of compassion” — and one that offers a compelling counter-narrative to Trump’s isolationist tide.
Ulukaya’s Chobani donates 10 percent of its profit to charity and has started a program giving up to 10 percent of the equity in the company to its workers. It instituted a six-week paid parental leave policy. And it has made a point of hiring refugees — lots of refugees (400 of the firm’s 2000 employees). Rather than a burden for the company, the refugees have been a plus for both morale and productivity.
Ulukaya is a fierce competitor as well as a humanitarian, and his company has also built a culture that makes decisions without hesitation and brings new products to market quickly. You could say its motto is “Move fast and make things better.”
Chobani is contemplating expansion into other types of food products, cafes, and maybe an IPO. But Ulukaya says he’s determined not to be absorbed by a big multinational food conglomerate, as so often happens to idealistic niche producers. Independence equals freedom to remain unorthodox.
All Companies Are Not Created Equal
Inequality isn’t as simple a matter as “the 1 percent” over there and the rest of us over here. According to Nicholas Bloom (Harvard Business Review), a key driving force of inequality in U.S. society today is “firm inequality” — the gulf between a handful of super-successful companies and all the others.
“In an increasingly winner-take-all or at least winner-take-most economy,” Bloom writes, “the best-educated and most-skilled employees cluster inside the most successful companies, their incomes rising dramatically compared with those of outsiders.”
Also, Bloom says his research indicates that while inequality among firms has grown steadily since 1978, wage gaps and other kinds of inequality within individual companies have not — which “may tend to make inequality less visible, because people do not see it rising in their own workplace.”
If Bloom is right, we have built an economy in which the rich companies just keep getting richer, not only in financial assets but in human resources. That becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Remedies Bloom suggests include stiffer antitrust enforcement, investments in education, and more progressive tax policies.
Treasury Secretary Says Not to Worry About AI
Will artificial intelligence and machine learning start putting people out of work in five years? Ten? Maybe 20?
More like 50 or 100, says Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, in a brief interview with Mike Allen (Axios). Mnuchin says he has no fears about AI, robots, or automation affecting employment. “In fact, I’m optimistic … It’s not even on our radar screen.”
Okay, really? How old is Mnuchin’s radar screen, anyway? Maybe that vintage World War II model needs an upgrade.