Gary Shapiro

Gary Shapiro
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Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro

What We Can Accomplish Together in a Bipartisan Country

We, as Americans, should think seriously about how our current political divide will affect future generations. What will our political legacy be? According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans say political debate in the country has become more negative— even toxic. And a joint study by the Center for American Progress, Democracy Fund, Brookings Institution and Bipartisan Policy Center found that the line between red and blue is hardening, not softening. In this increasingly polarized political climate, we need to stand up for our children and keep our generational commitment to leave the world better than we found it. Companies can play a major role in healing the divide and ensuring a brighter future for our country. Globally, employers are the most trusted institutions, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. It’s time for us to act on this responsibility. Companies, associations and other institutions can show leadership and shape the future for the better by making a commitment to these initiatives: 1. Support those groups committed to solving national problems. No Labels, a movement fighting for political problem solving, encourages bipartisanship by pushing for an environment allowing the two sides to reach common ground. The organization helped launch the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group in Congress seeking to cooperate on key policy issues. Similarly, Third Way and the R Street Institute are working to devise substantive solutions that cross ideological lines. All organizations should also disclose their donors; we need transparency in funding for a healthy democracy. 2. Bring Americans together and encourage civility. This doesn’t always mean agreeing on politics. As the owner and producer of multiple events—including the Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest business expo—the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) brings together Americans from every state and territory. CES 2019 drew more than 175,000 attendees, including business, government and media. When we can see each other as people, face-to-face, our disagreements become more civilized. We tend to recognize more of what we have in common, and less of what divides us. Companies should use their events to encourage respectful discussion of our differences, recognizing the common bonds we share as Americans. 3. Encourage value-based health care. No American should have to endure a physical challenge because of a lack of health care—and we have to start by controlling the skyrocketing cost of health care in our country. Less expensive, more effective treatments for all kinds of diseases and health care challenges are being developed every day such as focused ultrasound, robotic surgeries and wearables that monitor chronic conditions. We need to rally behind new technologies to make health care affordable in this country. 4. Commit to a clean environment. CTA and the technology industry are committed to meeting and exceeding the mandates in The Paris Agreement. But we need other industries to join us in recognizing that the Agreement does not go far enough. For example, the accord allows China—the world’s biggest polluter—to increase its pollution without limit through 2029. If we’re going to commit to sustainability, we need to do it right, through stricter policies and agreements. 5. Protect privacy and encourage innovation. Some of the most critical human problems are already being solved by artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, 5G, biometrics, robotics, genetic mapping and biologics. American companies and policymakers can secure U.S. leadership in technology by working to ensure any new laws protect citizens while also encouraging innovation. We also need to work to preserve the internet as a powerful platform for the exchange of knowledge, free from government interference or censorship. Rather than attacking leading American companies for political points, we urge policymakers to focus on needed reforms like a national privacy law. 6. Invest in all types of Americans to ensure our economic success. By investing in early childhood education, STEM, skills training and underrepresented groups, we will better our nation and ensure its technical competitiveness on the global playing field. For us, this means increasing our support of groups such as Boys and Girls Clubs; providing exposure and startup capital to women and minority startups; expanding technology company apprenticeships and encouraging upskilling; sharing best practices for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry; hiring veterans; and supporting people with disabilities and older Americans who need access to technology. Today, our politics divide us even more than race or religion do. But America’s companies can help bring our nation together by collaborating on the most important issues facing us as a nation. If we’re going to maintain our global leadership, it might not start with our government; it might have to start with our businesses first.

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