With the Obama administration moving to take a greater role in auto manufacturing, banking, health care, and energy, one sector of the American economy that had seemed relatively safe from government intervention had been high-technology. This week's introduction of the Bing search engine by Microsoft was a reminder that there are areas where competition and innovation are thriving.
Well, that may be too rosy a view of things. The Justice Department has reportedly launched an anti-trust investigation into the hiring practices of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Genentech. And Microsoft's CEO, Steven Ballmer, is fighting back hard against Obama tax increase proposals, telling Bloomberg News that the company would move jobs overseas if the tax increases pass. "It makes U.S. jobs more expensive," Ballmer told Bloomberg. "We're better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S." He also predicted the tax increases would hurt the stock market:
Ballmer estimated that higher taxes under the proposal would reduce profits for companies that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average by between 10 and 15 percentage points.
"It's just a question of how much will the Dow come down," Ballmer said. "It's not about companies anyway; we're talking about shareholders."
In other words, the idea that the Obama administration would be so occupied with Wall Street and Detroit that it would leave Silicon Valley alone was just a pipe dream. It's good to see Mr. Ballmer speaking out. It will also be interesting to see what the consequences are, if any.