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COLUMN: Defending High-Tech And Its Billionaire Entrepreneurs

In response to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s recent comments on billionaires, The Channel Company's Executive Chairman Robert Faletra wants to point out a few things that she seems to be forgetting.

I've been writing this column for 30 years and have never used it to dabble in political banter.

But Michael Dell’s recent reserved and succinct rebuttal to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s recent comment that “No one ever makes a billion dollars, you take a billion dollars” prompts me to divert just a little. What was even more surprising than AOC’s comment is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s agreement with AOC and his tweet which, as reported by CRN, went even further.

Reich said in a tweet supporting AOC’s statement that there are five ways to accumulate a billion dollars in America: “Profiting from a monopoly, insider trading, political payoffs, fraud and inheritance.” Dell’s response in a tweet: “You are incorrect.”

The many high-tech billionaires we have in this country certainly don’t need me to defend them. But I’d like to point out a few things that AOC and Reich seem to be forgetting.

First and foremost, all of the billionaires I’ve known during my career, including Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and a dozen others, did something neither AOC nor Reich have ever done. They created hundreds of thousands of very well-paying jobs. Jobs that frankly produced an income stream for many American families and their children. Children that were able to grow and prosper.

It is income from the jobs these billionaire entrepreneurs create that put millions of children through college, who in turn become productive members of society and who pay the taxes that pay for politicians to do their work.

Dell Technologies in 2019 had 157,000 employees. Microsoft had 148,465. Apple had 137,000 and if you were to extend the jobs Apple alone has created via the support system it takes— including suppliers and third-party application developers—it rises to more than 620,000 jobs. I’m curious as to how many jobs AOC or Reich have created. Would anyone like to take a guess?

Salesforce.com founder and billionaire Marc Benioff has created a company that is often listed as the best company in the country to work for. A few years back when the company

discovered its women were often paid less than their male counterparts, Benioff stepped in and committed to correcting that.

The company’s benefit package is generous and geared toward helping its employees support their families not only through good wages but via a flexible working environment supportive of the demands that having a family creates on working women and men.

And while we are at it, why don’t AOC and Reich talk about the amazing philanthropic work these billionaires undertake? Work that is more efficient and produces better results than most of the ill-conceived and poorly managed government programs politicians often dream up and implement.

The work and the billions that Bill Gates has dedicated to eradicating polio across the world and bringing clean water to depressed areas is legendary.

Michael Dell doesn’t talk much about the work the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation does around helping improve the education of children growing up in urban poverty. But maybe AOC and Reich ought to investigate it. And while they are at it, ask about the work the foundation is doing around health and wellness for underprivileged children.

I don’t know what any of these billionaires’ political bent is. But I do know that many of them should be commended for what they have accomplished not only for themselves but for many millions of others who have also worked hard to make their companies successful. Success that should be measured by how it has resulted in healthy, financially comfortable families that in turn do wonderful things for our society and others that are less fortunate.

Sure, they don’t all act and give back, but the ones I’ve known are standup people who create wealth for many beyond themselves and try to help those that are in need. By the way, AOC, you don’t make taxes, you take taxes.

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