Op-Ed: Why a Trump presidency will kill the American entrepreneur

Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Las Vegas.
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Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Las Vegas.

In 1980 I started out at age 13 as an entrepreneur, electrified by a brief, chance conversation with Steve Jobs on the campus of Stanford University. I created software to teach people how molecular fusion was a more sustainable energy source for America's future than oil. That sparked a career in which I now run five businesses in tech investing, digital marketing and reputation management.

For me, tech entrepreneurship is exciting and a path to financial independence. But for others, it's owning an options brokerage, an online toy store or a Mexican food franchise.

Economists say America's entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy. We shape the economy, but the economy can also shape us. A dramatic event — like the financial collapse of 2008 — can be a financial nuke detonated on our lives.

The biggest risk factor

There is no greater threat to entrepreneurs than a Donald Trump presidency. Although he's made major mistakes, he is still in the race at a time when many people are angry and dissatisfied with the country's direction, and no American should ignore the potential mathematical risk that he could be elected.

In 2008, entrepreneurs got walloped by big banks' greed and over-leverage in the Great Recession. It was a massive economic earthquake not seen since my grandfather's time as a department-store manager during the Great Depression.

Many Americans still suffer in ways similar to what my grandfather witnessed in 1930. Their anger against elites and institutional power for failing to create enough new opportunity is immense.

If many people assume a Clinton presidency and don't show up at the polls, and others act on their anger and vote for Trump, it will leave us in a far worse position than the one that exists now. Entrepreneurs create most of the job growth in today's economy. We depend on a solid marketplace to expand our businesses and jobs. Worse is unacceptable to us. Trump's economic policy is a death wish for America's economy. It will hit us with a KO punch with the force of Mike Tyson in his prime.

Global economics

Moody's Analytics found that we are headed straight for a major recession if Donald Trump is elected, and its prediction looks more and more valid as the election approaches. A recession would mean a loss of business for entrepreneurial companies and jobs for millions of Americans. There are already estimates that a Trump presidency could cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion and 4 million jobs by 2021.

At first glance, some of Trump's policies sound like they could help entrepreneurs. Cutting taxes on businesses and repatriating monies that firms have parked overseas could bring needed investment into America.

Those aren't bad ideas, but many fellow business owners and clients tell me all bets are off if Trump wins. They don't want to make investments in hiring, expansion and equipment when recession looms. In fact, they would likely cut jobs.

Trump's refusal to acknowledge the fact that we are an important part of a global economy would have such a sweeping, ongoing effect, it would cancel out any good his policies would do. His rejection of the idea of a more global world is not only ignorant and bizarre — given his own global sourcing for his ties, steel and suits — but threatening to America and its allies' security, creating dangerous instability.

Yes, many jobs have been lost to overseas workers, but they are not returning. And many Americans have not been fully briefed on the fact that embracing global markets help bring jobs to the United States. Exports continue to be a big engine of our economy, helping many of our manufacturing plants stay alive.

"There are already estimates that a Trump presidency could cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion and 4 million jobs by 2021."

Many of my own customers come across borders, seeking our digital and technology services. And while my companies have created many highly skilled jobs, I also hire people for entry-level and middle-skilled positions. I am not alone. Apple, Facebook, Google and some of the largest U.S. companies and employers gain significant revenue from overseas activities. This income funds jobs here. Many are skilled, knowledge-worker positions, and the net effect is job expansion from the sales of U.S. products abroad via trade.

A solid global economy needs a platform of perceived safety. Trump has said he will offer only conditional support to NATO. That increases the odds of more nuclear weapons entering the global theater. Couple this with trade wars, and insecure nations will tend to retrench and reduce their willingness to trade and invest. Predictability promotes business confidence.

But what happens if the president drives an exit from international trade deals? Foreign trade will decline dramatically, and so will foreign investment in American companies.

Yes, we need fair trade, and any president elected should work on this. But Trump fails to understand that rather than pull back from the global economy, we need to train Americans to compete. That requires new approaches to education and investments in industries such as renewable energy that will power millions of new jobs in America.

Silicon Valley ferociously opposes Trump. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman believes Trump "doesn't have a policy plan" and that a Trump presidency "would range between disastrous and terrible" for Silicon Valley, America's entrepreneurial hub. In July, 140 Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, inventors and executives published a scathing protest letter against Donald Trump.

When all of these brilliant, highly competitive minds join, it is prudent to say they know what's best to enable their firms and thousands of others to grow and the backbone of America's economy to flourish. These sentiments about Trump are not confined to Silicon Valley. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said, "I don't see him as a reflection of a CEO or a reflection of an entrepreneur."

As an entrepreneur who is passionate about growing my businesses and is still inspired by Steve Jobs, I agree with Cuban. Entrepreneurs are people of action. The action we must take right now is to protect and preserve the greatest economy in the world with our votes.

Eric Schiffer is CEO of private equity firm The Patriarch Organization and chairman of ReputationManagementConsultants. He is the author of "Emotionally Charged Learning" and can be reached at @ericschiffer.