William D. Watkins

CEO, Seagate Technologies, a maker of computer disk drives
There was a time when what was good for General Motors (GM) was good for America. That's no longer true. I'd love to see the next President start aligning what's good for Wall Street with what's good for America. We've lost that relationship. If I said right now that I'm going to stop doing any research and development in this country and that it would save the company $500 million, Wall Street would cheer. Now, it's all about short-term return on investment. I don't like short-term capital gains. You shouldn't get capital gains unless you hold a stock for at least two years. It shouldn't be about making instantaneous money every minute of every day.


I get great subsidies and tax benefits and all that [from other countries that are competing hard for Seagate's business]. I don't understand how we can penalize our companies like we do in this global economy. A lot of chief executive officers don't like to admit it, but at the end of the day, how do I make my company stronger? I move all my plants offshore, and how long is it before I move all my R&D?

I believe in progressive taxation. I don't mind you taxing me. I make a fortune, and I have received more than my share from the resources of this country. My hourly worker doesn't get the same benefits out of the fact that we've got these airlines and roads and these great universities, [whose existence] I can manipulate to make more money for myself. It's an insult to me to think that if you tax me 45% I'd lose my incentive to work.


Over half of our PhDs are foreign-born students, and we won't even give them a green card. So we educate them at our universities, which are the best in the world, and then we send them back home. It's crazy.


Are we committed to having the best education system in the world, or aren't we? If we're not, let's admit it. [CEOs] all talk about how important education is, but all we do about it is make sure our kids get into the best private schools.

Nobody says that the elite private school needs to be more efficient before they send their kids there. Nobody said to Wall Street that they had to get more efficient before we'd give them a trillion dollars. Let's quit BS'ing each other. Let's admit that we're a country that wants to have the lowest-cost education. California is 47th in the nation in spending on education. So rather than talk about improving education, they should decide to talk about that—because then [the state] could say there's only three states ahead of them!

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