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Full video and transcript: U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon at Code 2018

“America needs to be the No. 1 tech industry in the world, and we need to continue to invest in that.”

Editor’s note: The following is an unedited transcript from the 2018 Code Conference. It may have spelling or grammatical errors that will be corrected at a later date.

Kara Swisher: I thought it was really important that tech which is more on the liberal end and more Democratic in general, also hears from lots of things including people in the Trump administration, so I was casting around for somebody who I could invite, and of all things, and I told her this backstage, I did a podcast with Anthony Scaramucci, which was fantastic. We talked for 90 minutes, and he said, he suggested Linda. The minute he did I thought this is great, someone who’s an entrepreneur, someone who is in an area of entrepreneurship in an area of the government, and someone, so far, as The New York Times call her is non-objectionable. I’ll read the piece from The New York Times, but she’s terrific. Linda, come on out.

Linda McMahon: Thank you.

So much. Thank you for coming. I was ... for this. Linda’s the 25th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Association. I’m gonna read The New York Times. There’s a piece about you, not too long ago that said two things: “Mrs. McMahon has distinguished herself as a rare high-ranking administration official deemed broadly unobjectionable,” and then they said, “There is no other cabinet member who understands Mr. Trump as Ms. McMahon does.” Third was a quote from Donald Trump, which was “She’s a killer,” in the piece.

One of the reasons Anthony thought I should have you is ‘cause he said you’re a bad-ass, and I’m a bad-ass so I thought it would be a good pairing, so I wanna start to talk on that first thing. Let’s talk about Mr. Trump. Tell us what we don’t know or aren’t getting in Silicon Valley about him because we’re getting a lot of tweets, is what we’re getting, and they’re problematic for some of us. Talk about that. What don’t people get about him.

I think the good thing about tweets is you can see that he’s adapted to technology.

Yes, he is very good.

Which is very good.

Yeah, he’s super good at it.

I’ve known the President probably about 20, 25 years, and he is really a consummate business man. He really assesses the details pretty quickly. He has a real depth of understanding of the issues he’s dealing with. I think he brings good people around him. I’d say that.

When you go in to sit with him to have a meeting with him, he expects you to really know your stuff. He’s probative. He asks questions. He’s a really good listener. I think he gives good direction. At least, that’s been my experience.

In your experience, at the SBA. Why does it feel so out of control? What do you attribute it to? Because it feels, it’s so divisive. It feel so ... Partisanship is so high. How do you look at that when you’re trying to get things done. I wanna get to what the SBA is doing and what you’re doing there because you’re actually making progress and aren’t in the news and aren’t under investigation or various things. What do you think, how do you look at when it’s created in large part by these tweets about these statements and things like that? How do you get things done then?

I don’t have any problem getting things done, and the President’s getting a lot done. Clearly, he’s gotten tax cuts through. We’ve had a lot of regulation rolled back. There are a lot of things on the table right now with the international diplomacy that he’s working on, potential deal that he’s looking at with North Korea. I think he’s done an awful lot since he’s been in office and continues. He’s one of the hardest working Presidents I think we’ve had in a long time in history. He is indefatigable and really focuses on what he’s doing, really cares about what he’s doing.

But, the partisanship, it’s raised high.

There’s partisanship. Absolutely, there’s partisanship. You know, the nice part about being at SBA is that almost every member of Congress that I deal with says that SBA is probably the least partisan agency because everybody’s concerned about small businesses, helping the economy grow, so I do have a little bit of a unique position there to not be dealing so much with the partisanship.

What happens with this partisanship in this environment? I can’t believe you think this is a good dialogue going on among and between Americans.

I would certainly like to see there being more agreement going on, but I do think the President raises issues. He sticks with them. He pushes them forward, and he’ll create disruption, but that disruption, I think, in the end is getting things done. I would like to see a little less rhetoric. I would like to see a less at each other.

At each other.

But we are clearly accomplishing a lot, and he is doing it.

But what’s the cost of that when you have these kind of personal ... ? They are. Linda, you know they are. Secretary, what do I call you? Administrator?

How about Linda?

Linda, okay, good.

Linda works.

I wanna give you your right honorific needed. What is the cost of this? Because it does feel like, this country does feel like, and it starts at the top with these very angry tweets, which are disturbing on any level from anyone. How do you move that to a different place? Because it feels as if it’s not going ... This is two years in now, and it doesn’t feel like it’s going away.

I think success is one of the things that’s going to help moderate that a bit, and he’s having success. This administration is having success. We just need to have more of it, but he’s clearly, he pushes at his own pace, and I don’t think that’s gonna stop. I think the success factor will bring more people into that camp.

Into that camp, that they don’t mind the partisanship? That they don’t-

Well, I think a little bit like Brad said, just a little bit earlier in your interview, I think there is a place for people to come together to have some compromise on issues, and I think we’ll see more of that.

All right, well, we’ll get back into this, but let’s talk about the SBA for a minute. You’ve targeted some certain things. One of the success areas you’ve had is in more loans to women, the hurricane relief. How many billion are going out there?

Oh gosh, we’ve-

Six billion, I think.

Yeah, it’s about $6.7 billion last year hurricane relief. I was thinking about where that was. As we’re coming into the new season, we’ve already got stuff going on in Maryland with flooding. It’s not just hurricanes. It’s flooding. We haven’t yet gotten any kind of reports yet from Hawaii for those disasters to be declared so we can move in, but SBA guarantees loans. It doesn’t actually make the loans.

Exactly, so talk about why you decided to do this. You’re running ... We’re gonna talk about WWE in a second and what being an entrepreneur is like, but you were running WWE, a successful business and lots of ... We’ll talk about the history of that, but when you were running, you wanted to take out the SBA and move it into Commerce. Then, when you were in front of Congress, you said, well, I said that at the time because you thought cost savings. I think that was what you said in your testimony or something like that. Talk about how you conceived of going into the SBA? And what it does? What do you feel like it’s role is?

Actually, just for a correction on what you said. When I was talking about should SBA become part of Commerce, I was running for the Senate and ...

Yeah, I wanna talk about that.

What we were talking about really was how do we combine programs et cetera, and there was, President Obama had suggested that.

Yes, he had, too. That’s right.

So, I said, I would look at combining different agencies. That could be one of them. It wasn’t necessarily saying SBA should be combined into Commerce, but I thought that if we have duplicative agencies and duplicative programs, we oughta combine them, and I’ll tell you, there’s sometimes, there can be 270 some programs doing one thing in different agencies, and we should look at them.

How do you conceive of what you’re doing now? One of the topics Brad was talking about and I’ve been talking is this how to create jobs within this country and move tech there in places and try to encourage tech investment in places. How do you conceive of what you’re doing? ‘Cause a lot of these jobs are gonna come from small businesses, presumably tech businesses.

Well, there are. SBA really, our job is to counsel those who would like to develop businesses that counsel entrepreneurs, provide mentoring for them, to help them get government contracts because the government is the largest employer. They buy more goods and services than anyone in the country, so there are government contracts that often small businesses have a niche to get in there, often as a sub-contractor to a larger company, so we do those two things, and then we have a really robust guaranteed loan program, different programs, 7(a) program, which we guarantee loans to small businesses.

Now, let me back up for a second. These are loans, that those who are applying for these loans can’t get credit elsewhere, so the government guarantees a portion of these loans so that these entrepreneurs, want-to-be entrepreneurs sometimes, those who are already in business can get access to this capital to start or to grow, but I find that not only is access to capital key, but that mentoring program and that technical assistance, if you will, is key to these entrepreneurs being successful, so there’s several kinds of loan programs. The 7(a) is the most popular. That was about $25 billion, of all our loan programs, about $25 billion last year and about 30% to 33% of those did go to women, which is really good. We have 504 loan programs. That’s more for real estate and equipment. These are lower interest rates, longer term. That’s why these loans are attractive also for people who can’t get them. We have a micro loan program that we give grants then to typically 501(c)(3) companies, who then make awards. That’s up to about $50,000 per loan, and the average is about $14,000. A large portion of those loans are going to women and also going to minorities to help start their businesses, so it’s really giving a good platform for business to start.

For businesses to create. One of the things that a lot of people feel is the tech industry’s doing lots of innovations, and a lot of these innovations are job destroying. Now, people debate this back and forth, whether it’s true, but they worry about the responsibility, who’s responsible. Say, take self-driving, for example, eliminating lots of small businesses along the way. If you don’t have malls, you don’t have insurance companies, mechanics. It starts to really iterate down into the society. What’s the responsibility, you think, tech has to move to be part of this, to help this out, or should it just be government guaranteeing these businesses that are typically run by women, people of color, people that aren’t easily able to get this venture capital money that everybody gets. Talk a little bit about that. When you look at the tech industry, what is their responsibility to doing that?

Well, if I could digress just for a second and talk a little bit just to how government, especially through programs that SBA looks at, is able to help innovation in tech because I think, I still believe that America needs to be the number one technology country in the world, and we need to continue to invest in that. If you look at the Department of Science, which is part of the Department of Energy, they support 17 labs around the country. They own 17 labs. One of them is located in Livermore, Lawrence Livermore Lab, the Sandia Lab. They are actually on the forefront of all of the technology discovery and development. What they are doing is working more with the small business community to make sure that those inventions, that technology that they’re working on goes to small businesses so that it can be commercialized so that it can actually be developed and applied. When you have those labs that are government owned and government run at like 30 some billions dollars a year going into that kind of research, we’re going to continue to have the technological development.

Also, SBA, and I will get around to answering your question, then, SBA has a program called SBIR which all about innovation with technology. It manages a program for 11 agencies across the government. It’s about two and a half billion dollars. Each of those 11 agencies have to put in about 3.2% of their-

... agencies have to put in about 3.2% of their extramural investments in technology and SPA manage, you said, and this is all for startups, for technology developments. So these are some of the ways that government is actually helping to develop and continue to innovate new technology.

So you’re really about big government Linda, that’s really ...

Oh no, no, no.

I’m kidding.

No, no, no. It’s those dollars that are going to small businesses.

Right, I get that. I get that. So the idea ... I mean, ‘cause some of the messages from the Trump administration is that government isn’t the solution to people’s problems, but you feel like there should be a roll to aiding. How do you look at ...

Absolutely, I do think that government has a role in aiding to do that and these development projects I think are incredibly important to help us stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on in innovation because a lot of companies cannot put in the resources for this innovation, this development and this research. Not only general research but applied research, so let’s make sure that we ...

So what responsibility does tech have to do that? Because venture capitalists they invest in New York a little bit, a little bit in Austin, mostly in Silicon Valley. And not elsewhere.

Well, let’s take for example one company, UTC, that you might not consider just a tech company, it’s in Connecticut, I know a little bit about UTC because I lived there but I happened to have been there last week and talked to the CEO Greg Hayes and actually SPA signed a partnership agreement to help them in their supply training because the supply chain of parts and materials come from small businesses generally into the large businesses. But one of the things that UTC is doing as a tech company to help develop more of its workforce is to retrain people who are already there to help them keep up with changing technology.


And also to work together with universities or other companies in apprenticeships and partnerships, all to continue to develop this workforce and I do think that, that’s where tech companies can be part of the leading edge. Bigger companies in that regard, but they can help the smaller companies help develop that workforce.

Do you think you have a good relationship with the Trump administration, it’s a good relationship with the tech community? There’s no science advisor anymore, there’s no CTO, a lot of the positions that had previously ... Both republican and democrat had been there, do you think it’s an innovation or technology orientated administration?

Oh I do.

Because again, look, some of Donald Trump’s tweets about Amazon, all of them. He goes after tech quite a bit.

Well, I was talking with the Under Secretary of Science last week or week before and he was telling me a lot about these programs that they’re working on. He said, “You’ll be pleased to know .... “ He said that the President recommended and has authorized a 16% increase in our innovation studies and experimentation because he believes in what we need to do. So it was very good news for me to hear, and to make sure that we do have our science division out of energy so continuing to focus on development of this technology, which I think is amazing.

So why isn’t there a head of the Science and ... This isn’t your job but wouldn’t you want a head of the Science and Technology division?

And I don’t know that ...

This is two years.

I don’t know that there isn’t one that hasn’t been suggested. I don’t know that.

Right. But you would imagine that’s important for ...

Oh I think so but I know the Under Secretary is very keyed in on that as well.

All right. Let’s talk a little bit about bringing- ...

By the way, I think this is the most fun time to be in business and technology and all the things that are happening with AI, machine learning and all of that and we have to make sure that as jobs are displaced by that increased technology that we are re-skilling and retraining that workforce to take different jobs.

And you think government should have be a key player in this?

I think it should be a partnership with the private sector but typically, you know what? Private sector leads. And I think that’s typically how things get done.

Well, let’s talk about immigration ‘cause Brad brought it up and then I want to talk about WWE. When there is this difficultly around DACA, around immigration, about the rhetoric that goes on and we talked about political theater, immigration has been critical to that in this country, how do you look at it? ‘Cause a lot of small businesses are started by people who have come to this country and look, Satya Nadella head of Microsoft, an immigrant. Sergey Brin, an immigrant. Elon Musk, an immigrant. It goes on and on and on.


So how do you look at that when there’s this rhetoric coming out of the administration and then there’s the fighting in congress, what does that do for our country when other countries are more welcoming and what’s at the heart of our innovation?

Well, I think that the one thing the president has constantly said, he is for legal immigration. He is against illegal immigration and he believes in a merit system. Much like Canada has, there are points for skills you can evaluate in how you move those people and so it’s not certainly turning a deaf ear or a blind eye to what the needs are.

So how do you look at the rhetoric around it then? When you look at this, what is the message it sends across the world to people?

Well I think that the president is definitely ... It’s no secret, he wants to build a wall.


He wants to ...

I’ve heard him say that.

Yeah you’ve heard him say that.

Yeah, yeah.

He wants to keep illegal immigrants out. He wants to stop drug trafficking from coming in and he really does believe, as other countries have seen success with walls, that we need a firmer border. There’s walls, there’s technology that’s added to it, it’s the whole thing but we’re not monitoring and policing our borders well enough and it really breaks his heart and infuriates him all at the same time when you see gangs that are coming in and I’m not for a second saying majority of people who are coming in are gangs, but there are ...

I’m glad you’re not because ...

... some of those clearly. And I don’t believe that.


And I certainly don’t believe that, look we’re a nation of immigrants.


And that’s how we’ve evolved and so I want to see a good immigration policy that is going to ...

So what happens ... ‘Cause this is again at the heart of small businesses, the heart of innovation, heart of job creation. What will it take now to solve DACA, solve these kind of things?

I think the conversations have to continue. And there is some middle ground to be reached and we just have to keep reaching for that middle ground.

All right, let’s talk about entrepreneurship. Someone said you or your husband Vince was the Mr. Outside, the one getting his head shaved by Donald Trump and things like that and you were the inside person, can you talk a little bit about what you think made you an entrepreneur? ‘Cause you had gone bankrupt when you did an Evel Knievel disaster at some point, right? Is that correct?

That’s true.

Yeah, you paid too much for Evel Knievel to jump something? Or? What happened?

Well, he just didn’t exactly do what he said he was gonna do, he didn’t make it across the canyon.

Right yeah. Right, right. And so you went bankrupt and you started WWE, can you talk a little about your entrepreneur ...

That wasn’t the cause of the bankruptcy.

Right, right, right but it wasn’t a good situation.

No, it was not a good situation.

Right. It wouldn’t have been good if he fell on the canyon either?

Definitely not. We didn’t want that. He did go into the canyon, he was not hurt so we were very happy he was not hurt.

So talk a little bit about WWE and how you looked at that, because a lot of people they thought it was sort of a side light, I was telling Linda my grandfather was a wrestling promoter and I met Andre The Giant when I was six years old and would spend a lot of time at wrestling matches and I did know they were fake even when I was six, but talk a little bit about that world, how you looked at that as an entrepreneur.

Well, my husband Vince is third generation in this particular industry and now our children are fourth generation in this particular industry. So Vince never wanted to do anything in his life except be involved in this industry, to build the business. His father had a little north eastern regional promotion up in New England, as far south as Washington and so really it was his drive to want to be in this particular industry. We all have our strengths, mine was not the creative innovative side of that but clearly mine was to help manage it, how to execute it, how to put the things in place. Someone once asked me, “Can you describe the difference in your role and Vince’s role or dreamer’s roles and people like you.” I said, look, I’ve often told Vince, people like him make the world go round. People like me have to keep it on its axis let’s say, so it doesn’t spin out of control.


And it goes in the right places and so that was really my role and my job.

And how do you look at the industry now because you’ve got social media now, you’ve got products, you’ve got Pay-Per-View, when you look at the industry as it’s developed?

Oh my goodness, it’s just really exploded. Really exploded a great deal because of technology.


And WWE consumers are early adapters of technology and we learned early on. I mean, the first sort of technology of them producing television, I wanted to communicate with our fans with a news letter and we were doing a print newsletter, I couldn’t get it out fast enough, it became to expensive. I said there has to be a way to do it. So I brought in AOL and CompuServe at the time and sat down and talked about how they could do that. We eventually made a deal with AOL.


So we were one of the first big content providers on AOL and we actually helped build up their subscriber base and got a piece of the subscriber fee. At first, it was good business for us but it broaden our reach. I was never interested in being in the technology business ‘cause it changes and goes too fast. You folks out there creating it, god bless you. I have no ability to do that, it’s expensive, it changes. And we wanted though to be able to utilize all of the platforms of technology, so our goal as content providers was to make sure that we could develop that content for all of the platforms so that our consumers could get it when they wanted it, how they wanted it and on what device they wanted to get it on. So that has driven a lot of the continuing growth about WWE and it was so much fun and so fascinating to be there and be part to see a lot of that growth.

And what do you think it’s going? You’re doing Pay-Per-View, you’re doing a lot of social media, what do you think is the most important part to the growth of it? ‘Cause it’s an entertainment, right? You got it categorized not as a sport but ...

Clearly, I was the first one to testify that it was entertainment and that it was scripted entertainment and the outcomes were determined.

So fake news?

It was like a shock wave that went across, but that was real news.

Yeah, real news, yeah.

We were correcting the fake news.

Right, right that it wasn’t real. Well thank you for that. ... about the news. So what do you think about where it’s going? Where do you imagine this kind of thing as someone who’s created content in media? I want you to put your hat on as an entrepreneur, what do you imagine happening? If there’s a lot of publishers, media people.

Well, in terms of WWE and I’m not there, I’m not guiding ... I left in 2009 so this is things that I’m watching and talking to the folks who are still there, but it’s like okay, what is that next level that you’re gonna take it to? First of all WWE had international growth ...


... to it’s now seen in over 180 countries and translated by 25 languages.


But it is that technological growth that really is the forefront, what’s next? We have WWE Network, OTT.


24/7, incredibly successful network but that was a disruption in WWE’s revenue flow because there were 12 Pay-Per-Views and Pay-Per-View is one of the larges contributors shown on cable and satellite and we would charge between $45, $50-$55 dollars, those are the ranges that I remember so now the network, you can subscribe to the network for 9.99 a month and you get all the Pay-Per-Views, that was a real disruption and paradigm shift in revenue. So it was a risk to take that kind of a risk.


But now they’re about $2.2 million subscribers to the network, it’s global. It continues to grow so that volume has clearly not only made up for it but surpassed those revenues.

So what do you think the key lesson as an entrepreneur is? Is constant change or what?

I think the key message to entrepreneurs is, you have to take risk, entrepreneur by definition is a risk taker but a moderate risk taker so that you’re not ...

Is a risk-taker, but a moderate risk-taker so that you’re not putting everything on the line all the time. So you have to try to manage your downside, but you have to take risks and you have to not only look at opportunities as they come along, but you also oftentimes have to create opportunities. And so, I think that’s one of the reasons of WWE’s great success.

We’re gonna get some questions from the audience, but last question. When The Rock runs, who are you going to vote for?

That’s assuming he will.

If he does, what do you do, Linda?

Who’s he gonna run against?

Donald Trump.

Well, if he was running against me, I’d have to vote for me. If he’s running against maybe Stephanie McMahon, I might have to vote for. I wouldn’t ... not might, I would.

I’m talking about president. I’m talking about president.

I know you’re talking about for president.

You’re trying not to answer the question, right?

I don’t think that is a likelihood. But if it does, I would stick with the president that is having great results.

All right. You’re not getting off that. Okay, good. All right, questions from the audience, please.

Teddy Schleiffer: Hey, Teddy Schleiffer with Recode. There’s this perception out there, obviously as you know, that people with money have too much power in politics these days. And President Trump kind of ran against that, right? Drain the swamp ... you were one of the biggest donors in 2016 to the president. A few months later, appointed to head the SBA.

I’m just curious what your argument is for folks out there who are skeptical of the administration’s ability to actually curb the influence of money in politics, when they look at a lot of donors who end up, in part at least, kind of having access to people in power. What’s the best argument you can make to skeptics who say that the administration hasn’t done enough to keep opportunities like heading the SBA open to a lot of people?

Linda McMahon: Well, let me just suggest to you ... not suggest to you, but tell you what the president said to me when he called me in and asked me if I’d take on this job. And clearly, I’ve known him for 25 years, but he said to me, he said, “Look. I want somebody who’s actually built a business, who knows what that’s like, who knows what it’s about, who can walk the walk and talk the walk, who’s had successes and failures.” He said, “Will you consider running this agency?” And I told him yes.

And I think he looked at me, and I think my credibility was there to run the SBA. I was ... I’ve been a big donor, and I’ll ... it takes money to run campaigns, and you have to contribute to the people that you think can be successful.

All right.

Josh Topolsky: Hi, Kara. Hi, Linda. Josh Topolsky from The Outline. So diversity’s obviously a big topic ... this is very loud. Diversity’s obviously a big topic right now, and I’m wondering how ... Trump is obviously ... the president has been very outspoken in his views on diversity, banning trans people in the military, calling Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, saying neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were good people.

And so I’m wondering how his rhetoric and attitudes on diversity, or lack thereof, has impacted your work with small businesses, or if it has at all.

Linda McMahon: Wow. That’s certainly a loaded premise to start with. I’d have to push back a little bit, a bit defensively, to say that some of your comments clearly are taken out of context. He doesn’t call all Mexicans, he doesn’t say all of that, but that’s really how it’s presented.

But it has not affected my work at all at SBA because clearly ... and also, the Donald Trump that I have known, even before he was president, had great diversity in his companies, and is well thought of for the diversity that he had within his companies. And as far as SBA goes, we have a very diverse environment, not only in the people who are working there, but in the small businesses. I mean, a lot of the programs I think about ...

As I said a moment ago, about a third of the loans go to women. We’ve had about 41% of the loans that went to minorities last year. We also have programs to do outreach to minorities. We have Hub Zone programs, which are in areas that need economic development, and the loans are going in there to help those areas get government contracts to help them grow.

And what that does is, there are people who have to live in that city or in that Hub Zone-designated area, which normally are in cities, have to live there and work there in order for that contracting to be fulfilled. So it’s growing the economic area and completing the diversity of that.

So I think there are good programs for outreach, for minorities, for women, as well as many other programs. I think we’re seeing a lot of good growth. Our loan guarantees for this full-time part of the year compared to last year, up about 5%. So that’s good growth in the guaranteeing of those contracts- those loans.

Josh Topolsky: Great. Thank you.

Linda McMahon: Mm-hmm.

Lisa Dickey: Hi, Lisa Dickey. My question ... you made really good points about the fact that it’s absolutely true that the president has been able to achieve a lot of things, he’s done a lot of things. The other side doesn’t like to give credit for the fact that he’s been really effective in certain ways. But I think ... I wanted to sort of mention, one of the things that really is troubling to people is how often he tells untruths. And it can be from little, unimportant things like, “This is the biggest inauguration ever,” to things that are really significant, that he just does not tell the truth.

I’m wondering, does that bother you? And then also, sort of secondarily, even you yourself on stage said, “He’s one of the hardest-working presidents we’ve ever had.” And I wonder, where does that come from? This guy golfs more than any president we’ve ever had, certainly. But I think like ... I mean, I’m all for bipartisanship, I want us all to be able to sort of have these conversations and dialogs. But this whole thing about the way that he manipulates the truth, I find extremely troubling, and I think a lot of people on the other side do. So I was wondering if you could speak to that?

Linda McMahon: Well, thank you for raising that issue. I don’t find in my interaction with him that there is anything that he has said when I’ve been in his presence that was not true. I do think the media blows things out of proportions and twists things sometimes. And so, I think we just have to parse through and find out exactly what it is he’s saying.

Kara Swisher: But what about last week when they gave a briefing, for example ... and you can’t answer for everything, I get that. But last week, there was a briefing by an administration official with 200 reporters and he tweeted that, “Where did they make this up?” But it was actually even organized by the administration. So it’s that kind of stuff, I think. That’s little.

Lisa Dickey: Yeah, I mean, he may not tell untruths to you, but I think it’d be very difficult for you to suggest that he’s not regularly telling untruths. These are demonstrably untrue things. And again, we all want the president to succeed, we want the country to be great, we’d all like to be united. But one of the biggest problems is he just does this over and over and over again. And I don’t get that. I don’t get that, and I’m just wondering if there’s any ... I get that he doesn’t do it to you, maybe. But I mean, do you acknowledge that in public he says things that are demonstrably untrue? And is that a problem?

Linda McMahon: I have found on both sides that he’s misquoted, and sometimes he does say things that he retracts and revisits upon, looking at it again.

Lisa Dickey: All right, thanks.

Ina Fried: Late in the Obama Administration, there was a proposed international entrepreneur rule that would allow people who are starting a business in the US, creating jobs, starting small businesses, to come to the US. The Trump Administration is trying to end that program. I’m curious, as a Small Business Administrator, what is the logical argument for why the international entrepreneur rule or a startup visa is a bad idea. What’s the argument there?

Linda McMahon: I’m sorry. I can’t speak to that. I’m not familiar with it.

Ina Fried: As the head of the SBA, you’re not familiar with the international entrepreneur-

Linda McMahon: Not with that particular rule.

Ina Fried: Okay, thank you.

Kara Swisher: All right. Last one. Welcome to Silicon Valley, by the way.

Linda McMahon: Listen, I applaud all of the work that all of you do and on all of the opinions that are offered, and I think debate is good and healthy, and that’s what our country’s about.

Kara Swisher: Yeah, okay. Teasing you. This isn’t fake, though, right? Like wrestling. Later, Linda and I are gonna go at it for three rounds, but go ahead.

Code attendee: Over the last dozen years under both administrations, so not a partisan question here, the rate of business formation in this country has dropped dramatically from what it was in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, actually going back to World War II. Why has that happened and what can you do to change that?

Linda McMahon: Well, I think that’s what we are trying to do. SBA clearly in helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop and grow this businesses will help to fill that gap, and we are seeing more of small businesses start. I think ... like for larger businesses, I mentioned OTC a little bit earlier. UTC, not OTC. UTC up in Connecticut and I think you see a lot of bigger businesses now that are branching out to take advantage, I think, of the tax laws, the new tax law for investment and for growth. And so, I think that is another thing that you’re gonna see that is going to raise more businesses and have more businesses grow

Code attendee: Yeah, but what I was saying is, the number of small businesses started each year is actually much smaller — including last year — than it was for most of the post-War period. What’s changing that?

Linda McMahon: I think what’s changing that is the view of optimism that you see from small businesses now that didn’t exist even a few years ago. When I was ... I have been now to 39 states in the past year, and I’ve talked to over 700 business owners, business roundtable discussions. And without a doubt, they have talked to me about their level of optimism, that they’re growing, that they’re going to invest. Tax cuts was a big issue to them and when tax cuts passed, the focus then became, believe it or not, the skilled workforce. And we could probably spend a whole hour talking about the skilled workforce.

So I think you are seeing entrepreneurs at a time of not knowing what tax policy was going to be, how they were gonna be supported, was there gonna be revenue to help them grow — loans, if you will — to help them grow and start their businesses. So that’s changed. And you’ll see now, I believe, more growth.

Kara Swisher: Okay, Linda. Are you gonna run for office again? You’ve run twice.

I have no plans to run for office.

Not next time, all right.


All right, you’ve been a very good sport.

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Let’s build bridges, not walls.

Thank you very much.

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