Cabinet position – CTO of the United States of America

BusinessWeek (and TechCrunch) have a recent article that covers Obama’s suggestion that if elected “the Illinois Senator promised … he would create the first-ever Cabinet-level post of chief technology officer.” Some expected names popped up as potential candidates: Vint Cerf of Google, Microsoft’s chief executive officer Steve Ballmer, Amazon’s CEO Jeffrey Bezos and Ed Felten of Princeton.

The two main goals for this White House CTO would be to improve broadband penetration as “the country ranked 15th among industrial nations in penetration, with a mere 23 out of 100 Americans having access to broadband service”.  Secondly, the CTO “would almost certainly be deeply involved in overseeing a federally-backed $50 billion venture capital fund that Obama has proposed to develop more environmentally friendly technology”.

Its compelling to watch and see how people respond to a CTO offer? Do these captains of industry forsake their silicon valley (or Seattle) dominions and take the same road Henry Paulson and his brethren in the finance industry a la Goldman Sachs took to the beltway?

The brilliant article this weekend in the NYT, “The Guys from Government Sachs” follows Goldman alum as they travel the road from Wall Street to Washington and give up their careers in high finance for that of the Treasury or White House.

A little reported fact that surprisingly hasnt popped up in the discussion around Henry Paulson and his covey of Goldman-ites he placed in various positions during the latest banking crisis is the tax breaks they may receive.

While I am not so cynical that Paulson is motivated by tax incentives to head to Washington, and I understand there are “conflicts of interest” motivating these types of structures, its interesting to note such savings.

If an official such as Paulson puts his assets into a blind trust, he is exempt from capital gains. Taking the job at Treasury, by some estimates, saved Paulson $200m in tax liabilities! Not a bad move afterall…despite a decrease in salary from $27m a year to a $183k!

Goldman HQ

Goldman HQ

One response to “Cabinet position – CTO of the United States of America

  1. The only name in that list of four that would excite me is Vint Cerf.

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