TCS Daily

The Parties on Tech

By Jim Prendergast - October 29, 2004 12:00 AM

Technology issues aren't making headlines in the presidential campaign, but perhaps they should be. A close examination of the 2004 Republican and 2004 Democratic platforms shows the two parties are in violent agreement about at least one thing: technology is critical to our economy and our lives. Something they can agree on? Now that's news.

The two parties take different paths en route to this unified conclusion, but determine what members of the tech sector already know; that technology issues are a key component of all the leading issues of the campaign. Let's take a closer look.

Both parties endorse making permanent a research and development tax credit. Leaders in the technology industry have made this a top priority, and the parties are responding. The tax credit has recently been extended. An R&D tax credit gives the industry incentive to focus on creating new products and improving existing ones to both bring value to consumers and vitality to our economy.

Republicans in particular have provided unprecedented support for federal R&D to help spur innovation. For example, federal R&D funding is up 44 percent from 2001 to $132 billion in 2005. Since he took office, President Bush has doubled the budget for the National Institutes of Health and increased the budget of the National Science Foundation by 30 percent.

Another area of violent agreement is universal broadband access. While the Democrats point to broadband access as critical to our nation's 350,000 small manufacturers, the "lifeblood" of our economy, the Republicans say that "broadband technology will enhance our nation's economic competitiveness and will help improve education and health care for all Americans."

The Democrats plan to use broadband access to reinvigorate our nation's manufacturing sector through "growth of high-technology clusters" that would invest in new industries around research institutions. They also want to break down trade barriers to China's high-tech market to open opportunities for U.S. companies.

President Bush has said he wants every American to have access to affordable broadband service by 2007. The Republican platform supports making permanent the Internet tax moratorium and extending it to include broadband. Republicans want reduced government regulation of broadband as a means of stimulating investment in the burgeoning industry. They also cite the importance of exploring use of power lines and wireless Internet access as ways to get more Americans connected.

Both parties agree that technology has a role to play in our nation's security. The Democratic platform cites the need to improve technology to help our military and strengthen border controls. A large number of technology companies develop hardware, software and other applications and solutions for the defense sector, making technology support of the military a critical issue to the high-tech industry.

In their platform, Democrats highlight the role technology can play in improving education. The Democratic platform calls for increased technology training for teachers and stipulates that schools offer the "technology and equipment for a 21st century education." They also emphasize the importance of technology for lifelong learning and support technology's role in expanding distance learning, so U.S. citizens can use keyboards to learn from experts anywhere in the world.

Republicans stress in their platform technology's role in preserving and protecting the environment. They emphasize the importance of "meeting the challenge of long-term global climate change by relying on markets and new technologies to improve energy efficiency." They point to technology's role in energy policy by citing innovations such as hydrogen cars and the need to explore and develop new oil resources with minimal impact on the environment. And while vowing to keep the U.S. coal industry strong, Republicans say that pollution control technologies can be instrumental in making environmental improvements.

Health care and electronic health records are two more areas where Republicans cite significant roles for technology. President Bush has set as a goal that most Americans will have electronic health records within 10 years, and has requested funding for demonstration projects for broader adoption of health IT systems. The platform cites one example of success to date; that of the Veterans Administration, which has cut costs and improved quality of care through the use of health IT systems.

Technology issues are central to this presidential campaign and are ingrained in the many planks of both platforms. Technology issues are at the heart of our country's future economic success and prosperity, and are central to our nation's safety and security. Although their approaches and policies may vary, Republicans and Democrats alike can agree on that.

Jim Prendergast is executive director of Americans for Technology Leadership.


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