Electronic Design

Bush, Kerry Push High-Tech Industry Plans

They don't agree on much. However, President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry both say they strongly believe that innovation and promoting technology are important to the future of the U.S. How to pull it off is where they part ways.

Based on his public pronouncements, President Bush looks at technology as a way to improve the economy. He also talks about the importance of developing new technologies and has endorsed a continuation of a ban on taxing Internet access.

"If you have an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit is strong, innovation will follow," he told an audience at the Commerce Department in June. "I equate innovation with entrepreneurship," he said. "Entrepreneurs are innovative people. They have to compete in order to stay in business, and in order to stay ahead of the competition, you're going to innovate."

Bush regularly reinforces his position that lowering the cost of broadband access will increase its use and availability. "We ought to have universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter \[that\] consumers have plenty of choices when it comes to \[their\] broadband carrier," he says. He also talks about using technology to promote cost savings and the quality of healthcare through the use of personal electronic medical records.

Senator Kerry has been highly critical of Bush's budget cuts in research and development. Kerry also discounts Bush's recent talk about expanding broadband access. In June, he told a San Jose State University audience that, on a per-capita basis, America's position as a leader in broadband Internet technology under the Bush Administration has dropped from fourth to tenth in the industrialized world. "We don't like to be tenth in anything," he said. Kerry also told the San Jose gathering that the Bush Administration has "failed to lead on science and innovation" and blamed Bush for the loss of 800,000 high-tech jobs since he took office.

Bush has also been taken to task by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. According to the group, the Administration has spent most of the nation's R&D budget on defense, mainly weapons testing, while reducing spending on fundamental research.

If elected, Kerry said he would increase federal spending on R&D and cut taxes for capital and research investments. He believes his technology program could create more than 1.2 million jobs. Most of these would be paid for with the $300 billion raised by accelerating the transition to digital television and auctioning spectrum for new and emerging wireless and broadcast services.

Kerry also wants to expand the broadband Internet to inner cities and rural areas. He promises to use tax credits of 10% to 20% to boost the penetration of high-speed Internet access into these areas.

Both Bush and Kerry support funding for the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Bush has promised to auction parts of the government-controlled spectrum to allow greater use of wireless broadband connections. But he has said little publicly about the politically sensitive issue of offshore outsourcing other than, "We care about outsourcing in America. We want people working here," in a speech in Dayton, Ohio, earlier this year.

Outsourcing is addressed indirectly in his formal campaign statement under the heading of "Frequently Asked Questions." Does the Administration support outsourcing? The Administration responded by saying, "The answer to outsourcing is to make Americans more competitive in the global marketplace, not isolate ourselves from it. The President's pro-growth and job training policies are helping American companies and workers do just that."

The IEEE USA's Today's Engineer newsletter quotes Kerry as opposing large-scale outsourcing of work abroad. It notes that last March, Kerry unveiled a tax proposal to reward companies for keeping jobs in the U.S. Kerry has also said that if elected president, he would vigorously crack down on unfair trade practices, such as piracy of IP. Furthermore, he would work to ensure that China honor its World Trade Organization (WTO) accession agreement to stop forced technology transfers as a prerequisite for doing business in China.

Given all this information on where candidates stand on the issues, how will engineers vote in November? Only time will tell if engineers will cast their votes according to their professional priorities or based on a much wider set of issues.

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