Taking a Stand: The Presidential Candidates on Technology Issues

You knowwhere they stand on education and tax cuts. But where do presidential hopefulsGeorge Bush and Al Gore stand on e-commerce, Intel, and Silicon Valley?

The twocandidates rarely mention technology issues. Indeed, the only memorable phrasehaving to do with the computer industry is Gore’s faux pas about having helpedcreate the Internet. But don’t be mistaken. Both men do have policy positionsthat will impact the future of the industry, even if they don’t get the samepress as Medicare or school vouchers.

Gore isknown as a techno-wonk. Most people familiar with Gore say he’s very savvyabout technology. Little has been mentioned about Bush and his technicalproficiency, or lack thereof.

On severalimportant tech issues, the candidates’ stances are very similar. Both men, forinstance, support an increase in the number of H-1B visas, allowing morehigh-tech sector immigrants into the US. Gore, according to his Web site, wouldraise the number of visas from 115,000 per year to 200,000 per year. Bushdoesn’t give specifics about how many H-1B visas he would allow, but does sayon his Web site, “Let’s raise the number of H-1B visas.”

The USSenate took the first step toward doing just that Oct. 3. The upper chambervoted 96-1 to raise the limit to 195,000. The House of Representatives has yetto vote on the measure.

Inaddition, both support making the Research and Experimentation Tax Creditpermanent. Under the current system, a company can claim a tax credit forexceeding a base amount for research, experimentation, and development. It hasalways been a temporary provision of the IRS Code.

Goreproposes to go further with the credit, changing its structure to help smallbusinesses better take advantage of it.

Bush, in aspeech in Phoenix a year ago, recognized the tax credit’s importance. “As itis, high-tech companies are often hesitant to undertake long-term researchprojects because they cannot count on that tax credit. It might be renewed, itmight not. Yet it is exactly this kind of sustained, long-term R&D ourcountry needs to gain the next generation of critical technologies,” he said.

On theissue of taxing Internet goods and services, again both candidates are standingon common ground. Gore says he will try to use persuasion within the internationalcommunity to “make cyberspace a permanent duty-free zone.” Bush’s Web sitepromises to extend the Internet tax moratorium for five more years.

Given allthis high-tech harmony, is there any difference between the candidates in theIT arena?

In generalterms, one broad-brush distinction is that Bush, the Republican candidate, is abig business proponent, against regulation and in favor of small government.Gore, the Democrat, has been tagged as a big-government enthusiast.

But Dr.Larry Sabato contends the differences between the candidates are far moresubtle. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center forGovernmental Studies, says Gore isn’t completely anti-business. “Obviously,Bush is a classic, pro-business conservative -- anti-tax by nature; Gore hasadopted a populist posture that appears anti-business, though previously he hasassociated himself with the pro-business Democratic Leadership Council.”

Onepotential area for a difference between the candidates is in antitrustenforcement.

RobEnderle, an analyst with Giga InformationGroup who follows the Microsoft antitrust case closely, feels thevice-president, if elected, would be more likely to pursue antitrust litigationagainst companies. Asked if companies like Oracle or Intel would be more atrisk under a Gore administration, Enderle says, “Oh yeah, absolutely. It wouldbecome a case [of Microsoft’s competition] being careful what you wish for.[Those companies] would be under same sort of scrutiny they’ve put Microsoftunder.”

No Gorerepresentatives were available to comment, but the candidate states on his Website that he wants to see more public-private partnerships in technology.“Because the federal government now accounts for only one-third of the nation'soverall R&D expenditures, government needs to develop new, innovativemechanisms for partnering with the private sector and encouraginguniversity-industry partnerships.”

Whichevercandidate comes out ahead Nov. 7, one thing is clear: Technology issues arebecoming more important each campaign, and one day may even rank up there withMedicare.



GigaInformation Group, Cambridge, MA, www.gigaweb.com/

For more on technology and the 2000 presidential race, see:
Microsoft Giving Leans to the Right