• United States

Democrats pledge support for high-tech concerns

Jul 27, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

At the first U.S. presidential nominating convention since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, technology issues are taking a back burner to national security concerns. But the Democratic Party counts California and Silicon Valley as strongholds, and several technology-related issues such as research and development funding, high-tech job creation and offshoring are on the minds of delegates and candidates heading into November’s election.

On Tuesday, at one of the few events highlighting the Democratic Party’s commitment to technology, a panel of representatives from industry associations and companies as well as current and former members of the U.S. government called for increased spending on science and technology research while continuing to promote open trade policies. Naturally, they believe their presumptive candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, is better equipped than incumbent President George W. Bush to nurture the further development of high-tech companies and employees.

The future of the U.S. economy depends on the continued expansion of the high-tech industry, and both the Democratic and Republican parties have a vested interest in helping the industry grow, said Dave McKurty, president of the Electronics Industries Alliance and a former Democratic Representative from Oklahoma.

Several congressmen argued that the Democratic Party is in a better position to let science and technology flourish because it can separate religion and science.

“We are not going to let ideology trump science and technology,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Many current laws, such as sales tax regulations, have not kept up with advances in science and technology, he said.

Kerry believes in a “holistic” approach to Internet taxes that will allow Congress to hammer out a policy on taxes for goods sold on the Internet, Wyden said.

Kerry and the expected Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. John Edwards, have raised concerns on the campaign trail over offshoring practices that they believe have taken the jobs of U.S. high-tech workers. But the panelists took a less strident view of offshoring and urged the delegates and industry executives in attendance not to let protectionist policies slow down the expansion of the technology industry.

“This is not about fighting it out with India to become the world’s call center leader,” said Steve Westly, California’s state controller and a former executive of eBay. The high-tech industry is the future of California’s economic growth and the engine behind the expansion of the worldwide economy, and the open trade policies of former President Bill Clinton’s administration must continue, he said.

Almost 95% of future opportunities in the high-tech industry lie outside the U.S., McKurty said. The U.S. must aggressively promote an open trade agenda while working to provide more money for job creation and education, he said.

Just about every panelist also called on the U.S. government to improve funding for science and technology education in U.S. schools, a desire shared by U.S. high-tech leaders such as Intel’s CEO, Craig Barrett.

The U.S. is in danger of losing the technology innovation lead to other countries that place a higher value on early education in science and technology, said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) Maintaining that competitive advantage will not only help the U.S. compete in the world economy, it will also lead to better technologies that can help ensure national security, he said.

The Democratic National Convention runs through Thursday at Boston’s FleetCenter.