Senator John McCain released his technology agenda this week. He supports some of the ideas that have high importance to the S&T community. McCains plan includes:
- Making the R&D tax credit permanent
- Lowering the corporate tax rate to 25%
- Allowing companies to write off of new equipment and technology in the first year
- Keeping the Internet tax-free
- Limiting taxes on wireless services
- Fully funding the America COMPETES Act
- Expanding H1B visas
- A crack down on piracy
- Increased funding for Patent Office
- Protecting intellectual property around the world
- Increasing broadband to underserved areas
- Increasing S&T expertise and use in government
Of course, a big focus of the computing research advocacy community has been seeing the funding commitments approved as part of the COMPETES act, which include doubling the budgets of three key federal science agencies — NSF, NIST, and DOE Science — over the next seven years fully realized. And it appears that McCain supports that goal. However, his senior policy staff has sent mixed messages. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy advisor to McCain told NPR that “Doubling is a nice fun number for political purposes. It’s clean, it’s smooth. But it doesn’t reflect a balancing of political priorities. There will be competing demands for funds.”
Senator Barack Obama has had a technology agenda on his campaign web site for awhile but now that McCain has come out with his the comparisons can begin. There are several areas of agreement between the two such as making the R&D tax credit permanent, increasing broadband to underserved areas, and increasing the protection of intellectual property around the world. Obama, however, supports Net neutrality (though he doesnt use that term) and flatly states he would double the funding for basic science research. Obamas plan also calls for allowing foreign students who earn degrees at US higher education institutions to stay in the country and earn citizenship and emphasizes the need to increase the number of American students, particularly women and minorities, who obtain undergraduate degrees in STEM fields. Also, in addition to increasing the intellectual property protections around the world, Obama calls for reforming the patent system.
While most of this sounds great, there is very little in either plan about how to accomplish these goals. However, knowing that science and technology issues are being discussed at the highest levels of campaign politics means the messages the community are sending are getting through.