Comparing the Candidates’ Technology and Innovation Policies

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has been tracking Barack Obama and John McCain's positions on innovation and technology policy for some months. In September, ITIF released a report Comparing the Candidates' Technology and Innovation Policies which examined the candidates' positions on a variety of issues, including taxes, education, trade, intellectual property, digital transformation, skilled workforce, and innovation and broadband policy issues.

The report found the overall orientation of John McCain’s innovation policy agenda focused on proposals for creating a favorable environment for private sector innovation through a clear and less burdensome tax code, limited government regulation, and a strong trade, immigration, and competitiveness agenda. By comparison, Obama’s policies recognize the private sector as the central source of economic growth and prosperity and appreciate the need to create a favorable regulatory, tax, and investment climate for it, but also affirm that government can play a proactive and constructive role in helping the private sector commercialize its innovations.

There was some conversation about technology and innovation-related issues in Tuesday night's Second Presidential Debate. Both candidates reiterated the importance of developing green technologies and alternative energy sources. McCain spoke of the need for hybrid, hydrogen, and battery-powered vehicles, which would contribute to cleaning up the environment and creating jobs. Obama argued that there should be a national approach to creating a new energy economy, likening the approach to, "the same way the computer was originally invented by a group of government scientists."

Obama argued that, "We're going to have to come up with alternative [energy technologies], and that means that the United States government is working with the private sector to fund the kind of innovation that we can then export to countries like China that need energy and are setting up one coal power plant a week."

For his part, when a debate participant asked John McCain whether the United States, "should fund a Manhattan Plan-like project for alternative energy or fund 100,000 [startup-like] garages across America - the kind that drove innovation in Silicon Valley," McCain responded that he supported, "pure [basic] research and development investment on the part of the U.S. government [but that] once it gets into the productive stages, we ought to turn it over to the private sector."

Later in the debate, Obama strongly advocated the need to "use information technology so that medical records are actually on computers instead of you filling out forms in triplicate when you go to the hospital." On the campaign trail, Obama has aggressively supported health IT, and has pledged to allocate $50B over ten years to move the U.S. healthcare system toward broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records. In the debate, McCain also noted he supports putting health records online, and expected doing so would help prevent medical errors.

For a comprehensive comparison of the candidates' technology and innovation policies, click here.

Guest blogged by Stephen Ezell, ITIF

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2 Comments

  • Robert Atkinson

    Hi John:

    See page 16 of ITIF's report on Comparing the Candidates' Technology and Innovation Policies for a complete comparison of their positions on renewable energy investments. Obama would be inclined to provide more direct federal funding of R&D into clean energy research. Obama would invest $150B over ten years in clean energy, including biofuels, and accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids. He would also create a Clean Technology Venture Capital Fund, funded by a $10M investment over five years, to ensure that promising technologies move beyond the lab and are commercialized in the U.S. He would also extend the renewable energy production tax credit for five years.

    McCain for his part, would devote $2 billion annually to research that would foster the clean use of coal, and support an advanced battery prize. Both candidates have set out plans to implement market-based cap-and-trade systems with goals of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by specified targets by 2050.

  • john bancroft

    Perhaps this is more the territory of the clean tech news sites (like greentechmedia.com and so forth) but how do Obama and McCain differ on rewable energy investments?