With the country's biggest presidential primary contest only a week away, most of the candidates have yet to address with any depth the technology issues driving the global economy and exerting an impact on U.S. competitiveness.
EE Times has compiled a sampler of the candidates' still-sketchy technology platforms. As our digest shows, the candidates need to do much more to articulate their plans for handling such core problems as global warming, the research funding gap and the subpar state of U.S. education in math, science and engineering.
Industry leaders have turned up the volume, with some calling for a formal dialogue among the candidates on tech matters. "I urge our nation's presidential candidates to have a debate focusing on science, engineering and technology," said IEEE-USA President Russ Lefevre. "It would be beneficial for voters to know where the candidates stand on policies that promote U.S. innovation and competitiveness." Thus far, there has been no word on whether such an event will be added to an already packed debate calendar.
Outsourcing and patent reform are divisive issues for the tech community in this election year, with engineers on one side and big-business interests on the other. But the two camps come together on such matters as federal research spending, education, energy and broadband policy.
Most of the presidential candidates favor opening the doors to more foreign skilled workers. But few have said anything--or at least anything specific--about patent reform, which is expected to come up in the Senate in February.
Candidates for office are notorious for providing more inspiration than details, and this election is no exception. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican contender, has virtually nothing to say on his Web site about the various tech issues. Other candidates mention at least some of the major tech agenda items, but few give chapter and verse about how they would tackle them if elected.
Some broad trends are nonetheless clear. The Republican candidates generally favor free trade, lower taxes and less government spending and regulation. They talk a lot about public- private partnerships--code for letting the marketplace, rather than costly new government agencies, tackle problems.
The Democratic candidates tend to throw out bold ideas for multibillion-dollar initiatives that capture the imagination, including new programs in alternative energy, education and basic research. But they fail to detail where the money will come from or how it will be spent.
On the lobbyist side, technology interest groups such as IEEE-USA, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and TechNet have developed fairly specific platforms but lack the clout or resources to endorse specific candidates. At least two groups, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association), have compiled cogent comparisons of the candidates' views on their respective Web sites.
Here is a brief tour, from 30,000 feet, of the issues of interest to the tech community and the candidates' plans for addressing them.
(See the results of our eePrimary Poll.)