presidential candidates Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass) and President George
W. Bush. Both claim to focus on the importance of the high-tech world,
but some industry analysts wonder how much impact either will have on
the tech sector.
With the Nov. 2 election about a week away, the presidential hopefuls
remain neck-and-neck in the polls. Technology workers across the country
watch the candidates for an indication of which one will place more
value on the IT industry, which has been struggling to regain its
footing the past several years.
A recent survey, designed by the Computing Technology Industry
Association (CompTIA), asked the candidates camps a variety of
questions regarding the role of technology in the U.S. economy. The 12
questions range from their plans for keeping American high-tech workers
competitive in the global marketplace to spam and cyber security.
Mike Wendy, manager of media relations at CompTIA, says he hopes the
survey will act as a voting aid for the information technology sector.
He and his team want to provide the candidates a forum to speak to
technology workers about some of the issues they’re dealing with.
”These issues haven’t really been debated in the [presidential]
debates,” Wendy says.
He adds that CompTIA does not side with either camp but he rather hopes
readers will utilize the survey’s results and form their own opinions.
When responding to the survey question about the importance of the IT
industry to the growth and development of the U.S., Bush says he sees
the sector as a driving force behind the economy.
”In a rapidly changing global economy, one thing is for certain:
innovation will drive America’s economic success and prosperity,” Bush
writes in his response. ”We must adapt to the reality that the same
telecommunication networks that integrate nations into the global
economy also bring new competitors to our doorstep.”
John Bailey, deputy policy director of technology issues for the Bush
campaign, says the president plans to invest in the tech sector to
ensure its stability and competitiveness. He says the Bush
administration plans to increase funding for the Federal Research and
Development Tax Credit. He also says Bush will try to make the tax
credit affordable for the private sector.
Bailey also says Bush plans to continue to pursue free trade agreements
that open up tech markets in other nations.
”This will help tech companies expand and tap into markets overseas,
while insuring that they have the proper protections,” Bailey says.
However, Kerry’s Technology Advisor, Tom Kalil says it is clear the Bush
administration does not consider the tech industry a high priority.
”They are not focused on these issues at all,” he says. ”Only during
the heat of the campaign did they talk about it. Where were they in the
last three and a half years?”
Kalil says Kerry plans to focus heavily on the IT industry. Sen. Kerry
has said he will implement a number of plans to help the tech sector,
such as diminishing the tax credit given to IT companies for shipping
jobs overseas, and instead creating a tax credit for companies creating
new jobs here in the U.S.
Kalil also says Kerry supports the Research and Development Tax Credit
and will work with Congress to make it a permanent fixture.
Robert Atkinson, vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a
Washington D.C.-based research and education institute and liberal
think-tank, says the Kerry camp values the IT industry more than Bush
”The president talks a good game, is long on rhetoric, but he is short
on follow-through,” Atkinson says.
Kerry surrounds himself with a lot of people focused on and
knowledgeable about information technology, Atkinson maintains. He says
it is hard to find similar people in the Bush administration.
”They are just not there,” Atkinson says. ”He [Bush] just did not
place IT at a high level.”
”I have had many personal conversations on IT with Kerry, and I get a
sense that he’s pretty interested and knowledgeable about IT,” Atkinson
Bailey disagrees. He says the Bush administration will continue to
consider the IT industry a top concern and will listen to and act on
things that people in the IT sector request.
Continue on to see how each candidate responds to issues, like cyber security, spam, and job losses.
Debating the Issues
Spam has become a major IT issue, requiring companies to devote
sometimes teams of tech workers to deal with this bandwidth-clogging
problem. It overflows inboxes, crashes email servers, and increasingly
carries a payload of damaging viruses.
Kerry’s technology advisor says spam is a tricky issue and Kerry’s
administration would allow the tech market to come up with solutions for
”He would rely as much as possible on the marketplace for solutions
and creating new technologies that empower users,” says Kalil.
To help combat the growing spam problem, last year Bush signed the
CAN-Spam Act into law. For one thing, the law calls for spammers to
provide an opt-out link within the body of the message. The act also is
designed to help level civil and criminal penalties on spam offenders.
”The new law establishes important ‘rules of the road’ for civil
enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), other federal
agencies, state attorneys general, and ISPs to help curb Spam,” Bush
wrote in response to CompTIA’s question.
However, Atkinson of the Progressive Policy Institute says the CAN-Spam
Act hasn’t decreased the amount of spam hitting his inbox.
”It is a highly ineffective and compromised bill,” he says. ”No one
should be surprised to see spam continue to increase. It never even
Bailey says that while more needs to be done in the battle against spam,
the act was a good stepping stone.
”It was an important first step,” Bailey says. ”It wasn’t the last
step, and not the only step, but a necessary step.” Bailey adds that it
is too soon to tell if the act has had any effect on the amount of spam
circulating the Internet.
Shawn McCarthy, senior analyst and program manager for government IT
spending at IDC, an industry analyst firm based in Framingham, Mass.,
says the CAN-Spam act hasn’t done the job.
”It has made a slight difference, but that’s not enough,” McCarthy
says. ”Spam amounts dipped modestly, but only temporarily.”
McCarthy says he thinks it will be difficult for an administration to
halt spam without eliminating all advertising emails.
Dealing with Job Loss
Over the past three years, many American IT workers have lost their jobs
because U.S. companies moved the work to foreign shores, taking
advantage of lower pay scales in countries like India, China and the
Philippines. This offshoring trend began with call center and
entry-level programming jobs, but it’s moving up the IT ladder now with
mid-level and even some upper-level technology jobs disappearing here in
And with high-end, high-paying jobs on the line, offshoring has become a
political hot button. What should, and can, be done is being hotly
”Today’s jobs tend to move to where they can be done more
effectively,” says Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, a Nashua,
N.H.-based industry analyst firm. ”There is not a great deal a
government can or should do about that movement.”
Both candidates say they recognize that offshoring of U.S. tech jobs is
an inevitable aspect of the global economy, however their approaches to
dealing with the issue differ.
”This is a business trend,” Bailey says. ”We may see it taper off a
bit. No one really knows how many jobs are being moved overseas.”
Thomas Lenard, Ph.D, vice president for research at The Progress and
Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C.,
says he thinks the Bush administration is handling the outsourcing issue
”They reacted well to the trend,” Lenard says. ”This is a part of
international trade that benefits us all.”
Bailey says Bush is concerned when any American worker loses his job,
regardless of the reason. He says the Bush administration is focused on
job-training services that aid the American worker in finding a new
Kalil, though, says the Bush administration has created a massive amount
of job loss.
”Look at the results,” Kalil says. ”There are 800,000 lost IT jobs in
the US. Bush is the first president since Hoover that we see a net
decline in the private sector.”
Kerry will work to create 12 million new jobs if elected, Kalil says.
Many analysts think IT workers should be awarded the same benefits,
counseling and job retraining given to manufacturing workers when their
jobs began moving overseas in previous decades.
Haff says these actions are vital in easing the job displacement
”Those kinds of programs can only ease the pain and relocation
somewhat,” Haff says. ”They are never going to eliminate the burden of
these shifts, but they are certainly well-worth doing.”
Kalil says that while there will always be job loss due to outsourcing,
Kerry’s administration would take steps to curb this trend and support
unemployed Americans. He says Kerry would diminish the tax breaks given
to companies for sending jobs overseas and create tax credits for new
But Bailey notes that during his presidency, Bush has increased the
Training Assistance Adjustment budget by 150 percent. He also has upped
job-training funds by 12 percent.
Bush also plans to propose a Personal Re-employment Account that will
grant displaced workers funds toward finding a new job. If the person
lands a new job within 13 weeks, the balance goes into their pocket,
Building Cyber Security
Malware, industrial spies and black hat hackers cause massive amounts of
damage to enterprise networks every year. Now foreign-based hackers are
being added to that mix. Without a viable solution neutralizing these
attacks, the candidates also voiced concerns about cyber security and
just how to handle it.
”We need a president who will devote the energy of the White House to
making our networks — our 21st century infrastructure — stronger and
more secure,” Kerry wrote in response to CompTIA’s question. ”That
means supporting a Cyber Security Intelligence System ready to detect
Kalil says Kerry’s Cyber Security Intelligence System refers to ways to
stomp out new kinds of worms and viruses. He says Kerry plans on
increasing funding for research and development so the IT industry can
design technologies and solutions for these dangers.
The Bush camp takes a slightly different stance.
”The investments being made today in securing our nation’s cyber
infrastructure and in cyber security R&D are working to ensure that
future generations of network software and hardware are less vulnerable
to an attack and can maintain critical operations even when
compromised,” Bush writes.
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