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Presidential candidates weigh in on technology for Super Tuesday primaries
(IDG) -- Although the politics of technology have so far played heavily into the 2000 presidential race, voters looking to cast Super Tuesday votes on March 7 strictly on a candidate's tech-policy platform may have a hard time deciding which lever to pull.
"Technology has become so fundamental to the economy and so entrenched in the economy. That is why technology issues are on the candidates' radar right now," said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), in Washington, D.C.
Controversial Internet tax questions pop up all over the televised debates. Also coloring the campaigns are discussion of Internet privacy, information security, and workforce education and immigration issues.
But for the most part, there are only small differences between the positions the candidates have taken on those issues.
"It's like we've been presented with four fancy sports cars we'd all love to own. But now it's not clear which one to pick," said Harris Miller, president of Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).
Instead of accentuating their own technology platforms, the candidates have spent more time scrambling to prove they will do little to interfere with the thriving tech industry, sources agreed. Upon dissecting the issues, there are no glaring differences between positions.
But on Internet taxation and technology workforce issues, there are some notable variations between each candidates' approach.
Below are some specifics on each candidate's position on some of the key technology issues.
Republican John McCain has come out most vocally in support of an all-out prohibition of federal, state, and local governments levying new taxes on online transactions.
George W. Bush also claims to be a Net tax foe, promising to nix new Net taxes at least until 2004. Bush has played up his efforts in Texas to cut state Internet-access and data-process taxation.
Vice President Al Gore stops short of promising no new online taxes but points to White House efforts to put legislation in place, including the recent, temporary ban on Internet taxes. Gore also puts forth the administration's agreement with the World Trade Organization to block new customs duties on international online transactions.
Democratic candidate Bill Bradley has said he advocates a "fair" Internet tax policy which promotes growth of e-commerce but not at the expense of brick-and-mortar companies or state and local government tax bases.
Research and development tax credit
All candidates basically come out in favor of making permanent the tax credit companies now enjoy for research and development efforts.
H1-B visa and tech workforce training
Republicans and Democrats differ notably on their approach to the current technology workforce shortage.
Their differences are shaped by the fact that candidates from both camps blend education efforts with immigration policy changes, such as lifting the cap on the number of H1-B visa holders in the United States -- which allows citizens from other countries to emigrate to the United States to fill specialized technical jobs.
The Democrats tend to devote more emphasis to education efforts and shy away from the H1-B visa cap, which is unpopular with labor groups.
More specifically, Bradley wants to review and tweak the H1-B visa program, but in the short term would increase the current cap on H1-B visa holders allowed into the United States.
Gore focuses on training efforts such as a new "401(j) training accounts" which would let employees pay for their own technical training out of pretax dollars.
Both McCain and Bush are in favor of increasing the H1-B visa cap, but they also play up education and tech training programs.
Gore trumps the popularity of the administration's recent encryption policy designed to let U.S. companies sell stronger encryption policy.
McCain says he will not endorse a federal policy mandating private businesses fork over a "key" to encryption codes.
Bradley supports letting companies use strong encryption, claiming efforts to curb encryption export and mandated use of technology such as the "Clipper chip" have not worked. Bradley advocates a new solution that balances national security with civil liberties.
Bush advocates relaxing export controls on encryption products.
A taxing debate over Internet taxes
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