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Voting For A McCain

SOURCE: Wikimedia CommonsSo, poor John McCain. At the start of the year, he gets bounced around because he is “not well versed” in economics.
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Written by Tom Steinert-Threlkeld on

SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons So, poor John McCain. At the start of the year, he gets bounced around because he is “not well versed” in economics. In summer, he gets beat up again, because he says he is “illiterate”about technology (and the way he expresses himself makes one wonder about his command of English, as well). In both cases, he says he has to get himself up to speed. This is a 71-year-old guy, who may be just six months from assuming the presidency of a country whose economy is flailing but still the biggest engine in the world. An engine that is powered by a pretty constant stream of technical innovations, one of the latest of which is that thing he calls “a Google.” Making matters worse, he’s up against a man 25 years his junior who is almost relentlessly hip, when it comes to the application of technology. Among the notable uses and pledges: • A web site operation that has fueled $300 million in campaign donations over the past 16 months, , with nearly half under $200 each. • Personal use of Blackberry email communications, supposedly any time he has “seven seconds” on his hands • A promise to appoint thenation’s first chief technology officer, at presumably a cabinet-level rank • A Twitter feed that sends regular updates on his campaign activities to 46,195 followers. And Obama (or his campaign staff) somehow supposedly “follows” more than 48,000 Twitter accounts. So, Obama “gets it” and McCain doesn’t. If you’re a believer in the restorative and ameliorating power of technology to fire up an economy – and who trolling ZDNet would not subscribe to that reckoning – then Obama gets your vote. After all, Obama has got all the “right” positions. He wants an open Internet, with is support of network neutrality translating to a basic position that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others. He pledges to use the Net to keep bringing in ideas from the public, to guide his Adminstriation. He talks about creating Public Media 2.0, a “next generation” Sesame Street for the “Digital Age.” The Universal Service Fund, which in the past has been used to bring telephone service to rural and uneconomic areas, should be refocused to bring broadband access to those same places. He’ll invest $10 billion a year, to create a national system of electronic health records (and pledges, in almost the same breath, to give greater privacy protections to such online documents). He’ll invest in creating a “digital smart energy grid.” He’ll double federal spending on basic research. And he’ll make the research and development tax credit permanent, to spur more innovation. McCain’s approach doesn’t have the same verve and moonshot-like sense of aspiration. He proposes to allow corporations to immediately deduct from taxation the cost of investments in equipment and technology. He wants a permanent ban on Internet taxes (as if Macy’s and Wal-Mart one day won’t come to him asking for a federally-mandated ban on sales taxes). He also proposes a ban on cell phone taxes (a vote winner, but a spur to innovation?). And a permanent tax credit equal to 10 percent of the wages a company spends on research and development of new products and services. But the most notable spur to innovation is a broader pledge. He says he “will reduce the federal corporate tax rate to 25 percent, from 35 percent.’’ There’s no talk of creating digital services for kids or intelligent energy networks. He won’t be spending $10 billion a year on building a national network of health records. He’ll leave that up to “a Google,” Microsoft, Aetna and other private parties to figure that out and cover the cost. So the question boils down to whether you want a technologically savvy president being aggressive with federal funds and personnel in promoting technical solutions to the country’s problems. Or if you want more money left in the hands of players with the profit motive to find technical solutions to the country’s problems. Which shows real smarts, about the economy and technology? Hard to say. It depends on how McCain plays his hand. A quarter century ago, the chief executive officer of a not-widely-known operator of local TV stations, Capital Cities Communications, said he hadn’t been to a bank in 30 years. He said he had no familiarity with an automatic teller machine, much less the personal computers just coming on the market from IBM and others. But, a few years later, Thomas S. Murphy (aided by Warren Buffett) managed a takeover of the ABC television network itself. And succeeded with it. Obama has used technology to fuel his campaign. Now, McCain has to show that he can use his campaign – and presidency – to fuel technology.

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