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Who's the Best Candidate for the Tech Industry?

By Bartlett Cleland

Heading into a presidential election, many technology policy observers and participants do their best to make a pitch for which candidate will be best for technology, software, hardware, Internet, services, consumer electronics and communications industries.

This year has been no different. Often these analyses are fairly predictable, favoring the more business-friendly candidate, not necessarily specific to technology.

But the question is based on a false assumption: that these industries must depend on the White House for their success. Nothing could be further from the truth. A look at the last four years tells the story.

According to data compiled by BusinessWeek, food prices over the last four years are up 7 percent, with chicken, apples, beef, bacon, salt and margarine up double digits. Gasoline prices have doubled in the last four years. Rent is up 5 percent. Also up: men's apparel, college tuition, textbooks, electricity and pharmaceuticals.

The result of these price increases is that the buying power for a median household has actually decreased by 8.2 percent. We have an inflationary economy that's going nowhere.

Except that televisions are down 57 percent, computers 29 percent and photo equipment 20 percent. Virtually anything connected to technology has become more affordable with enhanced features, part of a robustly growing industry.

According to the TechAmerica Foundation, the tech industry added nearly 100,000 jobs in the first six months of 2012, nearly 8 percent of all jobs created during that time. And broadband investment alone in the last year has been $66 billion. In contrast $90 billion in taxpayer money was spent to grow "green" jobs resulting in a mere 28,854 jobs over four years. While over four years median household income has increased a paltry $88, those new technology jobs pay well above the average.

Yes, the government has taken some steps to boost the technology sector, such as special treatment of research and development. But other policies, like restrictions on H1-B visas, hurt the tech industry.

What is driving the tech boom is an entrepreneurial, can-do spirit, relentless innovation, and in many of the most dynamic areas, a light-touch regulatory approach. Employers and entrepreneurs want to start businesses, create jobs and grow. And if that isn't happening, it's because the government is doing too much, not because it's doing too little. Thus, the get-out-of-the-way presidential candidate is likely the best one for the tech industry-as well as the whole economy.

Bartlett Cleland is Policy Counsel with the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), an independent, nonprofit public policy organization based in Dallas.

(AP Photo)

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