A few weeks ago, in our Veepstakes series, we analyzed where potential Republican running-mates stood on the issues that matter most to the tech industry. Now that both the Republican and Democratic conventions are done and dusted, we have decided to take a closer look at the record of both parties’ presidential candidates. Earlier this week, we analyzed President Obama and his record, and now we take a look at Governor Mitt Romney, and what he has said and done in relation to the issues that affect the tech community.
One of the key priorities for the tech industry is tax reform. Governor Romney has embraced the need to make significant changes in the U.S. tax structure, noting that “The U.S. economy’s 35 percent corporate tax rate is among the highest in the industrial world, reducing the ability of our nation’s businesses to compete in the global economy and to invest and create jobs at home.” As such, Governor Romney has pledged to cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, and transition to a territorial tax system – two policies that the tech industry favors. The Governor understands that there is an inextricable link between tax reform and innovation, commenting in a recent speech in front of technology business leaders that “You do have to have a tax structure that encourages people to take risks, because starting a business or taking an innovation and trying to grow it is risky.”Additionally, Governor Romney recognizes the value of investing in research and development to spur innovation, pledging to “strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit.”
On immigration, Governor Romney has made a number of public statements that make the economic case for encouraging skilled immigrants to remain in the U.S. and provide their talents to American businesses. In a speech in June this year, he affirmed that “…immigration reform is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity as well. Immigrants with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at a high rate. Immigrants founded or cofounded nearly half of our 50 top venture-backed companies. They are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business.” The Governor’s campaign website has noted that “The United States is projected to face a shortage of 230,000 science and technology workers by 2018”, and, consequently “…a Romney administration would press for an immigration policy designed to maximize America’s economic potential.”
An interesting aspect of the Governor’s immigration plan is its overlap with the need for more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates in America’s current workforce. The Governor’s plan states that “…every foreign student who obtains an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering at a U.S. university should be granted permanent residency.” Indeed, the tech industry has long recognized that STEM education reform and immigration reform are two, complementary sides of the same skills coin. In other words, both are needed to engender innovation and economic growth. It must also be noted that when Governor Romney held office in Massachusetts, he was a proponent of legislation that aimed to add 1,000 new math and science teachers and required specialized STEM classes for certain students.
The Governor’s 2012 energy plan also emphasizes the importance that innovation has for the energy industry, with his campaign website declaring “Government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology.” Similarly, according to the American Society for Engineering Education, when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts he “consistently supported state funding for basic research and energy technology”.
The Governor is also a strong supporter of free trade, commenting on the campaign trail that “I will open up new markets for American goods, and open up our lands.” For a Romney presidency, the Governor has promised to reach agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation process and “pursue new trade agreements with nations committed to free enterprise and open markets.”
Finally, on the issue of cybersecurity, Governor Romney has pledged to “order a full interagency initiative to formulate a unified national strategy to deter and defend against the growing threats of militarized cyber-attacks, cyber-terrorism, cyber-espionage, and private-sector intellectual property theft.”
It is clear that Mitt Romney has an impressive track record as Governor with respect to the tech industry, and he has certainly made some positive statements during the presidential race on issues affecting the tech community. The question for many tech policy experts and voters in November will be whether or not Governor Romney can translate his impressive rhetoric into policies that engender innovation, jobs, and economic prosperity.