The Politics of Innovation
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Can't we all just get along? That's the question being asked by many in the technology workforce, ever since Democrats in the House of Representatives presented their "Innovation Agenda" in late November.
The plan, crafted to keep the U.S. competitive in an increasingly global economy, echoes the many calls to action from congressional task forces and lobby groups. It calls for increased funding of the National Science Foundation, more scholarships for science and math majors, and a doubling of federal funding for increased broadband access.
Promoted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the plan has drawn political scorn from across the aisle. "We are already pursuing what the Democrats are proposing, and are doing it despite Democrats' votes against many of our proposals that are top priorities for the high-tech industry," says Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.). Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Republican High Tech Working Group, adds, "The high-tech sector is not fooled by empty promises in the absence of action. They know Republicans are the ones with a high-tech plan and the record of commitment.
Despite the partisan rhetoric, Republicans and Democrats have more in common than they think. "There is an enormous overlap," says Bill Archey, head of the trade group American Electronics Association. One of my board members looked at the [Democrats' proposal] and said, 'Geez, I thought it was written by the Republicans.' "
The political squabbling may not be all bad. "We're very happy that the Democrats and the Republicans are engaged. It opens up more opportunity for public discussion, and ensures that this critical issue is well vetted," says Bill Booher, spokesman for the Council on Competitiveness. Indeed, the national debate has spawned at least one bipartisan piece of proposed legislationthe National Innovation Actcosponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Ensign. Of course, to this point the debate over innovation is just that: debate. Says Booher, "Just because a bill gets introduced, does not mean it will pass."