Trump and Clinton on Technology Policy: It’s 1992 Again!

Last month, I did a quick review of Clinton vs. Trump on small business policy.  Today, I’m taking a look at how the candidates compare on technology and innovation policies.   My analysis focuses tightly on issues directly related to technology and innovation, and does not cover other important related areas like education or workforce policies.  This is a very brief review.  For greater detail, I would suggest reviewing an excellent recent analysis from my colleagues at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, from which I’ve borrowed a bit.

A quick glance at the candidate’s websites and policy documents would make you think it’s 1992 again.   The contesting positions of the two candidates remind me of similar debates between Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Ross Perot.  On one side, we have Donald Trump as the advocate of trickle down.  His program appears to rely almost exclusively cutting taxes and regulations. In the process, this opening of the economy will stimulate business growth and create numerous other benefits for the economy.   Trump adds a Perot-ian spin with this tough talk on trade, pushing for a much tougher stance on trade enforcement.  Beyond these general guidelines, Trump is silent on nearly all other aspects of what we would consider technology and innovation policies.

If Trump is channeling Bush I and Perot, Hillary Clinton is channeling the “Putting People First” plan of her husband’s first Presidential campaign.   The issues are updated—after all, the World Wide Web barely existed in 1992.  However, her plans have a “New Democrat” feel to me—with their heavy focus on policy nudges, small scale reforms, lower cost tax breaks, and the like.

Nonetheless, Clinton’s technology plans contain a lot of good ideas.  In many ways, they present something of a wish list for technology policy wonks who have long pushed for many of these proposals.   As in other parts of her agenda, her technology and innovation policies are a grab bag, and there is no shortage of new concepts and ideas.   But, her core platform seems to revolve around the following concepts.  She plans to:  1) Invest heavily in STEM education and training, 2) Support more open immigration policies to attract innovators and entrepreneurs,  3) Seek to use technology and innovations policies in ways that promote economic equity, and 4) Envision a more activist role for government more generally—especially when compared to candidate Trump.

Again—as in other issue areas, 2016 presents yet another clear choice when it comes to what technology and innovation policy will look like for the rest of the decade and beyond.

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