I’m not a partisan. I’m nominally a Democrat, but I served as co-chair (with Marc Benioff) of George W. Bush’s President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee – where, I assure you, partisan Democrats weren’t welcome!
I have three principles that I hope you share. First, I try to be fact-based. Second, I try to be consistent – to display intellectual integrity. Third, I recognize that my success is due not only to my own efforts, but also to various advantages of circumstance with which I was blessed. (Read Outliers!)
These principles make America’s 2012 choice clear. On one hand we have Barack Obama, whose record I’ll describe below.
On the other hand we have a candidate whose economic policies can’t be assessed because they’re under-specified; who has no international experience (and enough gaffes to indicate that his advisors are inept); whose positions on global warming, women’s issues, health care, and marriage equality have vacillated to the extent that there’s no telling what he actually thinks; and who characterized 47 percent of our citizens as people “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims … I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Facts: The economy
When Bush turned the helm over to Obama, it was like the captain of the Titanic saying “Here – you take the wheel.” Nonetheless:
- Since Obama took office, the Dow is up 60 percent, the S&P is up 75 percent, and the NASDAQ has doubled. $1,000 invested when Kennedy was inaugurated in a fund that tracked the S&P when Democrats were in the White House would be worth $10,920 today – more than nine times the dollar return from following this strategy during Republican administrations.
- The banking system and the auto industry (and countless jobs!) have been saved.
- The Affordable Care Act addresses the greatest threat to our economic future: healthcare costs. (Additionally, portable healthcare supports entrepreneurship by enabling people to take job risks without taking healthcare risks.)
- When Obama took office we were losing 800,000 private-sector jobs/month; we’ve now had 30 straight months of private-sector job growth. Bill Clinton’s statement at the Democratic convention has been verified by legions of fact-checkers: Since Kennedy was inaugurated, 42,000,000 private-sector jobs have been added during 23 years of Democratic administrations, vs. 24,000,000 during 28 years of Republican administrations.
- According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, 78 percent of the increase in the Federal deficit in the past decade is due to policy changes during the Bush administration.
We’re not yet out of hole that Republican policies dug, but there’s been major progress. And there’d have been more, except for unprecedented obstructionism.
In 2010, Mitch McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Every action has been consistent with this. For Romney to say “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed” was beyond disingenuous.
- Every nation with a thriving innovation ecosystem has high taxes on the affluent. (You and I can only spend so much on goods and services! Lowering our taxes won’t increase our contributions to the economy!)
- Reducing taxes on corporations won’t stimulate expansion. (Expansion requires customers. Reduce taxes on the middle class!)
- The “small businesses” affected by increased high-end tax rates aren’t startups or neighborhood drycleaners – they’re S-Corps and LLCs that can well afford it!
Our economy boomed throughout the 1950s — the Eisenhower years — when the top marginal tax rate for individuals was above 90 percent. It boomed throughout the 1990s, after George H.W. Bush and then Bill Clinton raised the top rate from Ronald Reagan’s 28 percent to 39.6 percent.
George W. Bush’s reduction of the top rate to today’s 35 percent didn’t exactly trigger a golden age of economic growth! In fact, in the past several decades, economic growth has followed tax increases, not tax cuts. According to a September 2012 report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, “changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth.”
If trickle-down economics worked, we’d be drowning in jobs and prosperity, given how rich the rich have become and how profitable corporations are. The rich getting richer doesn’t animate growth – a rising median wage and economic inclusion do! Customers are the job creators! That’s why Obama’s policies will produce more growth.
Facts: Science, technology, and innovation
Obama has significantly increased the nation’s investment in scientific research. He appointed the nation’s first CTO. He created a National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship on which Madrona’s Tom Alberg serves – its impact includes the launching of Startup America. He’s driven important K-12 reforms through Race To The Top (and held the first-ever White House Science Fair). He’s stimulating us to invent the future in areas such as energy efficiency, clean energy, and advanced manufacturing.
An aside: Those who care about technology should deplore the denigration, distortion, and denial of science that permeates today’s Republican Party. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.”
The bottom line
If you care about technology and you care about growth, the choice is clear: Obama will deliver, Romney will not.
If you care about what kind of country America will be, Bill Clinton nailed it: “If you want a winner-take-all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama.”
Ed Lazowska holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. He is a member of the executive committees of the Technology Alliance and the Washington Technology Industry Association. He contributed this essay as an individual.
Editor’s Note: With the first 2012 U.S. Presidential Debate taking place tonight, GeekWire asked two veterans of the Seattle tech community, on different sides of the political spectrum, to weigh in with a debate of their own about the candidates. Making the case for Barack Obama is Ed Lazowska, a longtime University of Washington computer science professor, and making the case for Mitt Romney is Madrona Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain.