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.”

Opposing Viewpoint by Matt McIlwain: How Mitt Romney will fuel the ‘opportunity economy’


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:

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.

Facts: Taxation

Even ignoring issues of fairness, the idea that growth is stimulated by lowering taxes on the affluent and on corporations has no basis in reality:

  • 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

Ed Lazowska

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.

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  • kevster5

    Ed, you must be an idiot. You state above that while on Bush’s technical advisory team that democrats were not welcome. Hmm, do you really think that has changed so that republicans are welcome on the Obama technical advisory team? Obama was elected without any credentials and it has certainly shown. Who the heck hires someone without a resume that says he/she can do the job? Time for him to be fired. Romney isn’t perfect, but certainly he comes to us with a background of knowing how the world economies really work.

    • Thomas R.

      Wow, you need to take a step back. How can you start off a discussion by calling someone an idiot who has logically and clearly articulated his facts and opinion? That’s not even considering the amazing thing he’s accomplished and contributed to this state and the field of computer science. You’ve already lost all credibility with an ad hominem opening.

      You offer opinion with no facts, at least the Mr. Lazowska stated his view and then backed it up.

      And yes Obama is so partisan he appointed a Republican presidential nominee named Jon Huntsman to be ambassador to politically and economically important China. Yes…so partisan.

      And if you are so worried about credentials, let me tell you about a movie star who became President…

      You see what you want to see.

  • http://twitter.com/puckyourself Joe McGrath

    It is interesting that you state the performance of the stock market as if Obama somehow controlled the return of the stock markets directly. If anything, the actions of Bernake, keeping interest rates low (and in the future causing rampant inflation), led to institutional investors moving from fixed income instruments to equities, causing a good chunk of the increase.
    Also, saving the auto industry, I think you might have meant he saved GM and Chrysler; all other auto manufacturers did well without assistance. keep in mind this “saving” radically changed the way lenders do business, as their senior position was shrugged off at the benefit of the auto workers union, causing lenders to seriously reevaluate how much they lend (and restricting credit).
    i am not convinced the Healthcare changes will control costs, as evidenced by the massive premium increases we are seeing as companies brace for the impact. the healthcare act didn’t address the core issues behind price increases, namely, transparency, from both the perspective of the individual in allowing them to understand how much their insurance actually costs, and in what hospitals charge, allowing for consumers to make educated choices on where they spend their dollars. The Healthcare law placed priced caps on services, which is what medicare does, and usually is below cost, and why many doctors do not accept medicare patients.
    And then for taxes raised versus taxes cut and which stimulates to economy, i would more point to countries as a whole and how tax policy has impacted them, countries that go to a simplified tax code with lower marginal rates (not lower actual rates, mind you) have always seen impressive growth.
    The issue really isn’t whether taxes are raised or lowered, it is that taxes are simplified, and a middle class family of four doesn’t have to hire someone to do their taxes (which is part of the actual tax burden). Taxes for my generation (30 and below) will have to be raised, as the selfish acts of Mr. Lazowska’s generation, from both parties, means our generation will have to pay for them so they may enjoy a quality of life which most of my generation will never see.

    • SDA

      Obama kept Bernanke. Romney publicly stated that he would not. By referring to the ‘auto industry’, yes, GM and Chrysler are the individual companies that received direct support, however they are two of the big three automakers in this country, and in fact the world. Ford was well managed and did not need assistance. The various companies further down in their parts supply chain would have lost also had these two giants gone out of business, a supply chain shared with Ford. The ecosystem is what needed support, GM and Chrysler were the entry points through which the support was provided. And taxpayers earned a profit on that investment, much to the chagrin of Republicans in Congress.

      The effects of specific healthcare law are unknown, but its overarching goal of ensuring access to healthcare is not a pipe dream, it is a daily reality for European nations. The method chosen in Obamacare is not the same as what exists in socialist European countries, where the actual healthcare provider is employed and controlled by the government. ( Remember, thats what socialism is, it is public control over the means of production ). Obamacare ensures that everyone has insurance, it does not tell you which doctors to go see. It does employ a board of doctors to identify, promote and share best practices in an effort to save money, which has been made into the “death panel” caricature.

  • Deployed Sailor

    Really Ed, ” I’m not a partisan. I’m nominally a Democrat.” Your a flaming liberal democrat. If Bush was that aginst bipartisanship, how did you get the job? Kind of ruins your point. How much international expeirience did Obama have when elected? After 4 years of the world hating us even more than before, I’d say he hasn’t learned much. Obstruction? – what happened in thefirst 2 years he had all of Congress. I’ll take the tough decision business successes of Mitt Romney as proof that he can reel in this bloated government and get us back on track. By the way, fact lover. The fact is that 47% of people are on the public dole. Maybe in your privileged existance, you don’t know poeple who are happy to sit home and collect a govt paycheck, food stamps, and get tax credits for kids even though they didn’t pay any income tax, but those of us in the real world know lots of them…and guess who they’re voting for?

    • Lan

      If you’re a deployed sailor, you’re one of the 47% not paying federal income taxes. Also, a large chunk of that 47% are retired military vets and vets who are disabled; who I will gladly pay more taxes to support.

    • Really?

      “Obstruction? – what happened in the first 2 years he had all of Congress”

      Yeah, right. One word: filibuster.

      “The fact is that 47% of people are on the public dole.”

      Just because you say something is a fact don’t make it one. Do your research. Hint: just because you read it on the internet or saw it on fox news doesn’t make it a fact.

      • Tom

        Deployed sailor:

        You clearly fall into the same group that Ed talks about: those who don’t like facts. “47% of people on the public dole”? Here are the facts: 18% of tax filers didn’t pay either payroll tax or federal income tax in 2011. Almost all of those were the elderly, most of the rest had incomes below $20,000. Some were even real “Deployed sailors.”

        • Lan

          Yet they all paid Property tax, Social Security, Medicare, Gas Tax, Sales tax, and even paid (via consumption) for the Federal income tax of whatever companies they buy stuff from.

  • http://twitter.com/joelgrus Joel Grus

    I understand why the official debate wants to pretend there are only two candidates, but shame on GeekWire for playing along. There are surely plenty of people in the startup community who would gladly write a “Why Gary Johnson Should Get Your Vote” piece (and surely plenty of others who’d do the same for Jill Stein).

    • johnhcook

      Fair point. We’d welcome that, so let me know if you have ideas of folks in the tech community who are supporting those candidates. Thanks for the feedback.

  • shame

    This post should be marked as advertisement and paid post. It is very misleading and inappropriate. Hope that guy paid a lot of money so you could give him a political partisan slot on your site

  • mrmark

    I will give you bonus points on this post for being a little bit original. You took the usual MSNBC talking points you were suppose to post and added a little spin to them.

    Like the fact that you had to go back 50 years and dig up Kennedy to defend Obama. Even tho Kennedy, by today’s standard, would be a republican, not a democrat.

    But my real problem here is that the writer has taken to the talking points and ignored the last three years of reality in order to defend the talking points.

    * Using the Titanic metaphor. Obama was in the US Senate and voting when the Titanic was being discussed… He was there, helping create the problems he inherited.

    * Every nation that over-taxed the affluent, is now in decline and screaming for the world (America) to bail them out. Nobody is working because there are no jobs.Everyone is on the Government payroll with no incentive to work or to find a solution.

    * Romney has a well documented and well ignored by the media, track record for creating and saving real American jobs as well as supporting success. Obama does not.

    * Every country that has tried the Obama vision of “shared opportunities” has gone bankrupt and is seeing a revolution if not an over throw of the government.

    *Obama policies have shipped more technology jobs to China and India than ever before.

    * When the facts can’t support the points, go for class warfare:

    “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!”

    I always hate when a person like Obama or his supporters who has never had to be responsible for a paycheck, or create a job, bash business owners.

    “They” can afford anything just because “They” are a business owner. Like the money just appears because you filed your LLC paperwork!!

    “They” can afford it?? – Who are “They” anyway??? And how do you know they can afford anything just because they are an LLC?

    They are the job creators. The taxpayers. They are your neighbors, friends and employers. They may be the ones who give you your next job (or can’t afford to)

    Plus, do you really think a business pays the taxes so you don’t have to??

    Earth to Obama Supporters:
    “They” will pass any tax increases (including healthcare) on to you in the end… So “They” need your support. Not your criticism.. You will pay for their survival or demise. One or the other… “They” are you….

  • Ross

    “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! ”

    That is the most ridiculous statement I’ve read in quite a while. I have an LLC and I am working basically two full-time jobs trying to keep things together.

  • Bill

    Beware any article beginning with “I’m not a partisan”. As with “I’m not a liar” – if it needs to be said, you already have a problem.

    Ed Lazowska proceeds to deliver one of the most partisan screeds of the political season. Where to begin?

    1) Obama’s economic plans are equally unspecified, he had zero foreign policy experience when he took office (and has done nothing to increase US standing abroad), and his positions on gay marriage et al have vacillated as much as Romney’s.
    2) The banks were saved in 2008, and the loan saving GM and Chrysler (or more accurately, the UAW pension plan) was signed by Bush in December 2008.
    3) The PPACA does nothing to reduce overall healthcare costs, as the same CBO cited elsewhere has said.
    4) Unemployment remains above 8%, far above Obama’s projections when pushing the stimulus package (“it wasn’t a promise!” “it wasn’t a promise!” someone will now shriek). Millions have stopped looking, the true unemployment rate is at a post-war high, and this has been the slowest recovery in post-war history. So keep pushing that meme that “the private sector is doing fine”.
    5) Ed seems unaware that Obama supports lowering the corporate tax rate, as does Romney, while eliminating behavior-distorting loopholes. It’s actually an area of common ground.
    6) He cites Romney’s gaffes but doesn’t mention Obama’s or Biden’s. The 47% comment was insensitive but no more so than “clinging to their guns and religion” and “they’re afraid of people not like them”
    7) He repeats the liberal canard that Eisenhower-era 90% top marginal rate somehow caused our 50’s economy to boom. In fact, virtually nobody paid it, as the threshold was several million in today’s dollars – and our economy boomed because we had no competition, with most of the world in ruins from WWII.
    8) Bizarrely, he says “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!” Most small businesses ARE S-corps, LLCs and partnerships that would be absolutely affected. And what is the basis for stating they “can well afford it” – and how will raising their taxes create jobs?

    Beyond its stark partisanship, this piece is intellectually dishonest and lazy. For the sake of his students, I hope it isn’t representative of Ed Lazowska’s classroom preparation or demeanor.

  • William

    Here is the campaign video that “non-partisan” Ed Lazowska posted in 2008: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKiv2scs-NU

    I happen to agree strongly with Dr. Lazowska about the federal role for basic research, and the importance of education, and his distaste for Bush’s politicization of scientific boards and committees. Unfortunately, Obama’s failed to deliver. Schools continue to fail, Obama personally stopped a popular voucher program in DC, and scientific reports on the Gulf spill, Keystone pipeline, coal plant emissions, polar bear survival and others were rewritten without the authors’ permission, to fit political aims.

    • bustedbyfacts

      LOL busted. Another liar liberal.

  • Easyrhino1

    Isn’t Obama the same guy that signed a bill giving the federal government the authority to lock up US citizens indefinitely without charges or trial?
    Doesn’t Obama claim to have the authority to secretly target U.S. citizens for execution by the CIA without even charging them with a crime, notifying them of the accusations, or affording them an opportunity to respond?
    What else does Obama have in store for the loyal voters?

  • Peter H

    Geekwire: If you’re going this direction, please avoid failling into two-party trap, and give equal coverage to Gary Johnson.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChrisDaltas Chris Daltas

    I was right with you until you said this very stupid thing:

    “The “small businesses” affected by increased high-end tax rates aren’t startups or neighborhood drycleaners – they’re S-Corps and LLCs that canwell afford it! “Most startups are either LLC’s, C-Corps or S-Corps knuckle head. How do you think startups are filing?

  • http://twitter.com/LIBERTYUSANOW FIGHT 2 SAVE USA !!

    I see a whole lot of people posting here are exactly those that Lazowska was referring to. Those immune to facts and logic. Look it up , the facts are the Stock Market ALWAYS goes up when a Democrat is President : Look it up Job is ALWAYS MUCH better during a Democratic administration. Maybe it’s just coincidence.

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