As the first nominating caucuses and primaries approach,
the Democratic presidential candidates are warming to the issues
of science and technology. It's no wonder. They see
the scientific and technological community as a prime constituency
to be mined
for both votes and campaign contributions. And they see a
growing opportunity to set themselves apart from George
W. Bush in the process.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean made his rivals sit
up and take notice by actually using Internet technology to organize
his supporters, raise money, and reach new voters. In May, he started
Howard Dean TV on the Web, utilizing updated broadband technology.
And his campaign Web site allows voters to see his speeches and
other appearances whenever they wish. Dean says this is a way to
circumvent the media filter and let potential backers
size him up for themselves.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has some interesting ideas, too.
He wants to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil in 10 years by developing
and using renewable energy technologies and improving the nation's
energy efficiency. Kerry calls for a national initiative on the
scale of the Manhattan Project to accomplish these goals. Bush,
in contrast, favors increasing domestic production of fossil fuels
and the use of nuclear energy.
Kerry has also endorsed the creation of a trust fund
to use oil and natural gas royalty payments to invest in the development
of energy-saving technology and alternative fuels such as ethanol.
And he emphasizes the potential of hydrogen fuel in the U.S. economy
by aiming to put 100,000 hydrogen cars on the road by 2010 and 2.5
million such vehicles on the road by 2020.
Kerry also would invest $1 billion in incentives for
auto manufacturers to redesign their factories to produce vehicles
that achieve fuel-economy standards much higher than those in effect
On the policy level, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut
is pushing an ambitious initiative to revitalize the high-tech industry
via targeted tax cuts and increased federal spending on research
and development and math and science programs. Lieberman, who was
the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, is banking on
the creative forces in the business world to boost economic growth,
create jobs, and raise household incomes. We can do all that
without an expensive new government bureaucracy, without big federal
mandates or complicated laws and regulations, Lieberman says.
The Connecticut senator is proposing an $80 billion
package that includes investment tax credits of 20 percent for businesses
that buy new information technology; eliminating the capital-gains
tax for new investments in small companies; doubling spending for
the National Science Foundation to spur research and development;
and making the federal R&D tax credit permanent. He also favors
a national initiative to recruit and retain more qualified math
and science teachers and expand the workforce in science and engineering.
He wants to pay for his programs partly by repealing upper-income
tax cuts favored by President Bush that haven't taken effect
For his part, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri calls
his energy package an Apollo 21 plan, referring to President
John F. Kennedy's initiative to put a man on the moon in 10
years. Gephardt's goal is to achieve energy independence within
10 years in the 21st century and in the process employ 2 million
people in new plants and businesses. Gephardt says Bush relies too
much on increasing domestic oil production, including drilling in
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
The Missouri congressman would create new tax incentives
to make fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles more affordable; create new
tax benefits for energy-efficient homes, offices, and appliances;
and fund research into renewable energy technologies and creating
markets for them. He would give a 30 percent tax credit to businesses
that generate renewable power.
These are some of the ideas being floated out on the
campaign trail. And it's clear that no single candidate has
cornered the market on science and technology issues. There is a
serious debate going on, and that's a good sign for Campaign