PROFILE: Barack Obama

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PROFILE: Barack Obama

“Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. . . Let’s make college more affordable, and let’s invest in scientific research and let’s lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.” Presidential Announcement speech, February 10, 2007

Senator Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 after serving in the Illinois State Senate from 1996 to 2004. He is a member of the House Committees on Foreign Relations; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Veterans’ Affairs.

Key Tech Policy Positions

Federal R&D Investments: Sen. Obama supports doubling of federal government funding for basic research programs. He notes that federal investments in science and engineering research have fallen substantially over the past thirty years and that this kind of research has resulted in innovation and contributed to economic growth.

Tax Policy: Sen. Obama’s tax platform focuses mainly on personal income tax policies. However, he recently said that he would consider a reduction in the corporate tax rate as part of an overall effort to simplify the U.S. tax code. He also proposes eliminating capital gains taxes on investments in start-up companies.

R&D Tax Credit: Sen. Obama supports making the R&D tax credit permanent. He notes the importance of permanency so that companies would be able to rely on it in their decision making when considering how to structure their R&D activities over multi-year timeframes.

Energy Policy: Sen. Obama has an extensive platform on energy policy which includes support for solar and other forms of renewable energies. The goal is to use technology as a way to solve one of the most critical challenges facing the country. The hallmark of the plan is to invest $15 billion a year over ten years in climate-friendly energy development and deployment. Among other things, this plan would double federal R&D for clean energy projects and create a Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital fund to bridge the gap from discovery to commercialization. Funding would be through revenues from a cap-and-trade carbon emissions system.

High Skills Immigration: Sen. Obama views this area as a skills shortage as opposed to a worker shortage. He understands the need to attract the world’s best talent to work for American companies and supports improvements to the H-1B visa and legal permanent resident visa programs. At the same time, he is pushing for a greater investment in U.S. education to meet the need for skilled talent with American workers and includes a focus on communities that traditionally have had a low level of representation in technology fields.

Trade: While he notes the benefits of trade in creating wealth and driving innovation, Sen. Obama expressed a great deal of skepticism about trade agreements during the primary season. He supported the Democratic opposition to fast track approval of the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement. He wants to see trade agreements, such as the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement, place a greater degree of emphasis on labor and the environment and believes the U.S. should expand programs providing transitional assistance to workers displaced by trade. He also believes the U.S. should more actively enforce existing trade agreements.

Patent Reform: Sen. Obama’s technology platform includes a call for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to receive more resources to improve patent quality and improve patent process timelines. He supports opening the patent process to citizen review and using more informational resources to make patents less vulnerable to challenge.

Transforming Government: A theme throughout Sen. Obama’s technology platform is using technology to improve not only the way government operates but also to expand opportunities for citizens to be informed and to interact with government and within their communities. Sen. Obama would create a Chief Technology Officer for the federal government who would be charged with increasing transparency, creating opportunities for citizens to be informed about and weigh in on policy debates, and ensuring interoperability across government functions.

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July 9, 2008