John Kerry’s hi-tech plan

Here is one summary of his latest proposals, the bracketed text is my comments:

Sen. John Kerry called Thursday for increased investment and support for America’s high-tech industry. His proposals include:

— Encouraging technological innovation by cutting some capital gains taxes and revising or eliminating regulations that affect competitiveness. [Good news]

— Using tax incentives to expand universal broadband access, which he believes will add $500 billion and 1.2 million new jobs to the economy. [ I don’t see the social benefit here, the private benefits of broadband are largely internalized; it sounds like this is based on a bad economic impact study.]

— Increasing government research funding in science and technology, including money for “pure” science research. [Government subsidies for science should be oriented toward the “pure” side of the spectrum. We need to lengthen our time horizon here, and let’s focus on infectious diseases and non-polluting energy sources. I am much more skeptical about the government’s ability to guide applied technology. Remember Synfuels? But if we are going to do this, we must make real spending cuts elsewhere, most of all in Medicare]

— Improving math and science education at the K-12 level and rewarding colleges for increasing the number of science and engineering degrees they award. [Sounds good, but I don’t expect federal involvement to bring a real improvement. Nor do I think the a marginal increase in science degrees will mean more scientific progress. How good is the marginal science student, and how much does he or she love science?]

The plan also involves spectrum auctions [good] and stem cell research [good].

The bottom line: This is better than I had expected. I do worry that only the worst and porkiest elements will survive the political process.

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