What the tech industry needs from President-elect Obama

Don Reisinger thinks the tech industry needs to be a central concern to the Obama administration. But with other pressing issues facing the president-elect, will that happen?

Now that the election is over and Barack Obama enjoyed a landslide victory over John McCain, it's time we shift our focus from the past, to the future. Keeping in tradition with that mindset, it's also best that we forgo the use of Obama's campaign initiatives in developing a framework for the future. If presidential politics has taught us anything over the past 200 years, it's that what the candidates say on the campaign trail and what they do in the Oval Office is usually much different.

Rest assured that no one has any idea what the future will look like and it's difficult to say what President-elect Obama will do since the current macroeconomic conditions can change at any time.

But one thing is for sure: if we truly care about the vitality of the tech industry and want to see it stay as one of the most important sectors in our economy, status quo simply isn't going to do that.

Over the past five years, few companies in the tech industry have even considered an IPO in the U.S. thanks to draconian policies in the form of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that make it far too costly to be a public company in this country. And in the process, the government's fear of companies has made the U.S. far less competitive globally and American-based tech firms have felt that strain.

Realizing that, soon-to-be-President Obama needs to evaluate the economy and realize that the tech sector is being impacted heavily by laws that punish them for operating in the U.S. instead of encouraging them to expand their businesses here.

If he doesn't, the entire industry could be left in a dire position.

For once, a U.S. president since Ronald Reagan needs to protect the interests of our businesses. In order to do that, President-elect Obama needs to ensure that government funding is being put in the right places to help the tech industry stay on top.

Obama needs to ensure that the Research and Development tax credit stays permanent and government grants needs to be given to innovators to help the U.S. take a leadership role in important sectors in the industry, like nanotechnology. If Obama doesn't invest in the intelligence of the people in this industry, how can we expect consumers to invest in their products?

More importantly, President-elect Obama needs to realize that imposing significant taxes on companies simply won't solve any of our economic troubles. The technology industry is one of the most important sectors in our economy, but if he decides to tax major firms even more, we can expect one outcome: the tried and true dictum that companies don't pay taxes will rear its ugly head once more and prices industrywide will rise. And when that happens, we can expect even worse financial results from major companies in the industry and the possibility that many of those firms will move their operations overseas to protect their financial interests.

But President-elect Obama also can't forget about Silicon Valley. For years, Silicon Valley was the incubator for major tech companies and the place where many IPOs surfaced. But now, it's in danger of becoming a burial ground unless start-ups can get the tax breaks and credits they need to stay in business.

And most importantly, Obama needs to look at the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the damage it has done to Wall Street as it enriches public accounting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG, and find a way to regulate companies without making it such a costly trek to an IPO that tech companies won't even consider trying it.

With an economic crisis putting added pressure on the tech industry, Obama has numerous concerns and a series of hard decisions to make. And as the tech industry continues to face significant pressure from all sides of the economy, I can only hope that our next president recognizes that and realizes that if the U.S. is to be competitive going forward, we need to be serious about making the country a haven for technology companies and the single beacon of hope for small businesses across the world.

Say what you will about last night's election. But now that it's over, we need to move forward, fix the mistakes that have been made, and ensure that the technology sector of our economy is alive and well across the U.S.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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