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2HRS2GO: Tech execs embrace Bush

COMMENTARY -- So the next U.S. president wants you to be patient.

"People that have invested in this industry are, in the long term, going to realize good gains on the money they've invested," soon-to-be-president George W. Bush said yesterday, following a meeting with tech executives. "We're concerned about the short-term economic news, but long term I'm optimistic. I hope investors hold investments for periods of time."

Bush offers sound, time-honored advice. He also conveniently forgets it when discussion turns to taxes.

"I think that tax relief is necessary; the question is how fast we implement it. It is possible that we may need to implement it faster," Bush said.

And so it seems to go with Bill Clinton's successor. Bush suggests one vision for the country and another for the technology industry.

Some of Bush's notions are just wrong, such as his concern about capital fleeing the United States. If anything, it's the opposite -- overseas companies want to pour money into North America.

But by and large, it would be unfair to say Bush does not understand high tech issues. He knows them as well as any outside observer of the industry, and he backs some reasonable stances, including increasing the number of H1B visas and loosening export restrictions on encryption.

And Bush -- whose record as a businessman was mixed at best -- knows his financial savvy has its limits. "I'd get them to get somebody more qualified than me to pick stocks," he said, smiling and probably not joking.

But the incoming administration also backs some weird combinations of ideas.

The president-elect espouses the Republican ideal about keeping government out of our lives. Then he proposes more government officials for the tech industry, including a federal CIO to figure out how to protect your personal data online, and possibly a "new White House position to invigorate Internet technology," according to the Associated Press.

Great. Just how I want my tax dollars spent: on a government-sponsored lobbyist for the richest industry in the world.

Technology investors should be skeptical by the notion that their industry needs some sort of federal guide. More disturbing to see was the gaggle of CEOs surrounding Bush as he talks about government actions on behalf of high-tech and the overall economy.

The current tax structure didn't stop the man standing on Bush's left, Michael Dell, from building a computer company with $30 billion in sales over the last 12 months. Newly-created White House posts won't help Carly Fiorina turn Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) into the nimble, all-in-one IT vendor that she envisions.

This sort of brown-nosing arrangement between tech and Uncle Sam is a relatively new phenomenon. Tech firms until recently went about their business without worrying about Washington D.C., except as a source of potential sales to government agencies.

Now the president-to-be calls tech execs his friends. Bill Clinton hung around Babs Streisand. Bush has Carly at his right shoulder, or at least he did yesterday. The Friends of W. may not exude as much star power, but they and their shareholders now make a louder noise in the White House than any pop singer's voice.

I'd rather see techs thrive on their own. That's how those execs became rich in the first place. 22GO>