What Obama’s second term means for technology

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Obama's second term for tech presidential electionA couple of years ago, President Obama was having dinner with Silicon Valley movers and shakers, including an ailing Steve Jobs. Although no recording of the dinner has been made available, legend has it that the President asked Jobs what it would take for Apple’s manufacturing jobs to come back to America.

“Those jobs aren’t coming back,” replied Jobs.

Whether that is true or not, during the campaign both President Obama and Governor Romney focused a lot of their energies on plans to bring that kind of manufacturing back to American shores. Now that the president has won a second term, what does that mean for American technology and manufacturing?

Mr. Obama’s plan was built on education and training, investing in clean energy, and giving tax incentives to companies that bring jobs back to America.

Jobs’ grim reply was based on the fact that American workers are no longer trained for the needs of high-tech manufacturing. Obama believes that making college more accessible, both at the university and community college level, is part of the solution for closing that skills gap.

A major focus during Obama’s first term was keeping tuition rates down, doubling funding for Pell Grants, and trying to get community colleges to work together with local employers to better train outgoing students for jobs that already exist locally. There’s every reason to believe that push will continue.

Another creative idea from the campaign trail was the creation of “manufacturing innovation institutes,” where businesses and research institutions work together to make sure that American research and development produces corresponding high-tech manufacturing jobs. How the federal government can spur that idea remains to be seen, but it could be a key step in reshaping the American manufacturing sector and making sure the next Apple keeps its assembly lines here at home.

During the campaign, Obama predictably hit Governor Romney on the Republican Party’s close ties with the oil industry. In his first term, the president advocated an “all of the above” energy policy. He’s willing to explore any source, including oil, which can help America reach a majority of energy independence by 2035. It is now expected that investment in alternative energy technologies will only continue in the next four years.

Gas pump car fuel efficiency obama technologyDuring his first term, President Obama pushed ahead with plans to double fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks by 2025, which is spurring the auto industry’s investments in hybrid and electric vehicles and has led to an American manufacturing boom of sorts in battery technology. Since these rules are now under no threat of repeal, cars and light trucks are expected to sip less and less gas in the next four years. Horsepower may be a different story.

One of the places where we heard repeats of 2008’s campaign pledges was in the area of corporate tax structure. The president promised to end tax breaks for companies that participate in outsourcing during his first term and promised to do the same in his second term (which you can assume to mean that the first effort didn’t go so well).

He also wants to provide tax incentives for companies to bring jobs back to the US. Considering Apple currently enjoys a 1.9 percent tax rate on its foreign earnings, I’m not sure how much of an incentive the US government can provide. Perhaps they will mandate that all federal employees will have to buy an iPad Mini. At least all of our forest rangers will have something to do while they’re stuck in those fire towers.

Any conversation about tax policy centers on Congress. In the coming days, it will be interesting to see if our Republican House makes any overtures of bipartisanship to the president now that they know they are stuck with him for another four years. If history is any indication, don’t hold your breath. There’s probably better chance of an impeachment investigation than bipartisan tax reform.

Whatever the case, many pundits believe that the president will be bolder in his second term, enacting whatever policies he can without congressional approval if Congress proves to be as intransigent as they have been in the past. A lot of the policies mentioned above came to pass through that same kind of executive maneuvering. Because of that, the next four years of America’s technology and education policy might be just as much decided in courtrooms as in the Oval Office.

Showing 23 comments

  1. Pete Brodton 1 year Ago  
    Less from us more from them, is what it means...
  2. Dominick DiMartino 1 year Ago  
    Thnx for covering this angle of the election. I saw more positives than anything. "Wag The Dog" comes to mind and thus the position of Commander in Chief scares more often than it leads in my opinion.
  3. Mark Thompson 1 year Ago  
    I wish he was for the most effective alternative energy available - AMERICAN-drilled oil. Stopping polluting the air with cargo ship exhaust by shipping Middle East oil across the ocean every day. Pipe it instead. Saves air and cost.
  4. Peggy Nunley Funk 1 year Ago  
    I'm just entirely sick of hearing the name Obama ....
  5. Gina Laurita 1 year Ago  
    IT MEANS NOTHING IF WE STILL DO NOT HAVE POWER!! STOP SENDING $$ TO THE RED CROSS THEY ARE CHARGING PEOPLE FOR COOKIES and COFFEE!
  6. Vicky Page Abraham 1 year Ago  
    I agree with Robert if you guys don't think things are going you are a bunch of idiots.
  7. Robert Haag 1 year Ago  
    Charles I respectfully disagree, this is much different than the past!
  8. Mindy Maucelli 1 year Ago  
    What he does means NOTHING to me. It's like the wind blowing, I ignore it until it damages something in my possession ...
  9. Dion OlympianGod Miller 1 year Ago  
    Since when do you need to be highly trained to assemble prefabricated parts in a tech sweat shop?
  10. Thomas Cole 1 year Ago  
    Americans can build the technology of today! It has not been that long ago that we built everything here and we still build most of our military technology here as well as Boing and McDonald Douglas jets. If you think that McDonald Douglas is sending that stuff to China you have to be crazy.
  11. Ken Starr 1 year Ago  
    It means that science prevails.
  12. David Esau 1 year Ago  
    charles w. is either a child, or he is suffering from the same delusional disorder as the current administration. it's that disorder which is not only clinically debilitating, but dragging three and a half billion along with him through the same sewer.

    people with their own money innovate. people robbed of their own money can only stagnate.

    explain this as a "bump in the road." you can only try. nitwits seldom belong in charge of O.P.M. look it up.
  13. David Gagné 1 year Ago  
    I believe that at this point they should save time and hand over the country to the UN.... that is the agenda anyways.
  14. Brian Fojtik 1 year Ago  
    It means net neutrality in one form or another. They are desperate to get the government's mitts (pun intended) on the internet.
  15. Charles Warner 1 year Ago  
    Why all the chicken little "The Sky is Falling" talk? America has faced challenges throughout history and has always found a way. This is no different.
  16. Stephen Ross 1 year Ago  
    It means that we better find another country because this one is totally fubar
  17. Leafsfan Torontofan 1 year Ago  
    We will be broke with no freedom.
  18. Peter Mac Kelly 1 year Ago  
    Here is the long and short: 2 billion dollars spent: same president, more Repubs in House, more Dems in Senate = status quo. More gridlock, the country remains divided and no clear mandate. Back to square one - "great" job America. ZERO PROGRESS.
  19. Lynne G Siegel 1 year Ago  
    it means I won't be able to afford any of it, ever.
  20. Rick Jones 1 year Ago  
    What does it mean for technology? Money for Lockheed drones.
  21. Wendy Hutchison 1 year Ago  
    Love Steve Jobs "those jobs aren't coming back" ... it's not training/education. People can be trained and educated. Apple can't get away with paying 1.9% tax OR paying the people assembling their products $1 a day here in the U.S.
  22. Darryl Haley 1 year Ago  
    I'll wait until after the solar flares hit in December to answer
  23. SeattleObserver 1 year Ago  
    Well, one thing is certain, we can all expect to be under surveillance by more high tech police drones!