Democrats support ‘ambitious’ tech investment

Platform is silent on H-1B visa use and offshore outsourcing

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The just-released draft of the Democratic party platform calls for increasing investments in science and technology research. It supports net neutrality and expansion of high-speed broadband networks. But its biggest push is in the areas of clean energy and infrastructure investment.

The platform says nothing about the offshore outsourcing of IT jobs and other types of work susceptible to offshoring. It is silent on the use of H-1B visa, similar to the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton has not discussed the temporary visa program and doesn't mention it in her platform, but does call for "stapling" or nearly automatic green cards for STEM advanced degree graduates.

Where the Democratic platform is most detailed is in its call for more public spending on clean energy and infrastructure.

It seeks to make the U.S. a clean-energy superpower, and claims investment in this area can create "millions of good-paying middle class jobs" while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The platform calls for getting 50% of electricity from clean-energy sources within a decade. This is based on a goal set by President Barack Obama's administration. Today, the share of non-hydropower renewables is nearly 7.5%, with wind and solar making up 5% of that amount. Non-hydro renewables include wind, solar, biomass and geothermal.

It seeks "a major federal jobs program" centered on infrastructure investment for roads, public transit, airports, rail lines, energy and water systems, as well as broadband.

This type of spending may help tech spending in much the same way the U.S. stimulus did in 2009 to help with the recession's recovery. Some some $800 billion was approved for projects that stimulated jobs, with several billion set aside for IT and telecommunications.

The platform seeks "ambitious" increases in federal research spending. This investment, which isn't detailed in the platform, faces major hurdles beyond the expected political obstacles.

U.S. spending on research -- as a percentage of GDP -- has been generally declining since the 1980s, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The government once spent about 1.2% of the GDP on federal research, but that figure is now less than .8%, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The U.S. has been falling behind in infrastructure spending, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 2013, it estimated that the U.S. needs to spend some $3.6 trillion by 2020 to properly upgrade or repair energy systems, transit, roads, ports, bridges, aviation, wastewater treatment and inland waterways.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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