The Politics of the New Economy

Obviously, the next president and vice president of the United States don’t want to rock the boat that is speeding the so-called New Economy to deeper and richer waters. So the candidates are mouthing all the right words: “prosperity,” “investment,” “expansion,” and “innovation.”

However, we in the U.S. have become good at remembering that when politicians are in full campaign battle gear, they are adept at telling us exclusively what we want to hear — any time, anywhere.

They agree on all the obvious and non-controversial issues: investing in research and development, improving education, providing moral leadership, and so forth. For inquiring voters, though, the trickiest part of campaign watching is figuring out what the candidates really mean on potentially polarizing issues of substance.

For example, under all the platitudes and promises, what are the candidates’ real positions on issues relevant to e-commerce?

Tax, Spend and Forget Privacy

Try this translation on for size: When the Democrats say they want to extend the moratorium on Internet taxation, what they really mean is they can’t wait to tax the heck out of the Internet as soon as Al Gore folds his boxers into the White House chest of drawers.

Or, when the Republicans say they are very concerned about the privacy rights of individuals on the Internet, what they really mean is they couldn’t care less about privacy rights if they interfere with the business of all those Silicon Valley big-shots who have been giving them money over the years.

Once you get the knack of listening between the lines, it’s easy.

Inhale, Exhale

When Gore said he created the Internet, what he really meant was… well, that was just a lie. Or maybe he was momentarily delusional. Unlike his boss, he may have been inhaling when he dreamed that up.

When Gore says he wants to loosen controls on exports of encryption software — opposing Bill Clinton’s policy, which is based on the fear that China will use our software secrets to destroy our way of life — what he really means is: “The heck with national security, I have to appear conservative on some issues in order to nail that centrist position.”

When George W. Bush says he “understands that hard-working entrepreneurs created the New Economy, not government, but… government can create an environment in which entrepreneurs flourish,” he really means: “I promise the sort of high-tech environment where hard-working entrepreneurs can come up with innovative ways to put a lot of money in my pocket in order for my campaign to flourish.”

‘Interactive Town Square?’

When Gore says he wants to create an “Interactive Town Square,” his inner monologue is something like this: “Hmmmmm….Town Square — that sounds down-homey, doesn’t it? Kind of like an updated version of a fireside chat. Of course, I won’t have anything to do with it — I’ve got better things to do. I’ll get some geek-flunkies to work something up. Sounds good, though.”

When Gore says he wants to have every government resource online by 2003, what he really means is that elephants and donkeys will fly when every government resource goes online in 2003.

When Bush says he will support the growth of the New Economy by “cutting taxes and curbing frivolous lawsuits,” what he is really saying is… Well, even he doesn’t know what he’s really saying because this mantra is so ingrained in all Republicans, they repeat it when coming out of a dead sleep or if someone asks how would they like their eggs.

Classic Fence Straddler

Gore and Bush are easy. So is Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Dick Cheney. (Think Genghis Khan logging on to America Online.) But Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman is trickier.

Lieberman is tough to label, at least from a high-tech perspective. He is a sponsor of the Video and Computer Game Report, which rates games for explicit content, and he’s a backer of content-filtering V-chips. He, like many others, wants to stick pornography in a separate Internet domain.

Yet, he voted against the Communications Decency Act. Also, he introduced legislation that proposed a moratorium on Net taxation, and he wanted to limit Y2K liabilities — both classic Republican viewpoints.

I guess Lieberman is a “consensus-builder,” which can be good or bad, depending on whether the spine was removed.

Take Your Pick

Ultimately, how the next administration will deal with the New Economy is anyone’s guess. Even the high-tech lobbyists who are lining the pockets of both parties will have to wait and see.

However, it will likely be the same way they dealt with the Old Economy: They’ll follow along the same well-worn partisan trails and adopt the same party dogmas — right or wrong.

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