Who Gets Custody of E-Commerce?

With the U.S. presidential election cycle lurching into high gear, both major political parties are stumbling over one another in an effort to take credit for the success of the Internet and e-commerce.

Each party sees the past decade through a different prism — Democrats contend that the Clinton-Gore soft touch was responsible for the Net’s growth, but Republicans point to the leadership of the pro-business Congress that stormed into power way back in 1994.

To hammer home its point, the GOP “unveiled” its E-Contract 2000 Wednesday at a splashy press conference attended by a powerful group of party leaders. The E-Contract includes cutting taxes to promote investment and R&D, increasing “cyber security,” providing work benefits for telecommuters, preventing frivolous lawsuits and protecting intellectual property rights.

The contract also has a provision for creating “digital opportunities for the disadvantaged,” or “closing the digital divide,” as Democrats would say. The digital divide issue has been a high priority of the Clinton-Gore administration.

The Plot Thickens moratorium is likely to affect local revenue is on the rise.

Senators will certainly be listening as state and local officials from both parties — including the 42 governors who sent an irate letter to Congress decrying the measure — express their concerns about future revenue losses. Brick-and-mortar retailers, who have expressed concern about how a tax-free Net creates a climate of unfair competition, will no doubt also vent their ire.

While I am no proponent of taxation, I think the questions that critics of the moratorium are raising need to be thoroughly answered. Yet, with both parties seemingly locked in a contest of e-commerce one-upmanship, this outcome seems a very distant, slim possibility.

Something Old

The problem with E-Contract 2000 is that it is identical to the E-Contract that the Republicans introduced a year ago — and then promptly forgot.

However, in light of the preference both parties seem to share for slinging blame and taking credit rather than discussing the issues, it should come as no surprise that the GOP’s E-Contract 2000 is politically-motivated, recycled ballyhoo. The silly irony is that while these dueling champions of the Web and e-commerce continue to shadowbox, the very entity that they have pledged to protect remains locked in an unproductive limbo.

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