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August 14, 2008

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Well - you're disturbing my gymnastics viewing but I'll take a stab on a couple of these (I know nothing about R&D).

On (c), I actually don't understand that position without more detail. There are two issues with net neutrality - (1) does FCC have AUTHORITY to do it; and (2) if so, should FCC adopt something.

McCain is quite clearly opposed to any new law or new regulation. What's interesting though is that he says it should be decided on a "case by case" basis. That suggests the FCC does have authority. That's actually a good thing

that said, I'm probably too deep in weeds. He'll appoint a Commissioner who opposes NN and nothing will happen on it.

on (b), like hundt suggests, it's impossible to analyze without more details. The better policy is to just convert the universal service fund (the tax that appears on your phone bill which supports rural phone service) into a broadband-only subsidy. (today carriers can't use it for broadband)

But again - who knows what these means. For instance, AT&T provides wireless service along interstate highways that criss-cross "rural areas" for providing crappy wireless broadband. Would they therefore get these goodies? Probably yes -- they already get universal service fund money on this basis.

Anyway, it's just hard to know what (b) is. And (c) means no net neutrality (at best). My fear is a McCain FCC would actually move in the opposite direction and allow carriers to act in non-neutral ways

McCain doesn't have the faintest idea what he's saying, or what it means. He will see no disconnect between "no regulation" and "speech I don't like should not be tolerated on the Internet" or "the rights of copyrightholders are sacrosanct and the Internet at large must guarantee them"

He's not going to get his policy ideas from Larry Lessig; he's going to get them from the same people he gets all his other policies in all the other areas he doesn't understand and doesn't really care a fig for -- which set comprises practically the entire policy universe except militarism and hanging out with the guys.

that is to say, McCain will get his Internet policies from well-connected lobbyists with money to spend.

Have I mentioned lately that I'm really, /really/ looking forward to head-to-head debates between Obama and McCain? There will come this glorious, shining moment where McCain completely breaks down over some point of data where Obama completely and irrefutably owns him and McCain looks to the entire nation like the clueless toolbox that he is.I have a hard time seeing this /not/ happen, given Obama's mastery of policy and McCain's broad incompetence at same.

Okay, I can dream.

Have I mentioned lately that I'm really, /really/ looking forward to head-to-head debates between Obama and McCain?

How will that work, will McCain get to stand on a stepladder?

on point a, Hunt is basically correct. Building new R&D infrastructure wouldn't garner any new tax breaks while all current R&D employees would. That said, it still does create an incentive to add more R&D employees because their wages would add to the company's new shiny tax hand-out. It's a pretty inefficient way of promoting R&D *expansion* since you pay a lot for the status quo, but hey, that's a lot of candy canes for corporate America.

on b) John McCain says what John McCain MEANS, even when it is a very stupid plan

c) nothing to add

Catsy, do you not remember the 2000 and 2004 debates? Bush got his clock cleaned both times, and the media narrative was all about how his opponents sighed too much while crushing him, etcetera. And unlike with McSame, the media never thought they'd found their one true love in George W Bush.

Should Big O wipe the floor with the Son of Cain (as to be expected), it will be portrayed as good for the latter.
It will be the "elitist snob" Obama talking and spitting down on the humble war-hero Son of Cain. Amurrikans do not themselves like uppity know-it-alls, especially not, if those are on the wrong side of the approved color scheme (and possibly anti-semitic jewish islamofascist Hindus).

Golly, another reason not to vote for the Republican.

I mean, if I'd been on the fence, before...

I agree with gnomungus on the R&D credit. The current credit, which keeps expiring and being renewed, applies to increases in R&D expenditures, not just wages, over a baseline. It's pretty complicated and I have no idea how effective it is, but at least it has something to do with expanding R&D. McCain's rather expensive program is mostly a simple tax handout.

I have a hard time seeing this /not/ happen, given Obama's mastery of policy and McCain's broad incompetence at same.

I suspect you are correct, but I’m bothered that Obama has so far avoided the situation. Why did he refuse McCain’s proposed town hall debates?

My impression thus far is that Obama doesn’t do that well without a teleprompter. It may turn out that McCain is actually better thinking on his feet. It certainly appears that the campaign is trying to limit Obama’s exposure to that type of forum.

They (and here Rs & Ds are equally guilty, or at least nearly so) really need to fncking stop with the "tax credit for this, tax break for that, deduction for this other thing" crap. If you want to subsidize something, directly subsidize it with cash. That way: (a) you know exactly how much its costing you, instead of having no idea how many companies will claim the credit/deduction and thus no idea how much it will cost the fisc; and (b) can target things more effectively, instead of having, e.g., credit card companies investing in partnerships that produce synthetic fuel for the sole purpose of sucking up the tax credit.

So, these policies are funded in a stupid way and should be rejected for that alone.

OCSteve: my assumption has always been that he was content to let McCain make miserably bad speeches, without giving him any added oxygen. No idea whether it will work.

Catsy: the debates do not have fact-checkers, and so McCain can, if he wishes, repeat some obvious falsehood over and over without its being apparent that he's having his clock cleaned. Alternately, he can make false accusations, e.g. that Obama voted to raise taxes on people making $42k/year, and put Obama into the position of either denying that he does, in which case it looks like bickering, or not, in which case a flat-out lie is left unchallenged.

I have always wished debates had some panel of neutral experts whose job it was to point out lies. Preferably God, whose integrity cannot be impugned.

Sigh. (oops! I did it again!)

You know, as one of the rural people on dial up, if I didn't hear anything else, I'd be tempted to vote for McCain on that single issue. I don't even get cell phone so I can't curse the crappy wireless service.

You'd be amazed at how much that one point will resonate here in rural Ohio. All of our congress critters, right and left, are pushing that right now and there's at least a story a week on the southern Ohio NPR network. McCain knows exactly which demographic he's hunting on that one. I know Obama mentioned it after Iowa, but I don't think it would hurt for him to be a little more explicit about it.

As one of the rural people on dial up, I have to say (b) resonates. I don't even get cell phone so I can't curse the crappy wireless broadband.

Our local congress critters are pushing this hard and there's a story about once a week on the southern OH NPR network. McCain knows exactly which demographic he's hunting with this. I know Obama mentioned it after Iowa, but I haven't heard much since then. I don't think it would hurt him at all to push it a little harder.

Fallows Atlantic article about the debates is quite interesting. His take on Obama's rejection of the townhall format

In these circumstances, McCain’s tactics against Obama are obvious. He will ask for as many debates as he can... The informal setting shows him off to his best advantage, with the affable bantering that has long made him a favorite with the press. Whoever is behind wants more debates.

He will play the expectations game as hard as he can, knowing that’s how the press will keep score. Objectively, George W.Bush did poorly against both Gore and Kerry. But in each case, he did “better than expected,” and so, if anything, was helped by the debates. In every talk with reporters, the Republican campaign team will marvel at Obama’s gifts in rhetoric. Of course he’ll do well in debates; that goes along with being “all talk.”

Hilzoy: from the headline on this post, at first I thought you were going to say McCain had finally figured out how to get onto the Internet, and started a blog, and his first post was something like "Can anyone out there give me some examples of a tech policy?"

I'm kinda lost on Hundt's points, which seem to be based on a kind of willful obtuseness. Let's just take (a):

"a. McCain asserts that there should be a tax credit of 10 percent of wages for each r and d employee, but this proposal means that there would be a hand-out of cash (approximately $8 billion per year by my calculation) to existing firms even if they added no new employees in r and d and made no new investment. Moreover, if they built a solar farm or a new manufacturing facility, they would NOT get the r and d credit. Can he possibly mean that? This appears to be a hand out to support the status quo and would not do anything to encourage new investment or new job creation. Do I misread this?

Hundt has his particulars confused, but, in a loose sense, Hundt is right on the broader picture. Firms that currently invest in R&D will get a 10% credit for R&D wages (not "10 percent of wages for each r and d employee"). Even if a firm does not increase the amount of R&D wages (whether by increasing salaries or adding new R&D employees), it will get a tax break for the R&D wages it pays. This is an R&D tax credit, not a "new R&D tax credit." Whether the firm chooses to use the money it gets from the credit to pay higher R&D wages or invest elsewhere is up to it. It's also up to the firm whether the tax credit means that it will spend more on R&D, as opposed to spending elsewhere.

Now, will it "support the status quo and would not do anything to encourage new investment or new job creation"? Umm, no. For any particular firm, it may (or may not) encourage spending on R&D wages. But, depending on firm needs (e.g., greater R&D wages aren't a good idea), it could encourage spending where the money would be useful.

Hundt seems to prefer that McCain propose an R&D wage break that includes a requirement that the money be reinvested in R&D wages. Given the diversity of the firms out there, this seems like a stupendously bad idea. McCain's is better.*

As for "Moreover, if they built a solar farm or a new manufacturing facility, they would NOT get the r and d credit. Can he possibly mean that?" Yes, he does. A firm might use its R&D wage tax credit to build a solar farm or a new manufacturing facility, but, unless the solar farm or new manufacturing facility generated additional R&D wages it would not generate a credit. Again, this is an R&D wage tax credit. The fact that its not a credit for other activities is a feature, not a bug.

von

*I'm not saying that I necessarily support McCain's R&D tax credit, only that Hundt is raising stupid objections to it.

von: I would have thought that Hundt's basic point was: what is the point of this proposal? Suppose it's to encourage not the hiring of people in R&D positions, but energy independence: then you'd want to reward companies who invest in clean technology. Suppose it's to encourage more hiring in R&D: then you'd want to to apply only to new jobs, not to existing ones, at least if you were trying to be fiscally responsible about it.

What is the objective that makes this proposal make sense?

von: I would have thought that Hundt's basic point was: what is the point of this proposal? Suppose it's to encourage not the hiring of people in R&D positions, but energy independence: then you'd want to reward companies who invest in clean technology. Suppose it's to encourage more hiring in R&D: then you'd want to to apply only to new jobs, not to existing ones, at least if you were trying to be fiscally responsible about it.

What is the objective that makes this proposal make sense?

Hundt could raise that objection. He didn't.

One can debate whether an R&D tax credit is a good or bad idea. But, if you want a real debate, at least address what's actually being proposed. Hundt doesn't.

I have always wished debates had some panel of neutral experts whose job it was to point out lies.

I'm wishing for an electrified floor. Any time either candidate says something that has been thoroughly debunked as false, ZAPPPPP!!!! And the shocks get stronger for each lie they tell.

Poor McCain. There wouldn't be anything left of him but the lump that doesn't exist.

OCSteve: Obama seems to do just fine without a teleprompter, although the "He just reads a speech good" attack is a very popular right-wing one, it doesn't seem to be actually based in reality.

Even if it was true, a regular debate format would be no better or worse than a town hall format for Obama, since they don't let you read teleprompters in debates either.

While Obama hasn't explained why he refuses to do town hall debates, the general consensus among more neutral pundits (and admittedly among Obama partisans) is thusly:

1) Extra debates (town hall debates would be above and beyond the current three scheduled) give McCain a bunch of extra free air time. Given Obama's battlechest for ad buys, even a "win" would gain Obama little -- and McCain a lot. Why subsidize McCain's air time for no real reason?

2) Town Halls are the only format McCain does even marginally well. His prepared speeches are awful, and judging by his forays into off-the-cuff remarks, his debate performance is likely to be wooden and rehearsed at best. God help him if he goes off-script. (Remember, McCain doesn't speak for the McCain campaign. His handlers confiscated his cellphone, for Pete's sake!) He's most practised at Town Halls (although a formal debate-like one would probably differ from the heavily pro-McCain scripted ones he attends. I have a hard time seeing McCain deal as well with hecklers as Obama has managed to) and is really far more likelty to relax and get a bit of that old McCain "charm" going in a format he's really comfortable with.

So from the Obama camp's view -- town halls are McCain's best format, and one he's pushing because he desperately needs more positive and free air time. They're not agreeing to one because they see no need to help McCain, and while it's entirely possible Obama would "win" a town hall (such as these things can be won) why risk it, given how low the possible reward is?

Better to stick to the debates that will make McCain look the worst, and let his anemic fundraising continue to hang like a stone around his neck.

What is the objective that makes this proposal make sense?

Hundt could raise that objection. He didn't.

Fascinating, I'm sure, but maybe you could answer the question?

Hundt's wrong about point a. - the world's not like that.

90% of the cost of R&D is salaries, building stuff; it's more like 99.9% in software; the fraction's going up with time. The biggest cost by far is paying for geek labor. And it's paid EVERY year. Well-run companies can and do regularly get NEW R&D value for that continuing investment. Plus, the math for raising the size of R&D is complicated by the fact that bigger and bigger teams for particular projects grow less and less productive (yes, really).

Building plant is really something else, capital expenses to operate your business. Now, there are plants built for research purposes, but most aren't. Why should GM get an R&D tax credit for a new factory? I DO like his idea of credits for running innovative energy plants (albeit EVERY kind, please, not just the usual suspects). But that should be in a different point.

None of this means I plan to vote for McCain - his tech record in the Senate strikes me as being about what joel janes says, straight out of the mouths of lobbyists. ESPECIALLY recently.

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