The presidential debates finally embraced a question about technology. Last night, CNN moderator Candy Crowley asked each candidate how they would “convince a great American” company like Apple to bring their manufacturing facilities to the U.S. Romney came out swinging against China, accusing them of currency manipulation, violating intellectual property law, and hacking U.S. computer systems. Obama, for his brief response, promised to invest in high-skilled labor and advanced manufacturing. We’ve pasted the full transcript below along with a bullet-pointed backgrounder on each argument.
- China’s weak currency, the RMB, relative to the dollar keeps their manufacturing costs low. Bucking even some within the Republican Party, Romney promises to officially designate China a currency manipulator on “day one.”
- Chinas has a notoriously bad counterfeiting problem (including surprisingly realistic fake Apple stores). Romney has proposed to create something like the World Trade Organization for countries who “embrace free enterprise,” which he expects would exclude China.
- The US government confirms that hacking attempts have originated from China, but is more diplomatic about who they blame.
- The President has repeatedly said that his goal is to train US employees for high-skilled work, rather than try to recapture the industries of America’s manufacturing golden years. He has put forth funding to train US workers in high-skill work, including an $8 billion program to refocus community college curricula on 21st century jobs.
- In statements submitted by both campaigns on science policy, Obama promised significant funding for agencies to conduct research. In contrast, Romney said he supports federally funded research, but that the government should not “pick winners and losers”, such as failed investments in the green energy industry.
The transcript from CNN’s debate is pasted below:
Crowley: iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China, and one of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper here. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?
MR. ROMNEY: The answer is very straightforward. We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China’s been cheating over the years, one, by holding down the value of their currency, number two, by stealing our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, our technology. There’s even an Apple store in China that’s a counterfeit Apple store selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis. That’s number one.
Number two, we have to make America the most attractive place for entrepreneurs, for people who want to expand a business. That’s what brings jobs in. The president’s characterization of my tax plan —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: How much time (you ?) got, Candy?
MR. ROMNEY: — is complete — is completely — is completely false.
MS. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) — let me go to the —
MR. ROMNEY: Let me tell you —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Wait, wait, wait ?) —
MS. CROWLEY: Let me go to the president here, because we really are running out of time. And the question is can we ever get — we can’t get wages like that. It can’t be sustained here.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Candy, there are some jobs that are not going to come back, because they’re low-wage, low-skill jobs. I want high- wage, high-skill jobs. That’s why we have to emphasize manufacturing. That’s why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. That’s why we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best science and research in the world.
And when we talk about deficits, if we’re adding to our deficit for tax cuts for folks who don’t need them and we’re cutting investments in research and science that will create the next Apple, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world, we will lose that race. If we’re not training engineers to make sure that they are equipped here in this country, then companies won’t come here. Those investments are what’s going to help to make sure that we continue to lead this world economy not just next year, but 10 years from now, 50 years from now, a hundred years from now.
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