Current Affairs, Internet, Politics

The Bogus Speech by Paul Otellini to the Aspen Institute

I read about a speech Paul Otellini gave last week and this lead from CNET caught my attention:

Intel Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini offered a depressing set of observations about the economy and the Obama administration Monday evening, coupled with a dark commentary on the future of the technology industry if nothing changes.

Rather than rely on the CNET report I first read (which was somewhat confusing), I decided to do some primary research and try to find his speech. There is a video here and a transcript here provide so helpfully by Intel.

Otellini spends several minutes bemoaning the current situation particularly in education:

The trends are worrisome.

At one time, the US could boast about the best students in math, science, and engineering.  Our research centers were without peer.  No country was more attractive for start-up capital or global investors.  We seemed a generation ahead of the rest of the world in information technology.

That simply is no longer the case.  Over the past decade, our competitors have focused on the very things that made America’s innovative economy the strongest in the world.

A study released last month by the college board noted that the US has dropped from first to twelfth in the world for people ages 25-34 with college degrees over the past 30 years.

I thought this was all a buildup to some praise for the work done by the Obama administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to fix this state of affairs. After all, initiatives like the “Race to the Top” have garnered praise from the Left and Right (and even Republicans who are convinced Obama is a Muslim) and have done more to reform the public education system in America than all other federal efforts combined over the last 40 years.

But nary a word about that. Instead, Otellini, in an ominous tone, said this (which is what got such attention from folks who reported on his speech):

Unless government and business take firm actions to improve education, create a culture of investment and job creation in this country, then the next Intel or the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here. And wealth will not accrue here. Ultimately, we will face an inevitable erosion and shift of wealth — much like we are witnessing today in Europe.

(I guess he didn’t notice that Germany is kicking our ass right now economically).

Turns out all this fear-mongering was really just a set up for Otellini’s central plea — America is in jeopardy because our corporate tax rate is too high. And like a petulant baseball owner who threatens to move his team to another city unless the public builds him a new stadium, Otellini essentially says Intel will take its toys and move abroad if the corporate tax rate isn’t lowered.

(As an aside, I’m inevitably stunned that folks like Bill O’Reilly and other dime store patriots never jump on corporate yellow-bellied traitors like Otellini who’d stab their country in the back, throw their countrymen overboard, and move their companies to China to increase their profits by a few pennies per share. I’ll have to come back to that sometime).

Otellini could have noted for balance and context that the United States has the one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the world (and the lowest among developed nations) as a percentage of GDP. And that our corporate tax rates are high because we have insisted on absurdly low individual tax rates and aren’t willing to contemplate other ways of raising revenue through things like a consumption tax. All policies lobbied for by folks like Otellini and his peers. But that would have required intellectually honesty.

It was the lack of logic, of intellectual cohesiveness, that was so striking in the end.  Otellini argues (1) that government ought to do more, particularly with regard to education; (2) fails to acknowledge the stunning achievements in just the last 18 months by the Obama administration on this front; then (3) says his taxes are too high and Intel shouldn’t have to pay for anything or they’ll move.

Why all this hyperventilating about one speech by some guy who is the CEO of Intel? Because people who know better seem to take him seriously, even though they ought to know better. For it’s pretty clear he’s just a hack and a shill for the Republican party and not some Sage of San Joe — at least when it comes to public policy pronouncements.

One last note: folks like CNET ought to learn to do a little reporting and provide some context next time. Even a simple sentence like “Republican and Carly Fiorina supporter Paul Otellini said in Aspen…”

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