Romney Talks Technology Innovation, Hands-off Government

Branding Obama stimulus endeavors the work of a 'crony capitalist,' GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney outlines innovation strategy to nourish tech startups.

By Kenneth Corbin
Fri, February 10, 2012

CIO — RESTON, Va.-- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Friday pitched a message of hands-off government to a regional technology group here, arguing for an innovation policy that would see lower corporate taxes, fewer regulations and a more generous immigration policy for skilled workers.

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney, shown here speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, spoke about government restraint, particularly in the tech sector, when he addressed the Northern Virginia Technology Council on Friday. (Phote: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Romney's remarks turned on the axis of the appropriate role of government in the technology sector and the broader economy, foreshadowing a philosophical debate that figures to emerge as a prevailing theme in the general election, regardless of which GOP candidate squares off against President Obama.

Indeed, Romney's message to the Northern Virginia Technology Council was a vigorous appeal for government restraint, particularly in the tech sector, which Gov. Bob McDonnell called the "heart and soul of Virginia's economy" in introductory remarks.

As Romney would have it, the government is best-positioned to nourish innovation by creating a business-friendly tax and regulatory environment, and then removing itself from the market.

"You have to have regulators in government who see their job as encouraging innovation and the private sector, as opposed to killing all potential risk," Romney said, drawing applause from the an audience of around 900.

The former Massachusetts governor positioned his policy on startups and venture capital in stark contrast to the stimulus programs that the Obama administration has advanced. The government has no role as a venture capitalist, Romney argued, citing the now-bankrupt solar-energy firm Solyndra, a recipient of half a billion dollars in stimulus funding, as a cautionary tale.

"When they put $500 million in Solyndra, they thought they were encouraging solar energy in this country. They did the opposite," he said. "Because when they put $500 million in Solyndra, the other hundred entrepreneurs in America working on solar energy just lost any potential to get capital."

The reasoning follows that angels and venture capital firms would be unlikely to back other startups in the sector with early-round funding, commonly on the order of a few million dollars, after the feds had thrown a hefty investment behind a single company.

"Government action in an economy stifles innovation when it chooses winners," Romney said, branding the Obama administration's backing of individual businesses the work of a "crony capitalist."

"Government choosing companies to invest in kills the very innovation that's so essential," he said.

Continue Reading

Our Commenting Policies