This "outsourcing of jobs" business--whether it's blue collar ones going to China or white collar ones going to India--should be a potent campaign issue. I'm betting that many workplaces have rumors going around that certain tasks will soon be sent overseas. Why should anyone trust their employers on this issue? As long as no government restrictions on the practice exist, the corporation's job is to maximize profits, so goodbye jobs. The Republicans are speaking out with their usual sensitivity to the problems of the middle class. You may have read that Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, called outsourcing "just a new way of doing international trade." The White House hasn't criticized Mankiw's comment, "focusing on the belief he was espousing that freer global trade benefits workers and consumers in all countries, including the United States," according to a recent AP article. Mankiw said his remarks were "misinterpreted" and he meant to emphasize "the importance of knocking down trade barriers while helping workers who inevitably will lose their jobs to transition into other work," according to the same AP story. In other words, retraining them from computer programming to the intricacies of waiting tables. (Though in the current let's-automate-everything climate, even those jobs are in jeopardy.)

A lot of Democrats moved to the right on this issue during the Clinton years, embracing all that "free market" jabber. Whatever candidate the Democrats put up against Bush is going to be in the pocket of Big Business, so don't expect any change come 2005. What we need, though, is to move away from the kneejerk idea that "market wisdom" is the sole way to run a society. If the market were truly wise child labor wouldn't exist anywhere. Societies (meaning governments) always draw lines regarding what is acceptable behavior. What's needed, now that even the managerial class is feeling the sting of outsourcing, is a bigger national dialogue on the American way of doing business. To me, outsourcing combined with insane executive compensation is fouling our own nest, gradually destroying the communities which originally nurtured the multinationals. Which means, we need to start passing legislation limiting predatory levels of compensation (tying executive earnings to the overall health of the company, not just the perception of being a "mover"), taxing companies that outsource and using the money to create a national unemployment fund, and penalizing corporations that move offshore to evade these laws. Sharp intake of breath from Clintonians and Republicans alike--heresy!

- tom moody 2-13-2004 10:22 pm

i think it was calpundit who suggested outsourcing ceos. it was tongue in cheek but not unreasonable. i just posted a lou dobbs interview that gives no quarter to dowjones cheerleader james glassman. i would have like to see little timmy go after the president like that.
- dave 2-13-2004 10:41 pm

Thanks--I'm part way through that interview and so far it's proving my point that the Dems are just about as crappy on this issue. How are they responding to outsourcing? A bill making companies that export U.S. jobs..."disclose how many jobs are being shipped overseas, where they are going, and why." Woo, that's really tough. I guess it's a start, but c'mon.

- tom moody 2-13-2004 10:54 pm

Still reading. More thoughts: it's quite the battle of nomenclature between those two. Glassman doesn't use market anymore, now it's "trade." Glassman objects strenuously to the phrases "exporting jobs" or "shipping jobs." What the heck does he call it? When Glassman wants to really nail Dobbs to the floor, he calls him the worst insult imaginable: "protectionist."

- tom moody 2-13-2004 11:19 pm

There is more on dratfink's page about this issue. Lou Dobbs' interview with an American Enterprise Institute hack is enjoyable. Dobbs calls him "you people" and makes him squeal in outrage that Lou has gone over to the protectionist camp. Also, I also note this letter to Media Whores Online (which is going "out to pasture" again, apparently under the logic that infrequent updates are worse than no updates):


I think you should add Lou Dobbs to your "Media in Exile" list. He is doing a wonderful series on the exporting of American jobs. He is also running a list of every whore corporation that has done so.

Daniel Michael

- tom moody 2-14-2004 9:56 pm

I'm going to answer my own question here: instead of job-exporting or shipping jobs, the conservatives prefer the euphemistic "job migration." Of course that's the term the NY Times uses today in an article on the subject. You know, migration, pretty birds flying across the sky, the cycles of nature, inexorable and inevitable. Not like nasty "exporting," implying volition or callousness on the part of employers.

- tom moody 2-14-2004 10:53 pm

Another day, another globalism advocate expressing outrage that Americans are finally waking up to the scam. Today it's this NY Times op-ed, by a Columbia prof. I learned another euphemism: it's not "exporting jobs," it's "importing services." The prof argues that American job losses are due mostly to mechanization, not outsourcing. He doesn't make the connection that all the recent outsourcing has been because of technology: being able to cheaply transmit phone traffic, PDF documents, etc., back and forth to India. And his answer to job-loss-due-to-technology appears to be "that's life." This is supposed to be soothing?

- tom moody 2-16-2004 1:29 am

from Infectious Greed ...

Economist Apologizes for Opacity

In what we can only hope is the beginning of a clarity outbreak among economists, Gregory Mankiw of the President's Council of Economic Advisors apologized yesterday for having praised offshoring:

"My lack of clarity left the wrong impression that I praised the loss of U.S. jobs. It is regrettable whenever anyone loses a job. A job loss is always an awful experience and can lead to hardship for a worker and his or her family ... I regret that I did not express my views on these issues of great concern more clearly."
Of course, Mankiw originally said that offshoring was generally good for the economy, which he almost certainly still believes. So his clarity outbreak is reality an episode of contrition for having said what he really thinks. Once again, Kinsley's law bites back: in politics a gaffe is when a politician (or, apparently, a political economist) accidentally tells the truth.
- mark 2-18-2004 4:52 am

As usual, Timesman Bob Herbert lays it out clearly and persuasively:


This is happening in the middle of an economic expansion, which should tell us that the terrain has changed. In terms of job creation, it's the weakest expansion on record. The multinationals and the stock market are doing just fine. But American workers are caught in a cruel squeeze between corporations bent on extracting every last ounce of productivity from their U.S. employees and a vast new globalized work force that is eager and well able to do the jobs of American workers at a fraction of the pay.

The sense of anxiety is growing and has crossed party lines. "We are losing the information-age jobs that were supposed to take the place of all the offshored manufacturing and industrial jobs," said John Pardon, an information technology worker from Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Pardon described himself as a moderate conservative, a longtime Republican voter who has become "alienated from the Republican Party and the Bush administration" over the jobs issue.

Mr. Pardon does not buy the rhetoric of the free-trade crusaders, who declare, as a matter of faith, that the wholesale shipment of jobs overseas is good for Americans who have to work for a living.

"There aren't any new middle-class `postindustrial' or information-age jobs for displaced information-age workers," he told me. "There are no opportunities to `move up the food chain' or `leverage our experience' into higher value-added jobs."

The simple truth, as Mr. Pardon and so many others have found through hard experience, is that enormous numbers of well-educated, highly skilled white-collar workers are having tremendous trouble finding the kind of high-level employment they've been trained for and the kind of pay they feel they deserve.

The knee-jerk advocates of unrestrained trade always insist that it will result in new, more sophisticated and ever more highly paid employment in the U.S. We can ship all these nasty jobs (like computer programming) overseas so Americans can concentrate on the more important, more creative tasks. That great day is always just over the horizon. And those great jobs are never described in detail.

These advocates are sounding more and more like the hapless Mr. Micawber in "David Copperfield," who could never be swayed from his good-natured belief that something would "turn up."

- tom moody 2-20-2004 7:33 pm