Obama Straddles the Fence on Outsourcing; Yet Lost U.S. Jobs a Reality
Insurance Experts' Forum, November 8, 2010
It should really come as no surprise when a politician speaks out of both sides of his mouth. So when our President stated recently in India that the problem of outsourced U.S. jobs was “an old stereotype” while his press secretary later said we shouldn’t reward U.S. companies who ship U.S. jobs overseas, I wasn’t shocked.
This is just a politician doing what a politician does—saying whatever he thinks you want to hear (no matter who you are). And while I don’t condone such duplicitous behavior, I do understand it. Nevertheless, everything has its limits. When the truth is being dallied with, we must draw a line somewhere.
When our chief executive starts saying, as one Internet news source reports, that the idea of Indian call centers and back office operations costing U.S. jobs is merely an “old stereotype,” he has crossed the proverbial line. This is an example of something they used to call “the big lie” back in the day. Yet this is somehow more sinister, because instead of telling an outright falsehood, the administration simply questions the importance of the perceptions of the American people by resigning them to the scrap heap of “stereotypes.”
The loss of U.S. jobs to less costly overseas operations is an established fact. The best way to get around a fact, however, is to diminish its relevance. It occurs to me that workers in places like Ohio (one of the states hardest hit by the offshore outsourcing trend) who have seen many jobs vanish then reappear overseas, are perhaps unaware that their perceptions are just a stereotype—and thus should be given no credence. That goes for you displaced IT workers in insurance and other industries as well. In a single phrase, the President has marginalized a good portion of the electorate, not to mention challenging their grip on reality. Maybe next he’ll propose some funding to get some mental health treatment for these poor folks.
Overseas outsourcing is neither a good nor a bad thing in itself. The decision to employ it, however, should be undertaken with a full appreciation of the costs—both financial and human. Yes, there are human costs, and no amount of denial or attempted marginalization can change that. Just ask the human beings involved.
The administration did announce $10 billion in trade deals “that are anticipated to raise over 50,000 jobs back home,” says Fox News online. I always laugh when I hear something like that, because rarely do we see actual jobs emerging from a politician’s promise. (Remember all those jobs that were supposed to be created by the stimulus package?) This is another old political trick. “Huge benefits are on the horizon and we’ll see them—someday, somewhere (over the rainbow).”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked if Obama, who has criticized U.S. companies during his own presidential campaign in 2008 for “shipping jobs” overseas, then did so again on the midterm campaign trail, had changed his position. The answer, of course, was no, says Fox News.
“The president still strongly believes that our tax code should not reward with monetary incentives and benefits companies that ship jobs overseas. That's not any different,” said Gibbs as quoted by Fox. “I think what the President is just doing is talking about the fact that our bilateral economic relationship is slightly more complex than those stereotypes.”
Let me translate that for you. When it comes to the offshore outsourcing debate, the President feels strongly both ways. If you don’t understand that, it’s because the concepts of our economic relationships are too complex for you to grasp, probably because you are limited by your stereotypical thinking.
Is that clear now? I thought so.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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