By Rob Kall
The outsourcing of Tech Jobs to India and China is one of the biggest threats to the US job economy. India is complaining about violating the spirit of free trade. But I see this massive assault on US jobs as either a failure or intentional choice of the Bush administration not to respond to a technological development that allows "wetback" workers to go digital, smuggling prime value American jobs without having to sneak across the border.
It used to be, if you wanted to hire a foreign worker, you had to apply to the immigration department to get a temporary work visa for this potential employee. Digital outsourcing has become a way that big business routine evades the process, so they can smuggle foreign labor (not laborers) into the US.
Eleven years ago, I discovered a a doctoral level biomedical engineer/programmer in Siberia who'd developed published articles about unique software for biofeedback, unlike anything developed in the US. He wanted to work for my company, to develop a new kind of software unavailable anywhere in the world. I had to go through a major process, proving to the immigration department that I could not source a programmer in the US to do what he was doing. I had to provide the specifications for the job and then they immigration department put it out to see if they could find someone who could do the work. They found a few potential candidates who weren't even close. Only after that exercise was I able to arrange a temporary work visa for this unique programmer.
But now, with the internet and satellite aided phone connections, it's possible to circumvent the immigration department and smuggle work to foreign workers, even though there are millions of Americans who can do the job.
We talk about the problems with illegal immigration. But over the last few years, technology has enabled corporations to hire foreign workers without having to deal with the immigration department. This is either a failure of the administration to respond to a new development in technology or a conscious choice by the administration to allow transnational and megacorporations to cut their costs by using labor from other countries.
The way I see it, using phone or internet lines to enable a worker in China or India to answer a phone call from a US location is virtually, digitally crossing a border, using a worker who doesn't have a green card, ie., breaking the law, just like hiring a maid without working papers might be considered illegal.
It should not be allowed to stand as is. If it is not a blatant violation of the immigration laws, then it is the use of a loophole that ought to be closed and closed fast.
Last year, it was predicted that the outsourcing business would grow five fold in the next few years, from about $11 billion a year up past $50 billion. Keep in mind that that $50 billion in pay to third world workers represents a loss of US jobs worth $44 billion now and $200 billion soon. Those are American jobs racing to India, China and the Caribbean. Interestingly, I learned about the growth of outsourcing accidentally, while researching a major electronic voting firm that had branched out. That voting firm had been involved in several shady elections where the democratic candidate predicted to win by the polls had been surprisingly beaten by Republican candidates. Perhaps that partially explains why this breach in the walls of immigration policy has "slipped past" the recognition of the Bush administration.
This issue and this problem will not go away. The Indian government has attacked the US plan to ban outsourcing according to the Financial Times, "arguing it is a protectionist measure contrary to the spirit of free trade."
This is in response to the passage by the US senate of a bill that bans the outsourcing of federal work. The senate bill is a good beginning, but it does not go far enough. It should either ban or charge large tariffs (as Thom Hartmann suggested in a conversation) on outsourcing using phone or internet or other electronic means altogether, or, rather, change the immigration laws-- take them into the digital era-- so this kind of electronic outsourcing is labeled as a violation of immigration laws. And Hartmann points out that even if we did pass legislation that banned outsourcing, companies could circumvent the laws by creating offshore corporations that would "sell" finished "products" to companies in the US.
Another problem is that tariffs are verboten in the world of WTO and NAFTA. There's no doubt that India will apply to the WTO for billions in damages if the senate bill is passed forbidding outsourcing of federal jobs. And the likelihood of a successful pursuit of damages would be even greater if a tariff were established. We need to pull out of the WTO and NAFTA or demand that they exclude outsourced labor.
On top of that, the Indian government plans to tax these transnational corporations, like GE and Morgan Stanley. That will be ironic. These "traitor" companies register "chimera" corporations in the Bahamas (60 minutes just covered this, using Haliburton as an example) that avoid US taxes. And now, the taxes may end up being collected by India for work done in response to phone calls dialed to US phone numbers, processing data generated in the US.
William Rivers Pitt, in an article published in truthout.org , reporting on the Iowa caucus campaign, described and recapped a stump speech by Dennis Kucinich:
"We 've had three million manufacturing jobs lost, " he said, "since July of 2000. Three million. ... job loss... is not just a statistic. It means a home that is threatened. It means someone in the family is not going to get the education they hoped for. It means the loss of health benefits. It means retirement benefits at risk. It means instability in a family. It could mean a family splitting up. Tremendous economic pressures are being put on so many American families today, and I 'll tell you one of the reasons. "
"Ten years ago, " he said in a rising voice, "the United States passed agreements called NAFTA and the WTO which created conditions where global corporations are setting all the rules for trade. You know what it is about? You know what it is about. It is about cheap labor. Wherever they can drive down wages, they do it. Wherever they can get someone to do a job for less than nothing, that 's what they are looking for. They don 't care about child labor, prison labor, slave labor, they don 't care about crushing workers. What they care about is being able to make more and more of a profit. They don 't care if they close down a community. "
"They don 't care if they crush small businesses, " he said, now in full roar. "They don 't care because they have the power, with NAFTA and the WTO, and all these trade agreements, to just move jobs out of this country, move out the manufacturing jobs, move out high-tech jobs, move out any kind of job that exists in this country that they can make a better buck off in another country by crushing workers rights. I 've seen it. It is time to put an end to it. "
The thunder of the audience shook the room."
It is obvious when a major industries is destroyed by slave wage or government subsidized competition, as was the case with the clothing, show and steel industries. But now, we have an even more insidious form of the search for the cheapest labor that Kucinich talks about. It may take withdrawing from, canceling the USA's connection to the WTO and NAFTA agreements to plug the hole to stop the flood of lost jobs. Only Dennis Kucinich is currently calling for this. We need leaders who can see that we need to either get rid of the WTO and NAFTA or drastically change the rules.
Bottom line, there is a gaping hole in US policy that can easily be plugged or at least made smaller by tariffs. If the Bush administration and the Republican controlled congress fail to do so, we know where the good, high paying jobs in the US will continue to go, as they dry up here. We know that it will be a massive multibillion dollar giveaway to big business by the Bush administration and it's lock-step supporters in congress. It's no wonder that GE, owner of NBC, probably the most conservative (read that pro-Bush, biased against democrats, greens and progressives) of the networks, is at the forefront of outsourcing. (I'd mistakenly stated that GE owns CBS, but CBS is owned by Viacom.)
The answers: you can tell your senator and congressman that just blocking outsourcing of federal jobs is not enough. The democratic candidates can raise this as an issue, that it is the failure of the Bush administration and the Republican party to protect some of the most valuable US jobs. This is an issue that people should be able to understand. More important, it may force them to at least respond more aggressively to close the massive leak they've allowed to cause so much damage to the US job market.
Rob Kall firstname.lastname@example.org is editor/founder of OpEdNews.com, president of Futurehealth, Inc. and organizer of the Futurehealth Winter Brain, Optimal Functioning and StoryCon Meeting. This article is copyright Rob Kall and originally published by opednews.com but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog or web media so long as this credit paragraph is attached. You can find over 85 more articles written by Rob Kall here.