Another straw in the wind

I caught a few minutes of Lou Dobbs on CNN this evening. He was interviewing Catherine Mann, from the Institute for International Economics, on the subject of trade policy and outsourcing jobs (see my blog entry about my epiphany. She went on and on about the economic benefits of increased trade, and you could see Lou Dobbs getting more and more incredulous. Eventually he asked her about the practical consequences for those whose jobs were outsourced; seemingly surprised, she acknowledged “short-term dislocations” and the need for “workforce flexibility”. Dobbs asked her if she was in effect saying that all we could do was spend a few extra dollars on retraining, but that otherwise this was inevitable, and she concurred.
Shortly afterwards, Lou Dobbs revealed the result of an instant poll on the CNN website: 93% of respondents said that outsourcing U.S. jobs is “a threat to the American way of life”, 1% said it was “no big deal”, and 6% said it was “the price of doing business today”. He closed by quoting Thomas Jefferson: “The selfish spirit of commerce … knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.”
This issue is going to have political consequences. “Sophisticated” people may decry it as crude populism (and may even attempt to characterize it as “class warfare”), but 93% is significant, especially in a medium where the audience tends to be skewed to the right.
P.S. In editing this blog entry, I Googled “Institute for International Economics” and noticed that Ms. Mann’s latest publication is Policy Brief 03-11: Globalization of IT Services and White Collar Jobs: The Next Wave of Productivity Growth. This makes the point very nicely, I think: we’re going to get people chosing sides on whether outsourcing is, first and foremost, “productivity growth” or “a threat to the American way of life”. Which side are you on….?

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