Barack Obama, outsourcer — Part Two

In a previous post, John correctly labeled President Obama an “outsourcer” because his campaign paid a call center in the Philippines $78,314.10 for telemarketing services and spent nearly $4,700 on telemarketing services from a Canadian company. Now, according to the Washington Post, the left is criticizing Obama’s record on outsourcing. The left-wing critics point to a range of actions they say Obama should have taken: confronting China, reining in unfettered trade, and reworking a U.S. visa program that critics say ends up sending high-tech jobs abroad.

From 2008 to 2010, U.S. trade with China alone cost about 450,000 American jobs because of the growth of Chinese exports, according to Robert E. Scott, a pro-labor advocate at the liberal Economic Policy Institute. Now, unless you’re a hard-core leftist, free trade with China is hardly to be despised. But Obama has drawn criticism, including from Mitt Romney, for not declaring China a “currency manipulator.” Doing so would ultimately allow the U.S. government to erect tariffs to protect American industries.

Obama counters that this course of action would spark a trade war with China, with damaging consequences for the U.S. Obama may have the better of this argument; I don’t know. But the left is correct to insist that if Obama really wanted to re-shore jobs from China, he would declare China a currency manipulator. For China does, in fact, manipulate foreign exchange markets to keep the value of its currency lower than if it were freely traded. And this practice does, in fact, make it more attractive for companies to hire workers there rather than employ them in the United States.

Then, there is the matter of tax breaks. During the 2008 campaign, Obama repeatedly pledged to “end those tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.” This promise remains unfulfilled. Now that it’s election season, Obama is pushing for such a measure. However, he failed to propose it during his first two years in office, when Democrats were in full control of Congress.

Finally, there’s the stimulus. Millions of dollars in stimulus money meant to develop a domestic clean-energy industry landed in the hands of foreign businesses. For example, an April 2010 study by the Energy Department found that 60 percent of the 40 largest wind farms then financed by the stimulus relied on foreign manufacturers for their central components, including turbines.

Personally, I agree with Diana Farrell, Obama’s deputy economic policy adviser for two years, who concluded in 2003 that the benefits to the United States of offshoring exceed the costs. For me, therefore, offshoring is a non-issue in the campaign, except to the extent that Romney and Obama disagree on specific policy issues such as whether the U.S. should declare China a currency manipulator.

But Team Obama wants to raise the issue of offshoring in the wholly irrelevant context of Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Thus, Obama’s record in the wholly relevant context of his time as president becomes fair game.

Even those on Obama’s side of the political spectrum find that record seriously wanting.

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