Mother Jones interviewed Lou Dobbs about outsourcing in a February issue, Exporting America:
MJ.com: What type of protections can the U.S. include in future trade agreements to place the American worker at less of a disadvantage?
LD: To make the American worker more competitive, what we should really be talking about is preserving the American way of life. Environmental protection. Protection for our working men and women. That has built up over 100 years in this country, and we are simply at risk of losing all of those protections. As we should have with NAFTA, we should sign only agreements with protections on the environment and on labor. Either we have that with every trading partner, or we will be at a disadvantage.
The ultimate extension of the free-trade policies that are being pursued is that not only will there be a race to the bottom for wages for working men and women, but we’re also going to have to eradicate the “inconvenient” and uncompetitive environmental protections that allow us to drink clean water and breathe clean air. And, by the way, those nasty child-labor laws could be an encumbrance to competitiveness; maybe we should get rid of those as well. How far are we going to roll back the progress of the past century?
Gee. Is Lou Dobbs part of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy? Or is he an evolutionary throwback to honest journalism? It would be nice if someone in the Beltway Democratic Elite had read Lou’s book. On the other hand, maybe they have and prefer the economic theories of CATO and The Heritage Foundation. Maybe they like exporting American jobs as much as Joe Biden likes MBNA. Maybe they just like being chummy with corporate lobbyists.
When American manufacturing jobs headed overseas in the 1990s, supporters of tariff-free trade argued that newly unemployed workers could simply find jobs in the growing high-tech sector. Yet multinational corporations soon outsourced white-collar and service-industry jobs as well, with overseas labor fielding support questions from computer users, programming software, and even examining X-rays and MRI scans for American consumers.
Outsourcing has found a fierce opponent in journalist Lou Dobbs. Since 2003, his CNN news show Lou Dobbs Tonight has featured a recurring segment in which Dobbs and his team report on corporations sending jobs overseas. He has compiled an online list of outsourcers, and recently wrote a book on the practice entitled Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas. Dobbs recently spoke with MotherJones.com about outsourcing and its effects, current and potential, on the American economy.
There’s no point in retraining if American companies are shipping all of their jobs overseas:
MJ.com: When asked about outsourcing during the presidential debates, George Bush talked about workers needing more education and more skills. But where will the jobs come from for them to use those skills?
LD: That’s a question I’ve been asking for two years. This faith-based economics that seems to be the hallmark of this administration is leading us into a no man’s land of inexplicable possibilities. This administration — and frankly, it’s both parties, Democrats and Republicans as well as the administration — seems indifferent to the impact of a trade deficit that now amounts to $4 trillion in external debt. We have to borrow nearly $3 billion a day to support it. The dollar has plummeted. And yet everyone keeps saying, “Free trade is good for you.” I cannot find anyone for whom free trade is good.
As we go deeper in debt, we continue to lose jobs and diminish our manufacturing base. Many people want to talk about our dependency on foreign oil, and it’s a legitimate and real concern. But so is our dependency on the rest of the world for our clothing, our food, our computers and our consumer electronics. Our dependency isn’t just on foreign oil; we can’t even clothe ourselves. Free-trade economists will tell you we’re a technology economy, but we don’t even produce the technological components that are the foundation of a technology economy.
This is interesting. China is responsible for more direct foreign investment in America than the federal government? Or American companies? Or both?
MJ.com: Proponents of outsourcing also point to what they call “insourcing,” with overseas companies opening factories here. Does that provide any hope?
LD: It’s an interesting semantic game that has been played in the free-trade debate. The Bush administration has created this expression of “insourcing” to counter arguments and concerns about outsourcing of American jobs to cheaper labor markets. When they talk about insourcing, they’re really referring to foreign direct investment in this country. We can’t even keep up with the Chinese government on foreign direct investment in this country; China has for the first time surpassed the United States in that regard.
The Japanese car plants are here because Ronald Reagan — who many of the so-called free traders hold up as a paragon of free trade — demanded that those plants be created here if they were going to participate in our economy and enjoy the benefits of the world’s largest consumer economy. That wasn’t free trade; it was rational, balanced, reciprocal trade — which is the course we should be pursuing right now, and which all of our trade partners are pursuing. We’re the only nation in the world that just mindlessly opens our markets irrespective of the constraints on our own goods and services.
Who knew that Ronald Reagan was a fair trade socialist who hated America? Wouln’t it be nice if the Democratic Party was supporting the American workers as forcefully as Ronald Reagan did? How did the Democratic Party get to the right of Ronald Reagan on global trade? Oh, that’s right. They started chasing corporate compaign contributions instead of protecting labor unions and worker’s rights.
There is much, much more. If you want to understand how intellectually bankrkupt the free market economic utopians really are, read the rest of the interview, then order Lou’s book.
Three of my favorite books on economics are:
Unsustainable: How Economic Dogma Is Destroying American Prosperity by Eamonn Fingleton
America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy by Gar Alperovitz
One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy by Thomas Frank.