[Marxism] Rick Perlstein on outsourcing
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 31 07:54:15 MST 2004
Village Voice, March 30th, 2004 11:25 AM
The Jobs of the Future Are a Thing of the Past
by Rick Perlstein
WHEATON, ILLINOIS—"In the beginning of a change, the Patriot is a scarce
man—brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the
timid join him. For then it costs nothing to be a patriot." That's the
epigram by which the leader of the Rescue American Jobs Foundation,
created last June to fight the exporting of service jobs overseas and
the importing of foreign workers to do service jobs here, signs off her
e-mails, and by that standard, the people meeting at this suburban
coffee shop are patriots indeed.
Nine people are present by the time the head of Rescue American Jobs'
Illinois chapter, Charlene Clingman, brings up an idea inspired by the
example of Mothers Against Drunk Driving many years ago: grassroots
lobbying of state politicians. "We would research the problem and come
up with a solution," she suggests. "So if anyone is interested in
volunteering, we need volunteers."
You wonder who she's asking. Of the nine people present, six are
representatives of the press. Char has just taken some of them on a
driving tour of the grandiloquently named "Illinois Research &
Development Corridor"—gleaming office parks whose construction was
subsidized by the state but which now, years after the waning of the
technology boom, are emptying out. Char used to work in one of those
office parks as a communications technician for AT&T; she was laid off
two and a half years ago. Since then she has applied for over 1,000
"These people have sent all our jobs out of the country," she says, as
the two other people actually attending the meeting as participants nod
along. One is her husband, who still works at AT&T; another is one of
her former co-workers.
You may have read about the outsourcing issue, the great X-factor in
American politics today, in cover articles in Time, Wired, Business
Week. The numbers can be hard to fix. According to Time, outsourcing to
India "accounts for less than 10 percent of the 2.3 million jobs lost in
the U.S. over the past three years." Wired, drawing on research from
Gartner analysts, says one in 10 U.S. tech jobs will have left by the
end of this year.
It is here, in rooms like this one, that the movement against
outsourcing is revealed in full metaphoric flower. The media observe the
efforts obsessively for signs the timid might soon be joining in
torrents. But when the victims get together, they don't know what to say.
The outsourcing of white-collar jobs overseas began in earnest during
the personnel shortage caused by the run-up to Y2K. In a sense, it grew
directly from a parallel phenomenon, generally ignored. Call it
"in-sourcing." Averting the catastrophe of a nation of computers
suddenly partying one New Year's morning like it was 1899 gave Congress
a reasonable excuse to raise the cap on the number of H-1B visas, which
are issued to allow companies to sponsor specialized foreign workers in
cases of a demonstrable labor shortage.
On the other side of the world, the Y2K panic catalyzed India, which was
dismantling the protectionist components of its own quasi-socialist
economy, to bid for all kinds of service work to be done there—thanks to
its relatively large, educated, English-speaking middle class and a
providential 10.5-hour time shift that lets Indian researchers crunch
numbers on behalf of sleeping American financial analysts on the East
Importing labor, exporting jobs: These are the two sides of the coin.
According to the regnant economic theories, the sides are inseparable:
capital scouring the world to find labor at the cheapest price, supply
meeting demand, each dollar being spent at its greatest point of
efficiency. A fat lot of comfort that is if you're on the receiving end
of the regnant economic theories. Capital does the scouring a lot more
aggressively these days than it used to—even to the point of
systematically abusing the law.
Some of the worst abuses are the "body shops," made possible by another
kind of temporary work visa: the L-1. This permit is tailored even more
narrowly; it was designed to allow companies to fill short-term
vacancies with transfers only from their overseas branches. And since it
was intended to be of such limited application, Congress didn't bother
setting ceilings on their issuance. This proved a loophole big enough to
fly a 747 through: Indian consulting companies set up U.S. branches,
imported Indian computer programmers en masse, and rented them as cheap
replacement parts to cost-conscious third-party companies in the U.S.
The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
More information about the Marxism