This story is part of our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series – expats talking about life and politics south of the border.
This week our Canadian expats debate the hot-button issue of ‘outsourcing’ which has dominated U.S. presidential campaiging, as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney accuse each other of sending jobs and business functions overseas. Our expats try to cut through campaign bluster and get to the truth about American manufacturing and outsourcing.
Colleen Pendergast, self-employed and former teacher in Nantucket, Mass.:
Both Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney point to each other as betrayers of the American people, but the truth is, outsourcing makes good business sense.
Americans do not want to hear it, but manufacturing is a dead industry. Politicians keep trying to revive it, but it is over. I feel for those who are middle-aged or older and have put years into the manufacturing industry, but those who are younger must think ahead and choose other, more relevant industries.
I am a tiny business owner and I plan to manufacture abroad in the near future simply because it makes financial sense.
Robert Slaven, actuarial living in Camarillo, California:
Here in the U.S., people have a very Jekyll-and-Hyde view of outsourcing from what I’ve seen.
Yes, they would like to see jobs stay in the U.S. But on the other hand, they flock to Wal-Mart so they can buy cheap products that were made in China or Vietnam or Bangladesh or Nicaragua.
If there are equivalent American-made products, they’re more expensive; and with things being so difficult economically for most Americans, they’ll buy the $10 Chinese-made T-shirt over the $30 American-made one.
Dennis Sifton, physician in Williamsburg, Virginia:
This term [outsourcing] has become, over the last week, a buzz-word that was created to try to denigrate Mitt Romney as being un-American.
The Obama administration has given loan guarantees and grants to many companies that have “outsourced” work to foreign countries.
The whole issue of “outsourcing” as it applies to this election does not have the legs to last through the campaign. It is merely a diversion from discussing the real issues such as unemployment, economic growth, budget deficits and out of control spending.
Stefan Neata, Wall Street investment banker in New York City:
If companies are not willing to outsource when the economic conditions dictate that they do so, they eventually lose market share to a more nimble competitor, and jobs that would have been outsourced would still be lost in the longer term.
In addition, we all benefiting from outsourcing every day by being able to buy cheaper products. To counteract the negative impact of outsourcing on those individuals that lose their jobs, the government should invest in education and training to ensure that Americans have the right skill-set to successfully compete with their Indian, Chinese or even Canadian counterparts.
Ultimately, the best and only long-term defence against outsourcing is having a skill-set that can’t be outsourced. This is not to say that a government has no role in protecting communities that are hard-hit by outsourcing (and, even, occasionally stemming off outsourcing by using various tax incentives), but Obama’s attacks against Romney are not about a government’s rightful role in helping Americans cope with outsourcing, but about whether it is “right” for a private company to outsource jobs in an attempt to stay competitive.
A competitive and successful American company, whether or not it outsources jobs, is good for America and good for the economy. President Obama should know this and, generally, I’ve found him to be more nuanced and honest in his views than most other American politicians. However, on this particular issue, he disappoints.
Jenny Zhang, advertising professional in Greenville, North Carolina:
Much has been written about the conditions at foreign-owned manufacturing plants and call-centres, little of it favourable.
Yet these jobs are having a pretty significant effect on the urbanization of the local population. Are these jobs actually sustainable? Or are they creating an subclass of manufacturing workers who had to leave their rural homes but who do not earn enough to truly ameliorate their situations?
Furthermore, if the experiences of my relatives still living in China are anything to go by, the influx of foreign capital and a stronger currency have led to a rise in cost of living without a corresponding rise in income.
Danielle Donovan lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama: