President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been engaged in a disingenuous and counterproductive argument over who is the worst “outsourcer.” The phony debate does nothing to enlighten voters about how either candidate would handle the economy. If this is the best they have, heaven help us all no matter who wins.
First of all, let’s call the practice by its right name – offshoring, the sending of jobs overseas that should be done in America. Outsourcing is still a useful term for contracting work out that was once done inside a company, so let’s use it that way.
And second, who cares if either man was responsible for jobs going overseas, let alone was the one who was best at it? We need sophisticated economic thinking in such perilous times, and these two are in kindergarten.
Obama says Romney provided jobs for those awful foreigners when he was at Bain Capital. Romney counters that Obama’s green energy programs have sent millions to those hateful other countries. (Could we possibly be more xenophobic than we appear to be during presidential campaigns?) The fact is that both accusations are undoubtedly right. The proper reaction is: So what?
The president is guilty of hypocrisy, since he’s accusing Romney of doing something he himself does, and of wasting tax dollars on foolish green projects (never mind where he’s wasting them). Romney is guilty of apostasy in berating Obama for doing something Republicans have always said they believed strongly in. How can he now make a believable and coherent free trade argument?
But neither man is an economic traitor, setting out to destroy American industry by deliberately sending production overseas. Like it or not, we live in a global economy, and our only option is to participate in it. And the more we trade, the more prosperity there will be for everybody – in every country. Capital will flow to those places where it can do the most good the most efficiently. If we can’t make one thing, we will make another, and in the aggregate over the long haul it will all work out.
Our economy is fueled chiefly by what we produce and consume in this country. Foreign trade, including such issues as offshoring and its opposite of “insourcing,” makes only a small contribution, and all the demagoguery in the world won’t make it other wise.
“The success or failure of the next president in reducing unemployment will depend,” says Washington Post economics writer Robert Samuelson, “mostly on how much – or how little – his policies influence Americans to spend, hire and shed their present pessimism. This should be the focus of our attention and of the national debate.”