“Made in the USA” is a disappearing label these days. In the last two months the practice of giving tax breaks to companies that “outsource” American Jobs (i.e., eliminate jobs here and create jobs at a fraction of the cost overseas) has become a hot topic for Congress and the president.
In late September the Senate defeated a motion titled, “To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create American jobs and to prevent the off-shoring of such jobs overseas.” In summary it sought to eliminate tax breaks for outsourcing American jobs. North Carolina’s Kay Hagan voted for it and Richard Burr voted against it. I guess we know which senator wants to protect manufacturing in our state. Though, it is not just manufacturing that is vulnerable to job loss in the U.S. Customer service is handled by many corporations with overseas call centers. In fact, it’s hard to recall talking to someone in my own time zone when reflecting upon the calls I’ve made to the credit card company.
In effect, we are not only giving tax incentives to companies to spend money overseas, we are essentially funding it. Can this even be up for discussion? This is a topic to reach across party lines, from Lou Dobbs’ “Exporting America” list of companies sending jobs overseas to Dick Durbin (a sponsor of the bill). Dobbs’ list of companies outsourcing jobs to foreign climes is an interesting and surprising read. Even more fascinating is the AFL-CIO’s new toy: the Job Tracker (www.workingamerica.org/job tracker). When visitors click on the page and type in a zip code, it brings up the companies that have sent jobs overseas in that area. It also shows companies with massive layoffs.
It is really interesting that when searching for information about the bill—the vote, the speeches for and against it, and the reactions to it—that the first page of Google brings up two news sources from India (“The Indian Express,” “The Hindu”). Obviously, some of this is part of the publicity prior to President Obama’s arrival in India next week; however, the headline “Obama Threatens to End Tax Breaks for Outsourcing” (from “The Indian Express”) indicates the Indian economy is following this discussion with some interest. They should be interested; “The Indian Express” reports the outsourcing industry in India in excess of $11 billion and estimates that by 2012 it will be nearing $50 billion and directly employing about two million people.
Speaking of the media, I have been spending a lot of time at the hospital lately and have become familiar with the television-dependent culture there. All the patient rooms and lobbies have TVs on constantly, and when the Cameron Clinic opened, one of the features they sited was the flat screen TVs in the rooms. It seems like every time a nurse walks into a room the TV is turned on. The physicians’ assistant has repeatedly asked our patient if he is watching TV yet, like this is some sort of milestone on the road to recovery. Anyway, while lurking in the lobbies one cannot help but encounter the various 24-hour news channels like CNN, FOX and MSNBC. One of the many ongoing stories is “people voting with their wallets.”
Now, hopefully regular readers of the Live Local column will not be surprised by this revelation of investigative journalism. After all, what is this column about but the daily decisions to “vote with our wallets” by choosing where we spend our money? Our dollars are our votes everyday. Shouldn’t we vote for a stronger local economy by spending it with small business? Should we not vote against sending jobs overseas, and spending money with companies that move their manufacturing and customer service? Just because the election is over, doesn’t mean the voting stops.
Gwenyfar Rohler is the author of “The Promise of Peanuts: A real life fairy tale about a man, a village, and the promise that bound them together.” Available at www.OldBooksonFrontSt.com, and all profits go to Full Belly Project (www.fullbellyproject.org).