Even as the November, 2010 elections loom on the horizon and Democrats grow fearful of losing seats in both Congressional chambers, President Barack Obama is becoming increasingly strident in defending his top domestic priority — job creation.
Unfortunately for countries such as India, this has come to mean the controversy over outsourcing rearing its ugly head with heightened frequency. In particular, fears that the President’s words are more than just rhetoric.
His most recent speech, made at a Democratic National Convention fundraiser, was a good example. While his audience comprised mainly party stalwarts and thus Mr. Obama’s reversion to the conventional wisdom of economic protectionism was not surprising, it was the specific mention of India in the context of American jobs being lost that raised eyebrows.
The line that probably has Indian Ministry of External Affairs officials worried is this: “When I took office… we put forward a new economic plan — a plan that… is focussed on making our middle class more secure and our country more competitive in the long run — so that the jobs and industries of the future aren’t all going to China and India, but are being created right here in the U.S…”
In particular, the MEA must despair that the very same rhetoric that led to calls to stop American jobs getting “Bangalored” has resurfaced at the highest level of this administration: specifically the President’s war cry that the choice in the November election was between policies that had encouraged job creation in the U.S. versus those that encouraged jobs to go elsewhere.
In a reference to policies that could keep jobs on U.S. soil, he added, “That is why I have said instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in the U.S…”
And what could be worrying policymakers and the private sector in India even more is the fact that the White House appears to be considering blocking the so-called “jobs of the future” from fleeing overseas.
In the context of the U.S.’ “home-grown, clean energy industry,” Mr. Obama said: “I do not want to see the solar panels and the wind turbines and the biodiesel created in other countries. I do not want China and Germany and Brazil to get the jump on us in the industries of the future. I want to see all that stuff right here in the U.S., with American workers.”
Yet those feeling the pinch of such policies in India may ultimately seek solace in the fact that it may be — ironically — their American private sector counterparts which would help prevent the U.S. from going into a protectionist tailspin.
Even President Obama could not help but recognise that his cherished dream of large-scale job creation depended on corporate America, which has been the most important force pushing for the offshoring of jobs, on the grounds of efficiency and labour cost variations.
Coming as close as he could to recognising this paradox at the heart of the outsourcing controversy, Mr. Obama was forced to concede to his fellow Democrats the importance of the U.S. private sector in rescuing the ailing economy: “Instead of losing millions of jobs… [the U.S. has] created jobs for six straight months in the private sector. Instead of an economy that is contracting, we have got an economy that is expanding.”
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