• Feb 26, 2004 | 3:53 PM ET
MORE ON OUTSOURCING
I've looked at outsourcing from both sides now, and still somehow I don't think I'm getting the full picture. But here are some more articles on the subject, so that you can form your own opinions. First, I have a column over at TechCentralStation on outsourcing and how service jobs, though often despised as superficial, can sometimes be interchangeable with "real" manufacturing jobs. It was inspired by this essay on the subject by Virginia Postrel, from Sunday's New York Times Magazine.
Meanwhile, Tom Friedman has a column in today's New York Times that argues that outsourcing actually creates jobs in America:
"How can it be good for America to have all these Indians doing our white-collar jobs?" I asked 24/7's founder, S. Nagarajan.
Well, he answered patiently, "look around this office." All the computers are from Compaq. The basic software is from Microsoft. The phones are from Lucent. The air-conditioning is by Carrier, and even the bottled water is by Coke, because when it comes to drinking water in India, people want a trusted brand. On top of all this, says Mr. Nagarajan, 90 percent of the shares in 24/7 are owned by U.S. investors. This explains why, although the U.S. has lost some service jobs to India, total exports from U.S. companies to India have grown from $2.5 billion in 1990 to $4.1 billion in 2002. What goes around comes around, and also benefits Americans.
Let's hope. Today, Virginia has another column arguing that internal free trade has made the United States rich, and that global free trade will do the same thing for the world. Again, let's hope.
That, of course, hasn't stopped some people from denouncing the process -- and doing it all the way to the bank:
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, frequently calls companies and chief executives "Benedict Arnolds" if they move jobs and operations overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
But Kerry has accepted money and fundraising assistance from top executives at companies that fit the candidate's description of a notorious traitor of the American Revolution.
Executives and employees at such companies have contributed more than $140,000 to Kerry's presidential campaign, a review of his donor records shows. Additionally, two of Kerry's biggest fundraisers, who together have raised more than $400,000 for the candidate, are top executives at investment firms that helped set up companies in the world's best-known offshore tax havens.
Hey, he's keeping the money in the country! At least until they start outsourcing political jobs. Then, all of a sudden, you'll see a lot of interest in outlawing the practice for real, and nobody will care whether it's good for the economy or not. . . .
• Feb 25, 2004 | 12:25 AM ET
Well, the gay marriage debate has heated up, with President Bush coming out in favor of an amendment to the Constitution that would ban gay marriage, though it's not clear what he means by that. From reading his statement, it sounds to me as if he wants to constitutionalize the Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton-era law that says states don't have to recognize gay marriages from other states under the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit provision. Here's what Bush said:
Those who want to change the meaning of marriage will claim that this provision requires all states and cities to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in America. Congress attempted to address this problem in the Defense of Marriage Act, by declaring that no state must accept another state's definition of marriage. My administration will vigorously defend this act of Congress.
Yet there is no assurance that the Defense of Marriage Act will not, itself, be struck down by activist courts. In that event, every state would be forced to recognize any relationship that judges in Boston or officials in San Francisco choose to call a marriage. Furthermore, even if the Defense of Marriage Act is upheld, the law does not protect marriage within any state or city.
For all these reasons, the Defense of Marriage requires a constitutional amendment.
This is underscored by Press Secretary Scott McClellan's statement that:
"No, no, he said that states have the right to enter into their own legal arrangements."
There is some stuff about marriage being a union of a man and a woman, but it sounds like that doesn't limit the states, though I could be wrong. But I don't see how.
If states are free to make their own arrangements, then there are two possibilities: they're free on everything, or they're free on everything but the name. The latter seems rather silly, and also rather trivial. (And whatever the law says, most people are going to call it marriage.) A constitutional limitation on marriage as being between men and women might prevent federally-recognized marriage benefits from going to gay couples -- but only until Congress decides to grant the same benefits to gay couples by statute directly. That's a barrier, but not one that goes beyond the Defense of Marriage Act, which already does that, and which is subject to change by a later statute.
In other words, the current rule under DOMA can be defeated by a statute. And after an amendment, we'd have . . . a rule that can be defeated by a statute. So -- bearing in mind that I haven't seen the text, and neither has anyone else, because there isn't one yet -- this doesn't seem like it does a whole lot.
If I'm right about what Bush is proposing, this is really much ado about nothing. It seems to be widely agreed already that states don't have to recognize each others' marriages under the Full Faith and Credit clause. What's more, the Defense of Marriage Act already provides the same thing. Which means that we're talking about a constitutional amendment to constitutionalize a statute that recognized the constitutional status quo.
Since Bush hasn't endorsed any specific language, all we have to go on now is the two statements I've linked above. But there seems to be much less to them than the media attention suggests: States are still free to adopt gay marriage if they want, perhaps subject to the rule that they call it something else, officially. And they're still free to decide whether or not to recognize other states' gay marriages. I hope that they'll do both, but it's not clear to me that this amendment will make any difference.
That said, I'm still against it, just as I was against the Defense of Marriage Act that Bill Clinton signed. I know plenty of gay people who are, for all practical purposes, married. I don't see what's wrong with them getting married. I don't understand how letting gay people get married threatens heterosexual marriage (here's an amusing post on that subject). And, in fact, I suspect that to the extent it makes any difference at all in the wider society, gay marriage will prove to be a fundamentally conservative institution, with married gays taking the role of solid citizens that married people have traditionally taken.
I'm also against it because I don't believe in amending the Constitution easily, and I don't think that this is an issue that ought to be constitutionalized. But I wonder why there's so much confusion on this subject, when the real news here seems to be that Bush supports leaving things exactly as they are.
• Feb 23, 2004 | 10:29 PM ET
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
Yesterday I remarked that the war in Iraq must be going well, or John Kerry wouldn't be spending all his time talking about Vietnam.
I guess most everything else must be going well, too, because he talks about Vietnam a lot. Eisenhower didn't talk about winning World War II as much as Kerry talks about losing in Vietnam.
This is leading to questions of the "where's the beef" variety. As Mickey Kaus notes:
I give Kerry points for his Vietnam service. But since it (along with some plug-n-play Shrum rhetoric) is almost the entirety of his campaign for president, can it really be true that he hasn't authorized release of his military records?
Forget the military-records issue -- odds are that this will turn out to be as much of a nonstory as the Bush military-records issue -- but Kaus is right about Kerry's program. Except for the "I'll fight for you" soundbites, Kerry doesn't have much to say of substance, which I suppose is why he keeps talking about Vietnam. To me, this is getting a bit old, since I was in elementary school back then, and have listened to baby boomers obsess about it ever since. Nor am I the only one to feel this way. As military blogger LT Smash writes:
Can we get back to the issues at hand now? I have to say, as a member of “Generation X,” that this constant replay of the hot-button issues from the early 1970’s is getting very tiresome. For me, the most important issues of the time were diaper training and learning to tie my shoes.
Yes. But there's one issue that Kerry is talking about a bit: trade.
Kerry's making a big deal -- as I predicted candidates would, both here and elsewhere many months ago -- about outsourcing and job loss. Fair enough, it's an important subject, and lots of people are unhappy about it, either because they've lost their jobs to offshore workers or because they're afraid that they will. But although Kerry talks about this subject, he doesn't offer much in the way of solutions. Even NPR, generally friendly to Democrats, characterizes his positions on global trade and employment as inconsequential.
I don't blame Kerry for that, exactly. As you know if you've read the pieces I've written here, it's a tough problem. When jobs move overseas, poor people there get work that -- let's be honest -- probably does more to improve their lives than the loss of it hurts Americans. They're just more desperate. You'd think that the Left, which is supposed to be for redistibuting wealth from those who have more to those who have less, would be pleased, but apparently not.
But even if you don't care about starving people abroad, what do you do about it? The NPR story notes that Kerry admits he can't really do anything if he's elected, and that most experts think that the policies he suggests would make little or no difference. (It's not even clear that Kerry's claim that "tax loopholes" encourage businesses to move overseas is true.)
What's more, Kerry is to some degree running against his own record here. He has generally been a free-trader, having "supported every trade agreement during his years in Congress." That's admirable if you're for free trade (I am) but it limits his room to maneuver on this issue. Going beyond substantive proposals, well, I guess Kerry could at least offer to feel Americans' pain -- but we've already been down that road with a different President, and Kerry doesn't have the personality to be a good pain-feeler anyway. If feeling our pain is the test, former trial lawyer John Edwards wins hands-down. So what's left?
Say, did you know Kerry served in Vietnam?
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