Video: Outsourcing government jobs overseas

By Roger O’Neil Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/4/2004 7:45:20 PM ET 2004-03-05T00:45:20

There are times, if your fingers do the walking in Georgia, they’ll get blisters — big ones.

“Customer service.  This is Rachel.  How can I assist you?”

Where’s her southern accent?

“We’re not authorized to give out that information,” Rachel added.

Truth be told, NBC’s call to the Georgia food stamp office was answered in India — as in the country of some 9,000 miles away.

With employment first on the country’s worry list, politicians are taking aim at the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries.

Private companies do the most outsourcing, but the Charlotte Observer newspaper found 40 state governments send jobs overseas too.  And some lawmakers, Representative John Noel for instance, want it to stop:

“Our tax dollars should create jobs in the United States, preferably Georgia, but they should create jobs here — not overseas,” Noel said.

But that is s a problem. “If it is required to be in the United States, that is going to bump up the price,” said John Sartain of the Georgia Department of Human Resources.

It did in New Jersey.  For 12 jobs there, saying no to outsourcing costs an additional $74,000 a month.

It’s all about cheap labor which lowers prices for American consumers, according to John McCarthy, whose firm Forrester tracks outsourcing. “What we see on average is that people are saving in the range of 30 to 40 percent.”

Not too many years ago, of course, there was a big push — from Georgia to Washington — to downsize government, or privatize, because it was cheaper. 

Then, outsourcing meant moving jobs down the street, across the river, or maybe out of state.  But all that changed when the “out” in outsourcing became “out of country.”

The states are now in a dilemma — save tax dollars by eliminating jobs through outsourcing or spend more tax dollars to keep those jobs at home.

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