By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/5/2004 7:59:49 PM ET 2004-03-06T00:59:49

In Mayfield, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb in a critical election battleground state, Ed Lucas has run out of unemployment benefits and most of his savings.

Until last April, he was earning $80,000 a year working for an engineering firm, running computer systems for British Petroleum.

But he says BP found a computer manager in India willing to do the job for less than $10,000 a year.

Ed’s final assignment was training his Indian replacement: “It was just like somebody actually put their hand in my chest and ripped my heart out. It was just the worst feeling anybody could have.”

Ohio has lost 227,000 jobs in the last three years, many of them high-tech jobs outsourced to low-wage countries.

That information is red meat for Democrats, who rallied Friday at the U.S. Capitol.  “We will not allow these jobs to go overseas!” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

But economists say outsourcing cuts costs, boosts profits and eventually helps companies hire more workers in the United States. 

“It does create more jobs in the long run. They are different jobs. They will be more skilled jobs, but there is no question that it will create more jobs in the long run,” said Catherine Mann, senior fellow at The Institute for International Economics.

Outsourcing also helps consumers. A recent study found that computers cost one-third less in the 1990s because high-tech parts were produced more cheaply overseas.

Outsourcing is a growing trend. The concrete slabs for a public library in Salt Lake City were outsourced to a Mexican contractor 2,400 miles away. The prefab panels were shipped on 140 flatbed trucks, and the library still saved more than a million dollars.

But there is no way to measure the cost on people like Ed Lucas, who’s now learning how to tend bar while he waits for the economy to produce those new jobs.

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