Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Fascinating article in the New York Times today about an IBM conference call that was secretly recorded and "outed" by an organization that seeks to unionize IT workers. IBM executives were speaking frankly about the fact that service jobs -- not merely manufacturing -- will have to be sent overseas so that the company can compete. The notion that IT workers are looking at "outsourcing" in the midst of a job slump in the States has the Bush administration worried. It can't help that IBM executives speculated openly that the government would have a cow.

I can't help but imagine the bitter laughter from Americans who have lost their manufacturing jobs, whose problems were ignored by the politicians rushing to implement NAFTA. Of course, now that white collar jobs are endangered, it's worthy of the Bush administration's attention. I keep thinking of Richard Pryor's comment that "They say drugs are an 'epidemic.' That means white kids are doing it -- the next time you see the ghetto suffering, you'll sit up and take notice, won't you?"

What makes this really interesting is that the loss of white collar jobs was always inherent in the notion of "globalization," but has been heretofore ignored because the only people losing jobs were well outside of the elites. Now the problems with conservative economic line about the free market start to become clearer.

And yet, I have no idea what the solution is. I keep thinking back to a political cartoon I saw a few years ago. Clinton is shopping in a department store, and has come across a table with two stacks of identical sweaters. One stack is labeled "Made in the USA" and costs $80. Another stack is labeled "Made by Chinese slave labor" and costs $30. The caption was "Clinton's Problem."

We like prices to stay low, which requires outsourcing. But at some point, the hidden costs of outsourcing will become too expensive, and it will be very hard to turn back the clock.

 9:10 AM

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