Stem the Tide
I enjoyed reading Rob Preston's thoughtful and thought-provoking column on outsourcing ("Get Used to Offshore Outsourcing," Jan. 22, 2004). He said the key to countering the effects of offshore outsourcing is training. We must develop the skills necessary to enable Americans to compete with the comparatively low-paid workers in the "underdeveloped world."
That sounds good, but doesn't it depend on our ability to foresee IT developments? And, even if we could foresee those developments, who will be knowledgeable in the disciplines needed to support them? There won't be enough visionaries to train the cadre of Americans Preston said should be ready when new technologies emerge. Plus, if the training is in the wrong disciplines, it will be a great waste of money.
Preston also said, "it's impossible to erect walls around the U.S. labor force short of dismantling the global economy this country has helped build." I disagree: You can, through legislation, keep the work here. What will other countries do? Will they stop buying our products? Our unfavorable trade balance shows that we buy more from them than they buy from us. They need us more than we need them.
Short term, we must take steps to stop the outflow of jobs. We can do that by legislating tax benefits for those who do not outsource their clerical and IT work offshore. It will anger the rest of the world, but it's worth it to keep our people employed and to preserve our technological leadership.