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Outsourcing obscured by distortion and fog


Part 2

Open source analysis is problematic when media distortions comissively misinform, and underreporting omissively starve, the public record. While Media distortion and the underpinnings of 'Wag the Dog' and 'Fog facts' in both media and print were written from the context of skewed or deficient reporting that blunts open source analysis, the political dimension is undeniable. I had politics in mind when deciding to cite Beinhart's politics in 'Fog facts' with the intent to defuse partisan dismissal by recognizing that his politics may inform the examples that he puts forward but that his central message should not be dismissed.

Events that sadly typify the themes of these notes emerged as they were being written, one much more reported than the other but both of significance. Starting with the underreported but monumentally important:

Outsourcing obscured by distortion and fog

Manufacturing & Technology News (MTN) reported that its FOIA request for a Commerce Department report on IT service-sector and high-tech outsourcing produced a bland, short document, Six-Month Assessment of Workforce Globalization In Certain Knowledge-Based Industries,  that "has not been posted on the [Commerce] Technology Administration's Web site and is not available to the public." The copy that Business Week obtained (which appears identical to the MTN copy in comparison of each cited quotation) has no header or footer information, and none of the usual description and document identification of a released federal paper.

Mercury News, in the heart of the US venture capital sector, described it as "pollyana-ish" document "that does little more than parrot earlier reports by business groups" concluding "that outsourcing is nothing but good for the U.S. economy… this kind of report does a great disservice to the American public and ultimately to the cause of free trade."

MTN states that the FOIA document carried a July 2004 date but was "completed well before the November 2004 presidential election but was delayed for clearance [due to its being a "contentious campaign issue, particularly in the swing states"] by the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress due to the controversial nature of the subject." Furthermore, this report bears no resemblance to the original report produced by Technology Administration analysts that addressed such issues as Indian outsourcing growth, outsourcing strategies adopted by IBM, HP, Microsoft and Google, which IT jobs will go and which will stay, and that "knowledge work can move offshore more quickly and cheaply than manufacturing." In contrast, the released report said that federal data "can offer only very limited insight into the extent and impact of workforce globalization," and that "it was not possible to determine whether the shift of U.S. work to non-U.S. locations resulted in jobs losses for U.S. workers."

This is a grim and misleading report both omissive and comissive, if it MTN's assertions are correct that it was "crafted by political appointees at Commerce and at the White House." Outsourcing is a major US strategic issue that has been left to private hands and is one that this list has often addressed:

Worse still, the US is lacking a cohesive national outsourcing response and in this case, lags far behind the UK where Tony Blair's anointed successor, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, has outlined a strategy using government assistance to transform the manufacturing sector instead of "abandoning… or surrounding it with protectionist barriers." Offshoring is also a European concern as the European Union recognizes that European industrial jobs are under threat from emerging economies and that the "assumption that Europe could offset its loss of traditional manufacturing jobs by retaining a lead in knowledge-based industries and exporting higher-value goods to emerging economies" is unwarranted.

In the face of such a challenge to our manufacturing and technology, it is unconscionable that at the federal level the US sweeps the matter under the rug.

Part 4, political staging and manipulation

We can't hide from downside of offshoring jobs
Mercury News Editorial
Posted on Thu, Oct. 13, 2005

China is targeting hi-tech jobs, EU warns
David Gow in Brussels
The Guardian
October 13, 2005

Political Appointees Re-Write Commerce Department Report On Offshore Outsourcing; Original Analysis Is Missing From Final Version
Manufacturing & Technology News
October 12, 2005, Volume 12, No. 18

Six-Month Assessment of Workforce Globalization In Certain Knowledge-Based Industries
Technology Administration (US)
July 2004
Note: This copy has no header or footer information, none of the usual description and document identification of a released federal paper

U.K. Leads; U.S. Lags
Manufacturing & Technology News
July 8, 2005

Gordon Housworth

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