Romney & Obama on outsourcing

Adam Serwer has a very good piece at Mother Jones on the dynamic of Obama and Romney largely agreeing on the question of outsourcing, but pretending otherwise in the political debate.

“I think their basic view is pretty much the same,” says Dean Baker, the cofounder of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Dan Ikenson, a trade expert with the libertarian Cato Institute, agrees. “Both the president and Mr. Romney understand that outsourcing is an unobjectionable fact of life, that the process generates large net benefits for Americans, and that attempts to restrict outsourcing would have deleterious effects on the US economy,” Ikenson says. “However, both campaigns have decided, thus far, that it is easier to demagogue the issue and label the opponent as the bigger outsourcer than it is to explain how outsourcing works.” That’s because Romney doesn’t want to look like a callous moneybags to American workers, and Obama doesn’t want to undermine the image of the populist he plays on TV. So the détente serves both sides.

The Obama administration’s secret negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” deal that could end up being much larger than NAFTA, is a good indicator of their willingness to pursue policies which facilitate outsourcing and offshoring of American jobs.

As Matt Taibbi has noted, this election has the potential to be very boring, but the campaigns are finding ways to create contrast and distinctions between the two candidates. I don’t think Obama and Romney are the same, but there are many key issues, particularly economic issues, where the differences amount to Obama thinks rich people should be slightly more taxes than they currently pay and Romney disagrees. On outsourcing, it’s hard to see much of a difference outside the demagoguery.

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