Give me a job, give me security
Give me a chance to survive
I’m just a poor soul in the unemployment line
My God I’m hardly alive
First of all, I want to make it clear that I’m not writing about an absolutely marvelous western hamburger chain, one that serves only the most delicious burgers, made-to-order from the highest quality ingredients, and exceptional fries, made from fresh-cut, not pre-packaged, potatoes. There, do you think that was enough to avoid a call from some corporate lawyer who wants to talk to me about how I ripped off and mutilated their logo? I hope so. Seriously, I don’t know anyone who’s eaten there that doesn’t recommend In-N-Out. I have, and I do.
Secondly, nobody should infer any sexual connotations from the title of this article. Well, unless, of course, you take a moment to consider what the policies of government and business are doing to our country, and the middle class that they all claim to care so much about. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Outsourcing is usually thought of as a business practice used to cut costs and increase profits by contracting workers in low labor-cost countries to do jobs that don’t require the worker to be in the location where the product or service is delivered. In effect, the job is moved from a high-cost area ( like America) to a low-cost area (like Asia). It works great for a whole lot of jobs, such as information dissemination. When you call a customer service center, you know that you’re talking to somebody who has pulled up your account information on a computer screen and will enter the information needed to resolve whatever issue it was that caused you to call in the first place (hopefully after no more than your sixth call). But where is that screen located? In a small office across town? In a huge call center in New Delhi? Does it matter? Probably not, as long as your problem is solved. But every phone-jockey in India corresponds to one American who is not contributing to our economic well-being.
And then there’s outsourced manufacturing. Do me a favor. Stop reading long enough to pull the shirt off of your back. OK, now find the label that says where that shirt was made. Betcha it doesn’t say “Made in USA.” Am I right? I thought so. People like me, who are old enough to remember the “Look for the Union Label” commercials are dying off at an alarming rate. In fact, the union that made that ad ceased to exist decades ago. For the most part, garments are simply not made in America any more. In my home state of Oregon, the largest company, in terms of revenue, is Nike. So, exactly how many of those overpriced sneakers are made there? Well, I don’t have the precise figures right now, but let’s just go with zero. That’s gotta be pretty close.
But, sadly for the corporate profiteers, many, probably most, jobs are at least somewhat location specific. And if that location is in a high labor cost area, well, that’s where they have to find their workers. Jobs in things like agriculture, construction, hospitality, maintenance, and my personal favorite, ground transportation, have to be done by people in the vicinity of where the jobs are. A truck driver in Bangkok can’t take my job, no matter how little he’s willing to work for. At least not yet. So, what’s a greedy capitalist to do?
In cases where outsourcing isn’t feasible, your average profit-driven entrepreneur may want to consider what I have (in my own so-called mind) cleverly termed In-N-Outsourcing. If you can’t send the jobs out to where the cheap labor is, bring the cheap labor in to where the jobs are. Talk about an absolute win-win situation, this has gotta be it. The greed-heads get more of whatever it is that they seem to think that they need. The third-worlders have the opportunity to start fretting over first-world problems, like “Oh no!, my smart phone is an I-Phone 5, and the 7 comes out next month. I’ll be an In-N-Outcast.” And, of course, there’s that other group of big winners here, the politicians, and the other social leeches that surround them.
From my casual observations, In-N-Outsourcing comes in two main categories, what I’ll call high-end and low-end. The high-end consists mostly of workers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) fields. Companies in these businesses claim that they need more employees, and they can’t find qualified Americans. It couldn’t be that they just don’t want to pay what qualified Americans expect to get, now could it? I saw recently that Microsoft and Qualcomm were laying off workers in their US facilities, even as they were lobbying the government to grant more visas for STEM workers. The low-end consists of the unskilled and low-skilled workers in jobs like agriculture, construction, and hospitality. No worry about visas here, since these In-N-Outsourcees are mostly the foreign invaders (excuse me, undocumented migrants) that come streaming across our non-existent southern border.
But we all know what’s going on. The question is In-N-Outsourcing is a good thing or a bad thing for America and Americans. I suppose that depends on one’s frame of reference. Like almost everything else, it all starts with:
Simple Fact of Life #1: People can almost always be counted on to act in their own personal self-interest.
What the plutocrats and the imported workers see as their self-interest is rather obvious: more money in their pockets. Almost as obvious is the way that the politicians and their sycophants view the situation: the opportunity to expand their power through bribes (excuse me, campaign contributions). Why so many labor unions support this practice would seem to be a mystery, until you remember that the union bosses serve their personal self-interest by finding new suckers (excuse me, exploited workers) to rip off (excuse me, represent).
But what about the rest of us? Is this in our self-interest? Happily, I am able to provide a definitive answer to that question. Yes and no. Yes, because all of us want the most value for the money that we spend. Would you own as many shirts as you do if they all said “Made in USA” on the label? I wouldn’t, and I’m sure that the guy sitting next to me right now appreciates that I can afford to change my clothes before they get too ripe. And who among us could sustain our journey toward obesity were it not for the migrant farm workers?
But the “no” comes from the fact that the economic distortions caused by In-N-Outsourcing don’t serve the self-interest of the large majority of Americans, or of our society as a whole. This is because bringing in more workers, at the expense of jobs for American citizens, doesn’t add to the overall creation of wealth. It just means more mouths competing for the same delicious In-N-Out burger, not more burgers. Ah, I know what you’re thinking: “But Chief, those people take the “bad jobs,” the jobs that Americans don’t want to do.”
Simple Fact of Life #2: There is no such thing as a “bad job.”
Sure, there are plenty of jobs that are not fun, hard to do, and don’t pay much. I know this because I’ve had several of them. But every one of those jobs, crappy as they were, produced a product or service that somebody thought was valuable enough to pay for. Therefore, each accounted for some creation of actual wealth, as well as putting a few bucks in my pocket. They allowed me to provide for myself, and to not be a burden to others. And they gave me something else, something that it’s hard to put a price on, but is nonetheless very valuable.
Simple Fact of Life #3: There is dignity in any productive work. There is no dignity living off the fruits of another’s labor.
The problems associated with In-N-Outsourcing are not going to be solved until we do a few basic things. First, decrease the supply of wage lowering workers by enforcing our immigration laws and our borders. America has to put Americans first; it’s not our job to worry about the rest of the world. Second, eliminate the advantage of using foreign workers by cracking down on the people who employ illegal aliens (excuse me, people seeking a better life). Third, and perhaps most important, demand that Americans live with dignity. Stop showing respect to those that refuse to respect themselves. You can find some of my suggestions on how to do this here.
Well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, what say we go for a burger & fries. I know a place that makes really good ones.