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What Should a Documentary Filmmaker Ask About Offshoring? 1091

Posted by Roblimo
from the help-make-a-movie dept.
Philadelphia-area development economics and finance student Rachel Anderika and her associate, programmer/filmmaker Krishnan, are making a documentary about the effects of offshore outsourcing. Their "still under construction" Web site, Project Outsourced, gives you more information about their work. They're interviewing economists, bankers, anti-outsourcing advocacy groups, pro-outsourcing CEOs, columnists, and others. Where you come in is helping Rachel and Krishnan come up with good questions to ask. We'll forward 10 - 15 of the highest-moderated ones posted here (within the next 24 hours) to them. Expect summaries (and possibly audio or video clips) of the answers in late May, and news about the finished film this Fall.
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What Should a Documentary Filmmaker Ask About Offshoring?

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  • by mr.henry (618818) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:00PM (#8838089) Journal
    I think /. should have a disclaimer on every outsourcing related story that mentions that their parent company, VA Software, has sent American jobs overseas.

    V
    Valence Technology
    VA Software
    Veritas
    Verizon

    Here [cnn.com] is a list of companies that use outsourcing.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:03PM (#8838118)
      I hear rumors Linux kernel development was outsourced to Finland at some point.

    • by artemis67 (93453) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:05PM (#8838138)
      when the "Cowboy Neal" option started being replaced with "Bhagavad Neal"!
    • by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:28PM (#8838440) Homepage Journal
      Note: I would not put much stock in the CNN list when it comes to VA. I'm not saying that they DON'T outsource, but VA bought machines that were assembled overseas to re-sell in the US, and that's not quite the same thing, IMHO, as laying someone off in order to send their work overseas.

      Now, if VA is *currently* sending work overseas, I'd be interested in hearing about it from the horse's mouth... horse?
      • by gfxguy (98788) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:21PM (#8839066)
        I'm wondering then, where the problem begins.

        So if VA were to start off assembling computers themselves, decide they can't compete financially with companies that are buying assembled computers from Taiwan, so they close their assembly line and buy from Taiwan, then that's bad.

        However, if they never employed anyone to assemble computers in the U.S. at all, then that's OK?

        How about this: they keep assembling computers in the U.S., and go out of business because everyone is buying from vendors who "outsourced" to Taiwan?
    • by arvindn (542080) on Monday April 12, 2004 @03:16PM (#8840227) Homepage Journal
      I like your attitude.

      When toxic computer components are exported and dumped in third world countries, do you protest "American computers" being sent abroad? Firecrackers are produced by 4-10 year old kids in India under horrible conditions. Do you protest the offshoring of the manufacturing of these "American firecrackers"?

      Yet when it comes to IT (and previously electronics), these jobs are "American". The comfy, well paying ones. Your God given right.

      Free markets work both ways. Regardless of whether the global market is really free, whatever America gets, you're only getting what you asked for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:01PM (#8838093)
    I am appalled the companies would shift labor to lower-cost locations. This practice should not be tolerated. Now excuse me as I will get into my Honda and drive to nearest Wal-Mart for that 2-for-1 sale on Nike shoes and shirts, can't miss a deal like that.
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:07PM (#8838171) Journal
      Err, I may be wrong, but didn't Honda "Outsource" their labor to the United States (as it was cheaper to hire American workers to build cars for sale in the US than to build 'em overseas then ship the things via ocean freight?)

      It seems that this outsourcing thing can and does work both ways, no?

      (err, cue massive down-modding by disgruntled outsourced IT workers...)

      • "Err, I may be wrong, but didn't Honda "Outsource" their labor to the United States (as it was cheaper to hire American workers to build cars for sale in the US than to build 'em overseas then ship the things via ocean freight?)"

        For the japanese it is much less expensive to produce a car here. They use very strict processes that have cause for little waste, high quality (so they don't have nearly as many bad parts made and don't have to do the same amount of testing) and they don't use unions.
        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:32PM (#8838493)
          Not only that, American labor (non-union, at least) is actually cheaper than Japanese labor.

          The problem, the way I see it, is that there's a difference between first-world countries (Europe, Japan, US) trading with each other, and us trading with third-world countries.

          If we buy Japanese or European products, we can feel safe that we're buying from companies that compete on a level playing field with our own: the cost of living is roughly comparable, and environmental and labor laws are fairly similar. Companies in Japan or Europe aren't able to lower their prices by simply hiring sweatshop workers or dumping toxins in the nearest river; they have to do things properly and keep themselves efficient.

          But when stuff gets outsourced to third-world countries, these protections are absent, which allows companies there to keep their costs extremely low. How can an American manufacturer compete against one that can pay their workers pennies a day, and dump their waste wherever they please?
          • Productivity (Score:5, Insightful)

            by benwaggoner (513209) <(moc.tfosorcim) (ta) (renoggaw.neb)> on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:19PM (#8839038) Homepage
            Well, unskilled labor manufacturing is leaving in droves, and has been for decades. This is probably a good thing in the long term - you want pollution producing industries here?

            The way American companies compete against foreign companies is the same way we have for centuries - innovation and productivity. Even though Ford could build a car plant in Mongolia and pay 1% of UAW wages, they'd lose their shirt. Shipping costs to consumers and from suppliers, lack of a trained labor force, etcetera would cost them much more than they'd save.

            Now, making plastic toys? Yeah, that's in China now, for the reasons you cite. But how is that a bad thing? Have you SEEN the toys you can buy for $20 now? Unbelievable! What do you think it'd cost to build, say, a Hoberman Sphere with US labor? How many fewer would get sold at that price. Not a lot of US jobs saved, but Hoberman is a lot poorer. And he lives in the USA.

            As for environmental protections, we certainly need better global environmental controls. But trade isn't the problem or the solution there. Even if we had complete trade barriers, greenhouse gasses don't know borders.
      • by DAldredge (2353) * <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:16PM (#8838273) Journal
        A large portion of the cars made at the Honda plants in the USA are made for the US Market. Also, it is/was due to Reagans tarrifs that they located here in the first place.

        There is a difference between having a factory in an other country to serve that country and exporting most/all of that factories output to the USA.

        Hell, it can't continue much longer due to how our income tax system is setup. If you make less than a certin amount you pay NO income tax, and most of the new 'service' jobs pay less than that amount.
      • It had less to do with ocean freight than the cost of tariffs on sedans... Ironically, most of these tariffs are artifacts of the "free trade" Regan administration in an attempt to save American car makers from the Japanese car makers during the 80s.
      • by laigle (614390) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:33PM (#8838505)
        I'd say it seems outsourcing CAN work both ways. Japan is a good example of where outsourcing does work. Two nations with strong trade ties both derive benefits from outsourcing labor. Japan doesn't just get cheap products, they get more market access for their goods as well.

        But look at somewhere like El Salvador. If you ship a car plant there, we get cheaper prices on labor. But we don't get the subsequent increase in revenues because El Salvador doesn't represent a good market for American cars. So the net effect is to push down wages at home and ship our investment capital overseas. The benefit that gets touted is usually prices, but the truth is that most goods maintain price levels because they were within the public's buying envelope anyways. It's only the high end luxury goods that get their prices lowered.

        This is why bilateral, negotiated trade is the way to go. It doesn't make sense to have the same trade policy with every country.
        • Lower prices! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by benwaggoner (513209) <(moc.tfosorcim) (ta) (renoggaw.neb)> on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:12PM (#8838971) Homepage
          Er, no, that's no the way it works.

          Yes, moving a car factory to El Salvador will cost some US jobs in the short term. But no, there will be a price drop (or a price/performance improvement) in cars available in the USA. There is the idea floating around that outsourcing means that companies just keep the profits, and that money just vanishes from the economies somehow. However, in a competitive market like cars, some company is always willing to trade lower profits for increased market share. This can take the form of selling the same car for less, or more car for the same price. But this puts pressure on everyone else to lower prices.

          For example, compare how much car you can get for 1/4th of the median family income today compared to a few decades ago. A 2004 Civic is a vastly better car than anything one could buy in 1972.

          And look at how much better US made cars got in the decade after the Japanese import boom started. While it might have been painful for the workers in Detroit, for the vastly greater number of US car drivers, imports and outsourcing have been a HUGE gain.

          The thing about free trade is that the pain is concentrated, but the benefits are diffuse. But the aggregate benefits always (and yes, I mean ALWAYS - I don't know of a single counterexample in the last few thousand years) outweigh the aggregate losses.

          The wage differential between the USA and India is a reflection of our greater wealth and productivity, not a threat to our wealth and productivity.
          • Re:Lower prices! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by laigle (614390) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:29PM (#8839146)
            No, there won't be a price drop. Prices are established by the market, not arbitrarily set by the manufacturer. A Ford Focus will cost as much as people are willing to pay for it, given demand and supply. Moving the plant to El Salvador changes neither supply nor demand. You aren't opening a new consumer base, and you aren't getting yourself a way to fulfill previously unfilled demand. It only lowers the price of making the good, thus increasing the profit margin.
            • But there will (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Gorimek (61128) on Monday April 12, 2004 @02:18PM (#8839706) Homepage
              You are essentially saying that manufacturing costs have no impact on consumer prices. To be consistent you would have to claim that consumer prices would not rise if manufacturing costs increased. You could disprove that just looking at manufacturing costs and consumer prices for pretty much any good, and observe at the canny resemblance. But I'll try with a concrete math example.

              Let's say Volvo sells 100.000 cars a year for $30k that they spend $25k to manufacture. That brings in $500M. They could lower the price to 29k and sell 120.000 cars and make $480M, or they could raise the price to $31k, sell 80.000 cars and make $480M. Clearly they picked the selling price $30k to maximize their profit.

              Now let's say they figure out a way to make the cars for $23k. Selling 100.000 cars will now bring in $700M. But selling 120.000 cars for $29k will make $720M. So they lower the price. It's really quite simple if you look at it the right way.

              The common misunderstanding here is that people think Volvo won't pass on their savings since they're greedy bastards. In actual fact, they will pass on their savings because they are greedy bastards, and will make more profit doing so!

              No, there won't be a price drop. Prices are established by the market, not arbitrarily set by the manufacturer. A Ford Focus will cost as much as people are willing to pay for it, given demand and supply. Moving the plant to El Salvador changes neither supply nor demand. You aren't opening a new consumer base, and you aren't getting yourself a way to fulfill previously unfilled demand. It only lowers the price of making the good, thus increasing the profit margin.

              Put in those terms, prices for a single manufacturers goods are arbitrarily set by it. How much it will sell at that price is determined by the market. That is how lowering costs does increase supply at a certain price.
    • Real Question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:57PM (#8838813)
      They should comment on the so called "cost of living advantage:"

      Q1: If the severe oppression underlying working conditions for the vast majority of Indians was removed, would outsourcing of "high-end" jobs to India cease to be profitable?

      Q2: How does the current practice of outsourcing of "high-end" jobs to India help Indians in the ongoing struggle to remove the severe oppression there?

      Examples of oppression and their supporting infrastructure:

      1) Forced and *uncompensated* displacement of people from rural areas into the cities because of emminent domain siezure by authorities. (Official Indian government figures put the number of people affected by this at around 40Million since 1947. Activists estimate the number is much much higher.)

      2) Ubiquitious child labor in the houshold cleaning, and other related service sectors. No real enforcement against it.

      3) Child slavery and bonded labor (think "indentured servitude" from your history classes, but much worse.) affecting millions in rural areas. Sporadic enforcement against it.

      4) Open physical and verbal brutality of authorities (police, guards, and even employers) towards the poor to keep them obedient and compliant. Personal Note: once on a trip to India, I saw a policeman beat a little beggar kid about 3 hours after my plane touched down. I see examples of stuff like this on every trip to India. I have even heard many well-to-do folks talk openly about how "this is all those kind of people can understand."

      5) Right to education for everyone exists on paper only. Many areas have no functioning public school or that school has been "captured" by a subsection of the community with others excluded by overt and implicit discrimination.

      6) No democracy within political parties. The voter has no say as to whom will run for a seat on behalf of any given party. (e.g. No caucuses or primaries of any kind.) Rules *preventing* elected members of parliament from voting their conscience on issues affecting their locality.

      7) No freedom of information act or sunshine laws. (Even Ashcroft has to obey at least some FOI requests.) Example of a resulting state secret: How much money was spent on the goverment support of parochial (Christian and Muslim) schools as compared to the money spent on public schools open to all?

      8) No right to a speedy trial by a jury of peers. Say what you will about the OJ case, etc., participation in jury trials is a powerful way in which the public gets some control over their own destiny by being a part of the justice system. It is a lot harder to corrupt 12 randomly chosen jurors with other jobs than it is to get at one judge who you can count on for repeat business.

  • What field next (Score:5, Interesting)

    by onyxruby (118189) * <onyxrubyNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#8838105)
    The one question I have never been able to get a straight answer on. What field should the millions of displaced American IT workers get trained in?

    It is always sais that people should be responsbile and learn new skills and train in a new field. When the farm economy shifted to manufacturing, people learned factory work. When manufacturing started to be offshored people were advised to get into IT. What field should people start to train in? Bush talks about training displaced workers, but I haven't heard anything about what their supposed to train in. What is the next new economy, retail?
    • by Lil'wombat (233322) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:08PM (#8838182)
      Anything in the service arena. With the huge savings my company received from offshoring development, I finally got that new lexus I wanted. What I'm noticing, is that the lack of quality amoung local car wash workers is really terrible. I think we could retain some of the VB code monkeys into excellent window washers and wipe-down workers. In fact I think we should return to the days of the full-service gas station. It annoys me to have to keep getting out of my big SUV and fill it with permium gas. There should be people who do that for us.
    • by Akki (722261) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:09PM (#8838195)
      Two words: soylent green.

      Or maybe just fertilizer.

    • Business and management. IT gets outsourced because, well, it's not that hard a skill compared to other professional degrees. If you want to make even $50K/y you had better convince your employer you are actually worth that much. And generally that means IT isn't enough. Have you considered an MBA?
      • by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:48PM (#8838692)
        I've heard MBA students spouting something about how all the "work" will be outsourced and people in the US will just "manage" everything. I fail to see how this is a viable model for a country. The foreigners will learn management too, and then those US managers that don't know anything about day to day operations in Singapore will be next to go. How can anyone claim a nation of upper managers is viable with a straight face?
        • by theCat (36907) on Monday April 12, 2004 @02:18PM (#8839701) Journal
          That's true. And when the middle managers are outsourced to Singapore then it will be just the upper managers in the US. But what do they really know? All their middle managers are now in Singapore. So the Board will fire the US upper managers and hire replacements in Singapore. But the CEO won't have day-to-day interactions with most of the company at that point. So the CEO will be placed on the Board and all the managment will be from Singapore. Only the Board and most of the stockholders will be in the US.

          20 years later: All the major US IT companies are entirely managed from outsource companies, with only Board and stockholders in the US.

          Then all the rich IT workers in Singapore will buy up the companies in hostile takeovers as aging American stockholders liquidate at a bargain, kick out the Board, install their fellows in leadership...and we will have finally exported wholesale a trillion+ dollar industry in record time. The Roman Empire took several hundred years to pull that off.

          And this is...a good thing? Looks like giving away the farm. Well at least the Singaporians won't contribute to the Republican Party so then maybe we'll elect...oh wait, I suppose they will contribute illegally, or by proxy. Never mind. We really have given away the farm.

    • Re:What field next (Score:5, Interesting)

      by seichert (8292) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:30PM (#8838474) Homepage
      Anecdote : I know one guy, at my local gun club, who lost his job to 2 people in India and 1 in Mexico. It was literally cheaper to hire 3 people than to keep paying him to do this particular IT job. He had a life long interest in automotive electrical systems and decided to pursue a 2 year degree from a local community college. His reasoning : 1) You can't outsource car repair to India, 2) There is high demand for a person with skills in this area, 3) He really loves doing it. I also read another article recently about demand for automotive technicians being quite high and supply being quite low. The article suggested that this situation was the result of a generation of parents not wanting their kids to grow up to become "grease monkeys". These parents did not realize that automotive technicians are really computer technicians (as most modern vehicles are computer controlled) and can earn a comparable salary to an I/T person. There are many great good paying careers outside of I/T. If you think that your days as an I/T person are over then it would be worth it to look around.
      • by AsbestosRush (111196) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:52PM (#8838757) Homepage Journal
        Anyone who says that auto techs are really computer techs is just blowing smoke. The majority of repairs that I've seen come into shops are because the person who owns the vehicle just put fuel in it and drove the piss out of it. Most of the computer stuff is either "it works" or "a sensor isn't working". Hell, the diagnostic computer you hook to the car to read the computer will usually suggesst what needs to be replaced.

        The following is a true story:

        Guy gets his current model year Toyota 4Runner with 60k miles up to a shop, and says he wants a new engine. The mechanic looks at him like he's grown a third head, and asks who told him that he needed a new engine. The customer refers the mechanic to the Toyota dealer.

        Mechaic calls the dealer and starts trying to figure out what exactly happened. Dealer mechaic says that due to a lack of maitenence, the warranty won't cover it.

        Mechaic talks to the customer. Apparently, the customer *NEVER CHANGED THE OIL* in the vehicle. Removing the oil pan drain plug confirmed this, as the oil was mostly gelatonous (sp?) black sludge. It's kind of hard for a regular oil pump to move stuff the consistancy of jello.
    • Re:What field next (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jasno (124830) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:34PM (#8838522) Journal
      You covered most of what I was going to say but let me elaborate a bit.

      Most economists/capitalists used to say that the market will sort this sort of thing out. Their highly simplified models of humans tell them that when labor markets shift and jobs go overseas, unemployed workers can simply retrain. However real people aren't always retrainable. Sometimes the 52 year old factory worker can't go out and learn something new. Also, most jobs with a similar skillset might become filled rather quickly. For instance, many people suggest unemployed IT workers should start a local IT support business. That may work for a while, but soon that market is saturated.

      I think in the end there is a real unavoidable cost for outsourcing and it would be great to hear an economist admit it instead of simply glossing over it with tales of the invisible hand. Then we can consider what measures society/government can take to bridge the gap between economic theory and reality.

      I'm not against outsourcing, however I think there needs to be a great deal of focus on retraining, extending unemployment compensation, incentives for early retirement... whatever a more detailed study than I'm willing to undertake would prove effective in helping the newly unemployed.
    • by Simonetta (207550) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:23PM (#8839077)
      What is the next new economy, retail?

      The death industry.

      The systematic selection of troublesome individuals, their removal from their community, and the necessary legal and moral stategies for justifing the selection and elimination of this individual.

      With the population rapidly expanding at a far faster rate than ability of current political and economic systems to absorb these new young people, the death industry will be the fastest growing new industry of the twenty-first century.

      There will be many new opportunities for lawyers to devise legal justification for murder, new openings for religious leaders to develop theologies endowing God's grace on murder (built opon the initial explorations in this field by Wahabi'ists of Saudi Arabia to justify the mass murder of Americans and Israelis through terrorism), new positions for technicians to design and maintain the machines of murder, and scientific and academic positions for modifying the crude 20th century weapons of mass destruction into the focused depopulation engines of tomorrow.

      If you find yourself bothered by the reminants of morality and conscience when transistioning to your new career, you'll find the recent development of powerful psychoactive drugs designed to neutralize this area of brain chemistry most helpful.
    • Re:What field next (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Golias (176380) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:33PM (#8839187)
      What field should the millions of displaced American IT workers get trained in?

      Pyramid Schemes. I will be happy to train you in the lucrative field of scamming people out of their money for $2000 + 10% of what you eventually collect from the trainees you go out and recruit for yourself (and 10% of your 10% take from them, and so on and so on...) If you are at a loss as to who to recruit, start with everybody you've ever known. Once they stop talking to you and begin to specifically dis-invite you from parties, turn to spam. Bothering people in coffee shops is good, too. It can't fail!!!11!1!

      Or you could teach English in Japan. It hardly pays anything, and the hours are insane, but rumor has it that American men are considered very sexy over there... even the geeky ones! It's a nerd paradise, where grown-ups play video games, everybody has cell phones, and there's no shame in loving bad J-pop music and anime! Woo-hoo!

      Or you could just stay in the IT industry and wait another month or two. Seriously now, the company I work at is already hiring a bunch of new people, and I hear from the people on my "job network" that the situation is similar all over the place right now.

    • Re:What field next (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cluckshot (658931) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:56PM (#8839456)

      The most rational set of questions to ask start with the most imporant ones to Investors.

      [1] How many dollars of dividends has your company been able to pay to their shareholders as a result of "Outsourcing?"

      [2] How much has your compensation risen including all factors since you began "Outsourcing?"

      [3] How many dollars of payroll did you save as a result of "Outsourcing?" Be sure to include any Executive Raises as countervailing factors.

      [4] Have you had any of your Intellectual Capital Stolen as a result of "Outsourcing." This is probably the biggest and worst part but it never gets talk.

      [5] What Liability does my company incurr if data handled in "Outsourced" facilities is diverted to ILLEGAL Purposes such as Identity theft?

      [6] What legal devices do we have to deal with employees who misuse data we "Outsource" the processing and service of.

      [7] If the data or programming serviced is "Outsourced" what does it do to National Security. This is a common problem with Defense Contractors now. Most outsourcing functionally becomes Industrial Spying for the company Hired to service in the other country.

      [8] Does outsourcing this service cause the development of competition which may destroy the operation?

      After the issues of Company profitablity are discussed then get down to the other issues.

      [1] Are you Receiving assistance to be in business from State or Local Governments such as Industrial Development Bonds etc?

      [2] Do you meet the US EEOC requirements in the employement of all of the Outsourced employees? (Age Sex etc discrimination) Most Outsourcing actually is a masquerade for some form of racism or sexism.

      [3] Do you deal with the US Government directly or as a subcontractor? If so how do you expect the government to be able to pay your contract if everyone avoids paying US Taxes by "Outsourcing"?

      [4] Do you expect the United States Government to protect your operations using if need be Military Forces to make sure your trade is safe? If so how do you expect to have it paid for when you avoid paying the taxes which support it by "Outsourcing?"

      [5] Can you point to any nation which has benefitted by lowering wages and reducing its standard of living?

      [6] Do you like trading in the lucrative market in the USA? If so how do you think that it will remain lucrative with you and others "Outsourcing."

      [7] Are you as an American Incorporated Company benefiting by US Laws, Currency and infrastructure? If so how do you expect this to be maintained if you continue "Outsourcing."

      Then you can come down to the issues such as the effects on Citizens generally. These include:

      [1] Do you believe that United States Citizens have any rights in their own land that arise from Citizenship? If so what are they? If so how do your actions affect these rights?

      [2] What value do you believe should be placed on loyalty to your fellow countrymen?

      [3] How important is the USA to world safety and prosperity with regards to the cost of lives and treasure from US Taxpayers taken to pay for these actions and conditions?

      The whole set of issues here address the matter indirectly but they completely attack the reasoning behind the "Outsourcing" game.

  • Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Slashdot Hivemind (763065) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#8838107)
    Geek jobs come under threat. Suddenly geeks lose libertarian leanings* and belatedly side with the ex-manufacturing workers who bullied them through High School

    *For ENTIRELY unrelated reasons, obviously. No hypocrisy here at all
  • by BWJones (18351) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#8838109) Homepage Journal
    A documentary is important and I would fully support one being created (Disclaimer: my first major in college was documentary film), but perhaps more importantly, that documentary would be made much stronger if it would include some hard numbers and studies including rigorous statistics on just how offshoring is helping (or hurting) the 1) corporation, 2) worker, 3) consumer. Perhaps not just the viewpoint in the US as an interesting perspective could be made from the person getting the job.

    So, here is the deal: Documentaries are often about perspective but ideally, they are about finding the truth and revealing that truth to your viewer. Political perspectives are going to be difficult to get, but contact someone like Robert Reich who could place you in touch with a variety of folks in and out of the political scene.

    bob@RobertReich.org
    Robert Reich
    P.O. Box 381483
    Cambridge, MA 02238
    (617) 547-2206
    Fax: (617) 498-0048

    • The best factual source for these numbers is directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics [bls.gov] of the US Department of Labor [dol.gov].

      Their March 2004 Report [bls.gov] is online, as well as archives of past reports.

      Do NOT rely on any "statistics" from politically motivated people or organizations such as Robert Reich, or even any Republicans. Anybody can manipulate and cherry pick numbers to make them fit their political agenda. Use the BLS numbers only!

      Unfortunately since almost all documentaries seem to be created for po

    • by the argonaut (676260) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:35PM (#8838528) Homepage Journal
      . . .how offshoring is helping (or hurting) the 1) corporation, 2) worker, 3) consumer.

      How about instead we just ask how it's helping or hurting people. The well-being of the corporation is irrelevant, since a corporation is a means not an end, or at least that's the way it should be. The purpose of the corporation should be to improve the lives of people, and should corporations fail to achieve that, they should be reformed or abolished. If corporations are hurting but the overall lot of humanity is improving, then so be it. I can certainly live with that.
  • What sort of responsibility to create jobs should a company have to the nation that purchases/has a demand for the goods they're producing?
  • Very simply, do overseas workers cause more problems than they create? When it comes to programming, coordinating projects between two centers in different facilities in a single country is hard enough. Adding culture and language differences to the mix while not being able to have direct and on-site meetings to architect a complex program, is that a recipe for disaster? With overseas call centers, do you keep enough future customers due to deficiencies in customer support to make it financially viable to continue offshoring support? How do you cooordinate high-level management objectives with an office across the world?
    • "How do you cooordinate high-level management objectives with an office across the world?"

      Well, if you want to know this ask, IBM, GM, Ford, M$ and hundreds more that are international companies and do this all the time. This isn't an outsourcing issue. Many compnaies have been doing this for years so to add another location isn't tough for them.

      "With overseas call centers, do you keep enough future customers due to deficiencies in customer support to make it financially viable to continue offshoring
  • by b-baggins (610215) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:05PM (#8838135) Journal
    Ask the arguments of the other side as questions.

    For example, ask the anti-outsourcing advocates what the cost in non-visible jobs is by engaging in protectionism of the highly visible tech jobs lost to outsourcing.

    Then ask the pro-outsourcing folks a question like how will the economy absorb the displaced workers resulting from outsourcing.

    This will make each side actually defend their position instead of using you as a sounding platform for their agenda.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:05PM (#8838139)
    her associate, programmer/filmmaker Krishnan

    Dear Krishnan,

    Where will the film be produced?
  • by maxbang (598632) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:05PM (#8838141) Journal

    can you find me a job?

  • by realdpk (116490) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:05PM (#8838142) Homepage Journal
    (but who cares)

    My question is .. has the standard of living, for those working for American companies, increased at all? Or are the jobs just barely paying the bills like any other job might?
  • Economy.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarkBlackFox (643814) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:06PM (#8838165)
    Is outsourcing seen in the public eye as helping or destroying an economy? I mean, on the one hand, we're loosing jobs locally, but on the other hand it's creating thousands of jobs in 3rd world countries. I heard someone say before every one job here is worth three jobs offshore, for the same amount of money. I guess the question is, are companies benefiting by getting more bang for the buck out of employees helping the economy locally, if not the job market, while at the same time helping the economies of other countries by creating jobs? A penny saved is a penny earned, potentially spent locally.
    • by mckwant (65143) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:48PM (#8839364)
      1. Are companies getting more bang for the buck?
      2. Since NAFTA's initial rush, there are reports of manufacturing jobs coming BACK from Mexico. That "giant sucking sound" that Perot used to describe maquilladora companies running for the Mexican border never really materialized in the volume he thought it would. Also, several of those factories are coming back, as they get better productivity from USians.

        One function of outsourcing is that the labor is cheaper, which shows up quickly on the company balance sheet. If revenue is stable, and costs go down, profit goes up. What doesn't show up quickly is ineffeciency. e.g. Time lost due to cultural differences, time spent rewriting poor code, the cost of having to negotiate every change request, and so on. While these costs exist for locally sourced companies, I'd argue they're probably lower.

        It's not strictly the price of the labor that's at issue, it's performance per dollar spent. Given the economic mess, it's all about the price of the labor right now, but the efficiency argument will start creeping back in over time.

      3. Is your penny saved actually spent locally? Or, restated, how often is that same cash going to be spent by subsequent purchases?
      4. The multiplier is the key here. Does the money just go back into company coffers, or is it actually distributed?

        If it's held as cash by the company, then its effect is negligible, except for the value of the company's equity. It's not used to buy things in the local market, which contributes to the bottom line (and profits, and eventually more purchases) of the various merchants, and so on.

        If it's distributed as dividends, is that money used to buy goods in the local market, or reinvested? I would suggest that the supplyside economic model can be criticized here, as dividends paid to stockholders at large might tend to be reinvested (sometimes automatically, sometimes not), and the economic multiplier for that cash is very, very small.

        If it had actually been used to pay a local programmer, who was using it to live, then the majority of the money is probably circulating freely, having been spent with merchants.

        We can get into issues with the WalMartization of the planet here, but let's not.

      5. Are we helping other countries' economies?
      6. Again, this is arguable. Sure, we're helping them in the short term, but we've all heard stories of how the Indian outsources are getting undercut by the Czechs, or the Philipinos, or the Malaysians, or whomever.

        I'm not sure, but I think this is the core of the globalist "race to the bottom" argument. If you assume that the company only cares about workers/$, then it would be logical for the jobs to drift towards the cheapest labor. Problem is, the cheapest country for labor changes periodically, and suddenly you have several countries vying for the lowest price. Does this unstable economic injection actually help their economy in the long run? Tough call.

  • by PseudononymousCoward (592417) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:07PM (#8838172)
    Seriously.

    I am so sick of people whining "outsourcing sent my job to India" then walking out the door to climb into their Toyota. I'm sorry that your job has been outsourced, I am. But don't you realize that your decisions sent others to the same fate--where was your sense of moral outrage then?
    • to climb into their Toyota

      Just nit-picking here, but for a while, Toyotas have been made in Mexico, and within the past year or so have moved their base of operations into the US.

      Nissan is also locally made, in Texas and Mexico. Next time, try ranting with Honda, Daihatsu, or some other obscure company that makes bad cars :-p
    • Toyota and Honda have the highest percentage of US made parts in them last I checked. Plus they're assembled right here in the US. Big Three? Mexican and Canadian parts, lots of Canadian assembly.. There's a federally required paperwork on all new cars that shows where they came from. Go to one of those combo dealers, (You know, one of those Buick/Honda/Chevrolet/BMW megadealers) compare your average Honda Civic with a Chevrolet or Ford..

      (An oddity I noticed.. The Big Three only go so far as say "US/Canadi
  • by neurojab (15737) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:09PM (#8838192)
    What effect do you feel the outsourcing of professional jobs has on the economy? When manufacturing moves offshore, it's easy to say we'll all be employed with "knowledge jobs", but what happens when the knowledge jobs move offshore? Doesn't this equate to leaving our own highly skilled individuals unemployed/underemployed while we're pumping money into a foriegn economy via payroll? If we oursource our professional jobs, where will stateside consumers get the money to purchase the (now cheaper?) products? Is a "service only" economic model sustainable for the United States?
  • by millahtime (710421) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:09PM (#8838198) Homepage Journal
    My question would be... If the US is outsourcing many areas and this in tern is bringing the other countries up in the economic levels, then what can US workers and companies do to stay ahead of the curve and continue to be a worlk leader?

    At the rate we are going with outsourcing jobs and having decreasing technical educational levels (studies have shown drops in math in science all the way through college) by the time i am old we will not be tha major world power anymore. Other countries will have taken that from us.
  • Local effects (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:10PM (#8838201) Journal
    What are the positive and negative effects on the offshore locations?

    Are these positive and negative effects distributing themselves evenly through these societies, or is it effecting and effected by existing class and social structures?
  • by kanwisch (202654) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:10PM (#8838203)
    As an informed, identity-paranoid IT person:

    How will my SSN and other personal information be secured from workers who have zero responsibility to secure it, from a legal perspective?
  • by blair1q (305137) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:10PM (#8838204) Journal
    Offshoring jobs increases the management/labor revenue split.

    Isn't offshoring just a way to make the rich richer without regard for the American working class?

    Isn't it evidence that the wealthy have no regard for those who must do work to stay alive?

    Isn't it an utter repudiation of the widely held belief that concentration of capital is good for all of us?

    Isn't it a strong reminder that the only thing that keeps capitalism alive is tolerance of the working man for the profligacy of the non-working class?

    I'm no socialist, but I know a revolt when I see one coming. The rich in this country will be lucky if they aren't killed, cooked, and eaten before it's done.
    • by Killswitch1968 (735908) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:26PM (#8838416)
      If there's on class of people that is still heavily discriminated against, it's the rich. Let's look at your points:

      1. America invests more in European nations and Canada than third world nations. So they aren't discriminately trying to destroy the 'working class', but trying to see who is willing to do the best job at the lowest price.
      Finally aren't all those Indians 'working class' as well? What about their life? Or is geocentrism clouding that obvious reality?
      2. Don't the poor have this same ideal, they just suck it? This is simply idiotic bigotry against rich people. Some people are rich because they earned it, and some people aren't. Similarly, some poor people are poor because they deserve it, and some aren't. Get over it.
      3. Capitalism is good for all of us in the sense that every other economic system has been terrible. Capitalism is not perfect, it's simply better than the alternatives.
      4. WRONG. If you were to exile all 'rich' people in American to other countries we'd all be much worse off. People aren't poor because rich people are 'exploiting' them.
      Stop foisting blame upon others and take responsibility, and maybe a few economics classes while you're at it.
      • 1. Euros and Canucks get paid less than Americans do. And once the Rich get the clue, they'll move that capital to India and China, too.

        2. Most of the poor don't suck at anything. But concentration of property rights and social contacts creates a higher hurdle for attaining wealth than many of the current wealthy families had.

        3. Capitalism is good when it is regulated. Unfettered capitalism is like a car with a turbocharger, no brakes, and an eternal downhill slope. It tears itself to pieces every
  • by Maestro4k (707634) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:12PM (#8838234) Journal
    The first one I hope they're planning on asking the appropriate person(s) already.
    1. What effect has losing a job to out-sourcing had on you personally, including all aspects -- mental, physical, financially, etc. (This one obviously needs to be asked to someone (or many someones) who have lost a job because it got outsourced.
    2. Who is supposed to pay for tech workers retraining themselves in new fields? I see so many companies/organizations saying that US tech workers even enjoy retraining for new fields, but they never mention how a newly unemployed (thanks to outsourcing) person is supposed to PAY for that retraining.
    Personally I would LOVE to see the people who go on about US tech workers just need to retrain for a new field asked #2. I doubt you'll find many (if any) that will answer on the record though.
  • by delcielo (217760) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:13PM (#8838241) Journal
    To the CEOs of the outsourcing companies:

    Is the outsourcing really cheaper when the total costs are figured, or is this move a way to show shareholders that you're doing some cutting in the down economy?

  • by prestidigital (341064) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:14PM (#8838247) Journal
    1. What are the hidden costs associated with offshore outsourcing? We hear a lot about drastically lower labor costs. But there are also costs associated with cultural and geographic distance, lack of interpersonal interaction, and trust issues, and more. These should be balanced against labor cost savings. So what are these costs and how much impact do they have?
    2. Is it really "offshore outsourcing" when the company that gets the job is a global company with offices and personnel located in the U.S.? Even jobs that are awarded to U.S. companies often involve the use of offsite workers located in or shipped in from other states. How much difference does it really make to an in-state worker who loses his job to an out-of-state worker compared to an out-of-country worker?
  • by gorbachev (512743) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:14PM (#8838248) Homepage
    My question is:

    How do you think the rising salaries in India are going to affect the current outsourcing trend?
  • by PseudononymousCoward (592417) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:15PM (#8838258)
    Ok, so lets say I have a piece of software on the computer sitting under my desk that automagically writes programs. I write detailed design specs, then run a shell script, say ./program.sh . A week or two later, I have a written program. Would anybody object to the creation of such a program? No, of course not.

    But if, instead of DELL writing programs, it's 5 guys in Bangalore, and my computer simply acts as a communications point, then suddenly we're getting out the pitchforks and torches? Why the difference? I ask my Economics classes this every course, and I've yet to hear a reasonable answer...it all comes back to "but those are PEOPLE", as if them being Intels, or AMDs, or chickens would make it more acceptable.

    Remember the scare about robots in the 1980's? Remember the chicken littles running around warning of the disappearance of jobs in America, as we were all replaced by robots? It's happening again.

    PC.
    • The difference is that outsourcing is a reality while the software that writes programs (at least as you described it) is fantasy. Such software would have as large an impact on the tech industry as the invention of the microprocessor. It would be similar to software that wrote an entire novel based only on a plot outline.
  • by BadDoggie (145310) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:16PM (#8838270) Homepage Journal
    Most outsourcing is done through intermediaries and the outsourced workers themselevs are classified as "contractors". These people realise the disposable nature of their positions and are themselves worried about their jobs disappearing to even cheaper countries such as the Philippines. There is no job security and no loyalty to the company. There is no incentive to work harder or find ways to help the company. There is only the desire to get as much out of the employer as possible, in the shortest time possible, and to find a new employer while still being paid by the old one.

    Considering this, can the short-term financial gains really offset the long-term benefits a loyal and motivated workforce provide?

  • by StandardCell (589682) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:17PM (#8838290)
    The promise of outshoring has always been cheaper goods, but housing in the Western world and particularly the large tech centers in the US have largely been supported by the higher salaries of white collar workers. Because white collar workers in virtually every profession are now subject to offshoring, what is the projected impact on the housing markets, as well as the financial health of mortgage granters such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? My concern is that the housing market will crash, causing defaults and undermining the overall economy. I would also ask the same question regarding automobile manufacturers' sales, and if outsourcing will do the same for their markets, as well as auto loan granters.
  • by CrystalFalcon (233559) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:17PM (#8838294) Homepage
    Ugh. White man comes to America, takes away all precious, precious land from Indians.

    Now, Indians take away precious, precious income from white man in return.

    What goes around comes around, as white man says.
  • What KIND of jobs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rburgess3 (682428) <rburgess3NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:17PM (#8838295)
    The question I would like most answered is this:

    Yes, IT jobs seem to be outsourced to foriegn countries, but specifically what sectors of IT, and for what purpose? Not for what gain, as that is fairly obvious - saving money - but what is the function that these outsourced jobs fill? For call centers, this is fairly obvious, but what about for programming? What kind of programming is being done off-shore? What kind of programming cannot for saftey reasons, intellectual property reasons and other reasons be moved out of the US?

    Similarly for other sectors of the IT field - what are the limits, and why?
  • Real Reasons? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChuckDivine (221595) * <charles.j.divine@gmail.com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:18PM (#8838300) Homepage

    I'm on record for saying that working 100, 80, even 60 hours per week regularly is dysfunctional and counterproductive. There are other management fads that are likewise dysfunctional and counterproductive.

    To what extent is outsourcing being driven by staff resistance to management demands? What kinds of demands are being resisted?

    This question can be put to both the pro and anti sides.

  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:18PM (#8838309) Homepage Journal
    We all live on the same planet so there can't be any such thing as outsourcing in a world with trade.

    The people of the rich countries hve been happy to eat cheap (though artificially expensive!) food for years.

    The short term costs to the newly jobless are high but in a world ecnomony eventually the disparity between one country and another should shrink, unless the disparity is kept open artificially.

    Seems not many are complaining that their cheap laptops are built from cheap labour, or cheap shoes. Take a look at the balance of trade for the countries of the world. The US and UK are net importers. China and Taiwan are net exporters. One should consider the long term consequences of this pattern.

    We have exploited the disparity for a long long time.

    When the pony comes home, pay up, pay up, pay up.

  • by somethinghollow (530478) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:18PM (#8838311) Homepage Journal
    I recently had the task of setting up a printer to work with Quark Xpress. They offer no free support. My employer paid the support cost, and I was put on the phone with a man with a thick Indian accent. It was so bad that I had to ask him to repeat himself at least once every time he spoke. I guess my argument is that people hired to interface with other people should be able to communicate well. It was such a pain in the ass to translate his accent that I decided I would avoid purchasing Quark or recomending Quark (ignoring that some alternatives may be better products). I've heard that Dell computers heard similar complaints to the ones I am making, and brought their tech support back.

    I guess my question is: Is it worth the savings to piss your customers off, esp. when they are paying top dollar for good tech support on a per-call basis? On another front, Have these companies had good results overcoming the language barriar (that, according to a programmer friend of mine, ends up causing more problems for a project, resulting in more time cleaning up the mess that misunderstanding brings than executing the project)?
  • by danharan (714822) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:20PM (#8838329) Journal
    Apparently rates in India are going up with demand, which is entirely logical from a market perspective.

    If instead of reducing outsourcing we tried to send more work to India, is it conceivable that we could bring up their salaries to a point where they would no longer compete on price?

    Also, can we expect some of those Indian programmers and companies to do more work on fulfilling their own software needs, and stop chasing outsourcing work?
  • by unassimilatible (225662) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:20PM (#8838337) Journal
    Unlike Lou Dobbs [cnn.com], who has made outsourcing his nightly crusade, and who shouts down anyone who disagress, you seem to want to approach this with some intellectual honesty, rather than an agenda.

    I also like the fact that you don't claim to have all the answers in advance. So many reporters and filmakers are too arrogant to ask for assistance. A truly awesome idea to ask everyone you can about this before filming. Nothing pisses me off more than some 60 Minutes piece that (invariably) fails to interview the other side.

    Agenda-based "reporters" rarely find the truth. You might find that outsourcing is terrible, but you appear to be objective and thorough, i.e., the opposite of Michael Moore.

    My golden question: Ask the labor unions to explain how they can reconcile their push for high wages and benefits which are completely non-competitive with foreign workers, and then have the audacity to complain about outsourcing, rather than take some of the blame (how's that for a leading question?).

    I'd also ask the managers of large pension and mutual funds how outsourcing affects their stockholders, and ask them to describe who, exactly, those stockholders are. The answer might surprise most people.

    Good luck!

  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:21PM (#8838346)
    Something I've been curious about...

    I've read in stories about call centers / tech support outsourced to other countries that the employees are often coached on how to pass as Americans.

    They work on their accents to appear more American, learn about American sports teams and pop culture in order to be able to make smalltalk about it and appear authentically American, etc.

    I'm curious to know the effects this has locally and what the opinions of it are. Do any of the employees have problems with this deceptive practice? Do they feel that it's making some kind of statement about the (theoretical) superiority of American culture that they're forced to learn about it and utilize their knowledge of it instead of that of the culture they grew up with? Are there ever, for example, new baseball fans created by an offshore call center worker's exposure to the sport for his/her job, or is this almost always purely business for them? Does this happen in other industries? Do more traditional members of the local societies object to the poisoning of their children with this American culture?

    I think there are a lot of interesting questions to be asked there. It's not involved in any way with the causes or primary effects of outsourcing, but from the perspective of social psychology alone the answers should be fascinating.

  • competitive pressure (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lone_marauder (642787) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:23PM (#8838380)
    Question for outsourcing CEO: (predicted answers in parentheses)
    1. What is the exact nature of the competitive pressure compelling CEOs to outsource labor?
    2. (Everyone else is doing it.)
    3. So these other companies that "did it first" and thereby decreased their costs, passed this on to the consumer in the form of reduced prices?
    4. (That's how the market works.)
    5. Uh, huh. Ok, given that the inflation rate has remained pretty much constant, if not growing slightly, during this period of outsourcing, is it fair to say that the trend of outsourcing is, in fact, not driven by market forces?
    6. (Well, uh, the market is very complex...)
    7. If a group of companies collectively decide to engage in behavior to the detriment of their consumers (prices haven't dropped) and employees (who are out of work), and this behavior is not market driven, can you explain it in the context of antitrust law?
    No further questions, your honor.
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:25PM (#8838404) Journal
    Ask them this, "Why aren't high level executive jobs outsourced?"
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rupert (28001) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:21PM (#8839057) Homepage Journal
      In many countries, CEOs work for a fraction of the cost of an American CEO. Despite this disparity in cost, foreign CEOs produce work of comparable quality, as measured by the performance of the companies they head. So:

      where are the H1-B CEOs?

      which US companies have relocated their CEOs to foreign countries, rather than just their head office?

      When we know the answers to these questions, we will... ...well, we'll sit down and cry into our beer. That's what we'll do.
  • by pileated (53605) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:27PM (#8838426)
    There are a number of perspectives anyone can take on all of this, some purely economic, more purely political and all sorts of odd mixtures.

    The one I'm most interested in is this: what obligation does the government have to its citizens? Should it do whatever it can to facilitate profits for businesses? Should it do whatever it can to maintain/attain a high standard of living for all its citizens. Most communities form out of self-interest. They gain more by being together than apart, and often hard compromises are necessary where individuals must give up something for the common good that they've agreed to support. My feeling is that citizens, government and business have all lost any sense of this commonality of interest. So the first question I would ask is: who gains by offshoring and is that gain for the common good or for a specialized good. My feeling is that it's really for a specialized good, large corporations, but I may be wrong. But I do think this is the most important question to ask.

  • Debt to Employees (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Perl-Pusher (555592) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:28PM (#8838439)
    I would like to know why when employees put 10+ years into a company, and through those employees efforts and creativity the company has prospered, that the company feels no debt to them? And does a company feel like it can despose of them like yesterdays garbage so that the CEO can get a big fat salary?
  • Where does it stop? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by damu (575189) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:29PM (#8838452) Journal
    Where does outsourcing stop? You can basiclly outsource pretty much every aspect of any company to a comparable cheaper solution overseas. However, where are the lines drawn? What is the criteria? Does cheaper automatically call for outsourcing. Is there a formula to this?

    PS: I know this is not one question, but they all closely related.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:30PM (#8838461) Homepage
    A few good Silicon Valley locations:
    • Pacific Shores Center [scotthaefner.com] This huge, strikingly beautiful bayfront office park, built at the end of the dot-com boom, stands complete but empty. Great place to film an interview.
    • The trailer park next to Moffett Field Facing the intake of the huge wind tunnel at NASA Ames is a trailer park. Take 101 to Shoreline in Mountain View, turn east, go about three blocks, turn right opposite the movie theaters, and drive to the end of the street. The trailer park is right in front of the 100-foot high air intake.
    • The abandoned FMC manufacturing complex in San Jose. The Bradley Fighting Vehicle was built there. There's a test track for the things.
    • Downtown San Jose at rush hour Little traffic, plenty of free parking, half the stores are closed. It's like Sunday, every day.
  • What about failures? (Score:4, Informative)

    by hirschma (187820) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:36PM (#8838544)
    How about a look at how and why offshoring fails. There was an article about it just today at MSNBC [msn.com].
  • by xyote (598794) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:37PM (#8838559)
    Can they still be considered an American company? If MIT outsourced its football team (they do need to), would that team still be considered an MIT football team?
  • by CatGrep (707480) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:04PM (#8838891)
    1. CEO's tend to make the argument that they need to outsource in order to compete with their competitors who are outsourcing. (sounds an awful lot like an argument between kids on the playground - "he's doing it too!" - where nobody wants to take responsibility). Given that CEO salaries run into the $millions (typically 20 to 40X the pay of their average employees) why don't CEOs consider cutting their own salaries in an effort to remain competitive?

    2. Many unemployed and about-to-be-unemployed US engineers would be happy to work for less money (within reason)in order to keep their jobs, however when this is suggested to companies the companies usually choose to go with outsourcing. If an engineer is willing to take a 30 - 40% pay cut to save his/her job, why isn't this offer taken seriously by most companies?

    3. (related to 2) It's quite clear that if we want to continue working in the engineering fields in America that we'll either have to become much more productive (2 - 3X) or we'll have to accept much lower wages (or a combination of the two). By some measurements we're already much more productive than our overseas counterparts by virtue of the fact that we have more experience with real projects, so it all comes down to money. What can American engineers do to lower their cost of living in order to try to compete with 3rd world salaries?

    4. Most offshoring advocates say that we need to just be patient as we await the 'Next big thing (TM)' that will be invented in America (they have a lot of faith). Any idea what the 'Next bit thing' will be and what do we do in the meantime?

    5. (related to 4) In the software arena, most of the offshoring advocates say that US developers need to 'move up the foodchain' into project management. Given that you never need anywhere near as many managers as you do managees, what how will most US developers 'move up the food chain'? (perhaps they'll become hunters)

    6. (related to 5) What if you'd much rather develop code than manage projects?

    7. For outsourcing advocates: Why not make the argument that we should outsource every possible US job to cheaper, lower labor-cost countries and then bring in 'guest-workers' to fill the positions that can't practically be outsourced? It seems that the outsourcing advocates would find this a favorable plan since there would be so much potential money savings. If money savings is the primary economic motivator then this seems like a logical plan, however, what do we do with the millions of US workers that would be put out of work in this scenario?

    Commentary: The outsourcing advocates take a very narrow view of economics. To them cost-cutting is the primary motivation for doing anything - "if it'll save a buck, then do it" is their motto. However, it isn't clear that the money savings from outsourcing white collar jobs are actually going to be able to counter-ballance the economic devestation brought on by widespread offshoring. So what if US corporations suddenly become wildly profitable (for a quarter or two) while millions of workers are put out of work. Eventually those millions of unemployed workers won't have the money to buy the products of the wildly profitable corporations and profits will go down. I'd rather see corporations break even while providing good jobs to millions, than see them be wildly profitable but providing no jobs to US workers. Oh, and if millions are unemployed, who is going to pay the taxes to support the schools that we supposedly need to train workers for the 'jobs of the future'?
  • by Money for Nothin' (754763) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:31PM (#8839171)
    Question 1: Retrain in what? Will the new jobs created by trading our jobs with India be created here?

    During the 1980s, blue-collar manufacturing workers whose jobs were offshored were told to retrain in some other area, particularly knowledge jobs. Some did, most others moved into other blue-collar jobs such as construction, automobile repair, and other such jobs which aren't so easily offshorable.

    Today, the message from economists and CEOs is the same: retrain in some other field. We know that jobs in programming, software-engineering, and most other fields of engineering (electrical, mechanical, chemical, etc.) are being offshored.

    So what exactly does one retrain in? Let's look at the options:

    * Biotech -- is there any reason that new biotech jobs can't be created overseas instead?
    * Nanotech -- is there any reason that new nanotech jobs can't be created overseas instead?
    * Medicine -- oooh, wait, radiology is already being offshored [cbsnews.com], and so are surgical jobs [worldnetdaily.com]

    Note that those are all technology-oriented jobs which do not require one's presence. What technology-oriented jobs require one's presence then?

    * Auto mechanic -- for the few geeks who can tolerate working outdoors, with their hands, getting dirty, etc.
    * IT technician -- the basically blue-collar guys who schlep computers around, run cables, and replace bad hardware
    * Nuclear engineer -- because It Is Stupid to not have people on-site to prevent a nuclear plant from going boom in the event of an emergency

    So, can the hundreds of thousands of software geeks who have had their jobs offshored retrain to be auto mechanics? Even if they wanted to, I doubt they could, and as cars become increasingly-reliable, demand for those jobs will decrease. IT technicians? We have a glut of them as it is. Nuclear engineers? This nation is too scared of nuclear power (thanks to Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island) for there to be much of a market for nuclear power.

    So, what do we do? Just what jobs are there beyond "knowledge" jobs? If you assume that international trade (and preferably free trade) is a good thing -- as I do, due to comparative advantage -- then you must admit that many of these jobs can go overseas now thanks to the Internet's ability to send data worldwide at dirt-cheap prices.

    Now, the standard economist's response to that is that "new jobs will be created as a result of trade." On the face of things, this is true.

    But return to the fact that the Internet makes all jobs which deal primarily with information (instead of people) offshorable. Given that fact, what reason is there that the new jobs -- which WILL be created, just as economists tell you -- won't be created overseas, but will be created here in America? Again, is there any reason the new jobs -- which we can reasonably expect to see in biotech and nanotech -- won't simply skip the step of being created in America and instead get created in India first?

    I wrote an email to one of my economics professors asking that question (and many others) recently. His response? "Gee, you know that's what interests me about economics so much - why do these things happen?" But he never really answered the question.

    If a college professor in Econ. doesn't know the answer, who does?

    Question 2: Education.

    Often the advice to unemployed IT geeks is to retrain. Retraining requires education. Education requires years of time and money.

    Simple question: Where does an unemployed IT geek *get* that money to retrain with, given the rapidly-rising costs of a college education?

    Moreover, how can America -- which largely does not subsidize post-secondary education -- compete with foreign nations which do subsidize post-secondary education?

    So long as this educational barrier-
  • Analyst on CNBC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcdick1 (254644) on Monday April 12, 2004 @01:31PM (#8839172)
    I can remember a few weeks ago - and this is purely anecdotal on my part - watching CNBC on the TV in the Cafeteria at work, and they were interviewing a couple of stock analysts about the "recovery" and offshoring labor, and one of the guys made a comment that made everyone in the room sort of gasp.

    He said, paraphrasing, "America, which for the last fifty years or so has been consuming vastly greater amounts of resources than they produce, has had an artificially high standard of living. Its going to be painful until the American lifestyle comes more in line with the rest of the world."

    Just thought I would relate that observation. It seemed appropriate when the topic of outsourcing and offshoring comes up. You can take it as either playing devil's advocate, or something to get you motivated to ensure that it doesn't happen.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Monday April 12, 2004 @02:25PM (#8839754)
    1. If outsourcing from California to India is "greedy" or otherwise morally wrong in some way, then what about outsourcing from California to, say, Alabama?

    2. Do people in India or China have less right to make a living and feed their families than Americans do?

    3. In a business, does management have a duty to artificially maintain relatively high wages in the US for equivalent work? Is that a higher duty than their duty to the shareholders?

    4. What duty do the workers owe management in return?

    5. Would you support relaxed regulations and tax cuts to help bring the cost of US labor down closer to that of foreign labor?

    6. Which world leader is more just: George Bush or Fidel Castro. (This is just to determine who you're talking to.)

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