ASPEN, CO–If you ask Bill Clinton the question “Is outsourcing good or bad,” you’ll get a long and complicated answer.
As with anything, there are pros and cons with outsourcing jobs to other countries, the former president said as he weighed in on the topic last week at The Donnelley Group’s Fifth Annual Information Privacy Forum.
“We can handle all the outsourcing in the world as long as we’re creating new jobs here at home, he said. “The problem is we’re not creating enough jobs to overcome those that are being lost.”
Vin Gupta, chairman/CEO of infoUSA, which owns Donnelley, said he is proud of the fact that his company hasn’t outsourced any jobs.
“We get asked that all the time. We have about 600 people in a data center and we could outsource half those jobs,” Gupta said, but added that he’s happy with the quality of work his employees do. “These people are proud of their jobs. It may be 20 percent more in cost, but I feel it’s worth it.”
Outsourcing can be good for a company, but not always, Clinton said, especially if the only reason is because the labor’s cheaper somewhere else. And what about for the world?
“Over the long run, since we have opened borders, America’s better off if people in India and China and everywhere else get just as rich as quick as they can because we can’t sustain this trade deficit that we’re financing every year along with our budget deficit forever,” he said. “On the other hand, our response to outsourcing and our response to the trade problem and in general our response to anything that requires something more than a tax cut has been so bad that there is a natural backlash against outsourcing.”
Poverty is increasing and wages are stagnating, Clinton said, and the government keeps giving tax cut after tax cut.
“The reaction to outsourcing is partly a reaction to the general trouble people feel in an insecure economy,” he said. “If America is to maintain its standard of living with hundreds of millions of new competitors who are just as smart as we are and increasingly just as well educated, if not better educated, then every decade at a minimum we have to have a source of jobs that at least begin in America that are high-wage, high-skilled jobs that in turn create a lot of other jobs.”
And what job sector might be able to do this?
“My major candidate in this decade is clean energy and energy independence that deals with our dependence on foreign oil and also deals with our contribution to climate change,” Clinton said.