Secretary of Outsourcing: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Feb. 4, 2009
It's safe to say that we're now in the political silly season, where press releases fly out so fast and furious that it's sometimes impossible to figure out what exactly all the hubbub is about. The main point, of course, is posturing, plain and simple. ...

It's safe to say that we're now in the political silly season, where press releases fly out so fast and furious that it's sometimes impossible to figure out what exactly all the hubbub is about. The main point, of course, is posturing, plain and simple.

Today's example is President Obama's nomination of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) to become Secretary of Commerce. Pres. Obama, you might recall, is a Democrat, so his choice of Gregg naturally was expected to raise a few eyebrows, but since Obama already crossed that divide by retaining Pres. Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and also since the whole idea behind an Obama Presidency was supposed to be breaking down the "politics as usual" divide, one had to expect a few surprises in his Cabinet choices.

Now, a cynic would say, this nomination of Gregg was timed to divert the public's attention from Obama's choices for Secretary of Treasury, Tim "The Artful Tax Dodger" Geithner, and Secretary of Health & Human Services, Tom "The Artless Dodger" Daschle. Maybe so. But in any event, here's a collection of some of the latest press releases from the manufacturing-lobbyist community:

Kevin Kearns, president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council:

"The selection of Senator Gregg completely contradicts what domestic manufacturers understand to be the President's stated views on U.S. trade policy. Senator Gregg has voted non-stop for bad trade deals that have shipped overseas thousands of factories and large numbers of high-wage jobs, helping to create today's economic crisis. These factories and jobs must be recreated at home to cure our economic ills. In his more than 15 years on Capitol Hill, Senator Gregg has shown no awareness that America's long-term prosperity first and foremost requires promoting here at home high-value production and the good jobs it creates. The choice of Senator Gregg makes sense only if the president wants a Secretary of Outsourcing to continue production-destroying and job-killing trade policies."

That "Secretary of Outsourcing" line is pretty funny, I'll grant you that. However, Kearns also notes that Gregg has "strongly supported every outsourcing-focused trade deal signed by the United States starting with NAFTA," but forgets to mention that NAFTA dates back to the Clinton Administration, way back in 1993. Perhaps it did seem to some people that George W. Bush was in office forever, but the Democrats held the White House for most of the 1990s, when outsourcing first took root and flourished.

John Engler, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM):

"Sen. Gregg's 100% voting record with the NAM demonstrates that he has a true understanding of manufacturing's key role in the strength of the American economy and how to keep U.S. manufacturing globally competitive. The Secretary of Commerce is critical to U.S. manufacturing with respect to international trade and innovation. All signs point to Sen. Gregg providing strong leadership in shaping the competitive environment for American manufacturers and their employees."

That reference to Gregg's voting record doesn't mean that he voted 100% in favor of U.S. manufacturing whenever a bill came up; it means his vote coincided with the same viewpoint the NAM had on a particular issue. Engler also mentions that among the tasks of the Commerce Secretary are to "open global markets, ensure compliance with U.S. trade agreements and trade laws, promote U.S. exports." Engler did not, however, specifically refer to Gregg as our "next Secretary of Outsourcing."

My favorite of the press releases, though, is the simple but straightforward comments of Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the Business Software Alliance (BSA):

" record shows he understands the role of information technology in driving growth and innovation across the economy. Gregg has been a leader in encouraging the use of IT in healthcare and public safety; improving our schools to help students prepare for the new economy; creating economic incentives for innovation; advancing free and fair trade; and modernizing the U.S. patent system."

The BSA's members include just about every high-tech giant you can think of, including Apple, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, SAP and Siemens. So it's kind of refreshing to read a statement that basically says, "We think this guy is going to help our members make more money."

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