Kerry flubs politics of offshoring

Why John Kerry flubbed the politics of offshoring.

John Kerry finally got specific about how to offset the pain suffered by software programmers who lose their jobs to offshoring. Better late than never but one week before the election, I suppose, but how many single-issue voters will really be persuaded at this late date? I guess we'll find out the answer on Nov. 2.

The new position paper contains a lot of Kerry's golden oldies about how to make sure more high-paying jobs don't wing their way to places like Bangalore, India. Kerry wants to expand the terms of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides workers with up to two years of income support and training services if their jobs get outsourced to foreign competition.

Nothing outrageous about the proposal but the attendant politics is as plain as daylight. It's all about winning votes in undecided states like Ohio whose economies have been hit hard the last four years. Same goes for Kerry's call to force firms to provide at least three month's advance notice to employees whose jobs get exported overseas.

Did Kerry make a mistake by not making this a bigger part of his campaign? Outside of criticizing the administration for "outsourcing" the job of capturing Osama bin Laden to Afghan war lords, we've heard nary a peep. My guess is that -- again, surprise, surprise -- it's a question of votes. The fact is that offshoring is a big deal for the people who work in the computer industry. They hate it because the trend threatens their livelihoods. But for the folks who run the computer industry -- executives like IBM's Sam Palmisano and Craig Barrett of Intel -- offshoring is an essential part of doing business. So it is that Kerry and the Democrats, desperate to pick up support from both camps, choose to tiptoe around the subject.

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About the author

Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

 

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