The Outsourcing of America

By Gus Tyler

Published December 03, 2004, issue of December 03, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The latest development in the outsourcing of America is the startling and almost unimaginable news that American drug companies are “outsourcing” their R and D (Research and Development) to China. This was supposed to be impossible. But the impossible is now not only possible but, if one looks back on the evolution of outsourcing in the United States from the end of World War II, also inevitable.

When, just a few years after the war ended, American producers began to get their work done in countries in which they could get cheap, child and even slave labor, the first industry in which American workers were losing their jobs was the apparel trades, the single-largest employer in American manufacturing. But the conventional wisdom was to tell these workers “not to worry.” Wages in the apparel industry were relatively low. The workers who lost their jobs in apparel would find more lucrative employment in the electronic assembly industries — assembling radios and televisions.

Then when the electronic assembly business began to be outsourced — as it shortly was — workers were advised that they would find better employment assembling computers. But when these jobs began to move overseas, we were advised that while assembly line jobs might leave the country, computer engineering would flourish in Silicon Valley.

But when the skilled jobs were transferred to some thousands of computer engineers in Lahore, India, and other centers in Asia, the nation was advised that while we might lose our manufacturing sector — for many years the backbone of the American economy — there would be more than enough jobs in the service sector.

But even as these soothing sages spoke, banks and insurance companies were moving their back-room clerical operations to countries in which they found English-speaking clerks.

The next step was to move centers you call to get information in how to respond to problems — like computer glitches. The voice you got might have a slight foreign tinge to it, since it was located in India. Also call centers that solicit you to buy a given product or service were moved from the United States to places like India, where solicitors take courses in how to speak English with an American accent.

Then came a few bizarre developments. Medical X-rays taken in the United States were transmitted to specialists in Asia for reading and interpretation. Why? Because it was cheaper to do so than to have them read here.

More bizarre was the outsourcing of legal work by American firms to foreign countries. The work was sent to young folk who had come to America to study at our law colleges. They then went back home to be with family and friends and to spend a life in a culture that is more comfortable for them. They do exactly what they would do if they were here in an American firm; the only difference is that they do it over there, and they do it for less.

Generally, for the high-level sector that was being outsourced, countries like India were favored because they spoke English. But now, The Wall Street Journal trumpets the latest development with the headline, “Drug Companies Look to China for Cheap R and D.” What’s next?






Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.