All those not in favor of creating jobs in America, please say “Yea”
Given the critically important issues facing our nation you’d think that by now politicians in Washington would get the message that we are tired of symbolic gestures that solve little and devour precious time and resources. I guess that conspicuous public protests, occupations and massive volumes of online dissidence have yet to filter through to those who we have sent to Washington that we are tired of easy answers, divisive tactics and strategies that isolate us into factions.
Hope dwindles in these early days of this election year as we see examples including the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act bill filed by U.S. House of Representatives members Timothy Bishop (D:NY) and David McKinley (R:WV).
At first glance one can’t help but agree with the sentiments expressed by supporters of the bill such as the comment “‘This … bill is exactly what we need now’ to aid in the country’s economic recovery, overcome deficits, and restore the American dream.”
I like to wave the flag as much as any proud former Boy Scout but getting past the initial emotion I realize H.R.3596, makes little sense. The bill is proposed to act as if a modern version of the Scarlet Letter by requiring, “publicly available a list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and to make such companies ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans and to require disclosure of the physical location of business agents engaging in customer service communications.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am vehemently in favor of creating US jobs. What American is not in favor of keeping jobs in the United States?
The reality today, however, is that complex forces are at work in moving jobs overseas.
I don’t believe that it is ever an easy decision for any American business to offshore contact center work. There are significant costs, risks and sacrifices and as my colleague Kay Phelps has pointed out in her excellent blog entry Is the Offshore Trend Ebbing? results can fall short of initial expectations.
Is it really Band-Aid treatments of the symptoms that we Americans want or do we instead want those sent to Washington who represent us to use the resources that we have made available to them to attack the real causes of job losses in this country?
What this bill doesn’t ask is, “What makes an American company send jobs overseas?” I know the convenient metaphor is the big bad heartless corporation as seen through the lens of the Michael Moore camera.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of that intellectually vacant Red Herring of blaming the generic “them.”
I won’t put it in the same terms as Mitt Romney and hopefully you’ll avoid the temptation to mock me as he was, but the fact is that corporations are made up of people. As in any human endeavor there are good and bad people. Sometimes bad actors rise into positions of control. There is no shortage of headlines of examples, but more often these are “stories to be suspicious of” as economist Tyler Cowen might warn us.
What we don’t see are enough headlines depicting the true norm in corporate America. The truth according to statistics from the US Census Bureau in the United States today there are 129 thousand firms employing 100 or more workers. In total these companies employ 180 million people and pay salaries of over $8 trillion. Some evil empire? NOT.
The truth is that corporations are one of the pillars upon which the American system draws its strength. Those of you who like me who work for, draw a pension from and do business with corporations, despite our occasional disgruntlement, know this to be true.
Less easy for Washington than the symbolic gesture is to face and deal with the real problems of this country.
The hard fact is that the world is not going to become less competitive and Puritanical practices like the public pillorying of American companies, although it may make some of feel better in the instant, does little to help our long-term prospects.
Instead of easy answers we need Washington to focus on measures that will grow the competitiveness of our nation so that we may stand our own in a increasingly sophisticated world. In August NPR was right to ask, ” do US workers want call center jobs?” With all due respect to the people doing this work in America today, sitting in a cubicle answering a telephone is not an example of the kinds of jobs that will insure our country a prosperous future.
Here’s an idea, how about laws that help our business environment and improve it so that America becomes more attractive to increased job creation? How about laws that don’t fall short of their promises and instead create an education system that prepares young Americans for the jobs of the future?
Another true fact is that for those today who need such jobs, in 2011 the US saw a surge in home shored contact center agent hires. In fact available US Census data shows that the numbers of people employed in the United States in telephone call centers and telemarketing bureaus and other contact centers has steadily increased each year.
Where were those jobs created? The answer is in states including Florida, New Mexico and Utah where the economics of home shoring make sense.
The question I ask representatives Bishop and McKinley and others in congress who offer politically convenient answers such as H.R.3596, “What’s next, sanctions against other US states who are more successful in attracting jobs and creating home shoring opportunities?”