Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Obama's Flawed Outsourcing Argument

At a political rally in Columbus, OH, on September 17, 2012, President Barack Obama made these remarks:
"And when it comes to trade, I understand my opponent has been running around Ohio claiming he’s going to take the fight to China. Now, this is a guy whose experience has been owning companies that were called "pioneers" of outsourcing jobs to countries like China -- made money investing in companies shipping jobs to China. Ohio, you can’t stand up to China if all you’ve done is send them our jobs."
The "opponent" Obama is referring to is former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). Obama is also referring to Romney's work at Bain Capital.

This is an argument Obama has made several times recently. It's something along the lines that, because Romney outsourced jobs to China when he was working at Bain Capital, therefore that's what his jobs plan will be as President of the United States: outsourcing jobs to China or some other country.

This isn't anywhere close to a valid argument, is it?

After all, when Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, he worked to implement a summer-jobs program for teenagers and asbestos removal in a housing project. Does that mean that, as President, Obama's jobs program is summer work for teens and asbestos removal? No, of course not. It's a ridiculous argument when it's applied to Obama, and it's just as bad when applied to Romney.

Think about it: If I had a job at a BBQ joint helping to feed the fire pit with wood, does it follow that when I get a different job at a furniture store I'm going to be tossing chairs into a bonfire? No, of course not.

(Plus, why focus on Romney's outsourcing at Bain? He also saved some companies from going out of business and helped expand others, why not argue that, therefore, he'll do more of that as president? Well, because that wouldn't make him look bad, would it?)

That's not to say that Romney's experience at Bain -- or Obama's experience as a community organizer -- can't be relevant to their jobs policies. Romney could argue that working at Bain helped him learn what sorts of things countries need to have to attract investment and job creation. And Obama could argue that working as a community advisor taught him what sorts of challenges teenagers and people out of high school face when it comes to entering the labor force. Those experiences -- Romney's and Obama's -- could be used to help craft and explain their jobs policies.

But, obviously, people aren't going to do at one job precisely the same thing they did when they were at a different job. And it's horribly poor reasoning for Obama to argue otherwise.

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