Tuesday, March 2, 2004

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A new source for offshore outsourcing

Sreenath Sreenivasan, an associate professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, has set up an ousourcing page with tons of links. Go check it out and see which fact/story you think is the most interesting.

My winner is this story by Sreenivasan about what piqued media interest in the offshoring phenomenon:

[A]part from tech and business reporters, most folks I spoke to had little interest in the [outsourcing] story, presuming this was just like other movements of jobs overseas, such as, say, manufacturing to China....

Everything changed Feb. 9, 2004, thanks to small items in The New York Times (by media reporter Jacques Steinberg) and on the AP wire. Reuters was going to hire six journalists in Bangalore, India, to cover announcements from U.S. companies (none replacing existing employees elsewhere, Reuters said). This served as a wake-up call to journalists who had had no interest in the topic of jobs moving overseas.

I immediately started getting e-mail messages and phone calls from people whose attention I'd been trying to get. Nothing like the prospect of our own necks being on the line to make us listen. Gee, if I spend most of my day "reporting" by using the phone and the Internet, couldn't someone who is paid one-tenth of my salary easily do this job?

Alas, this confirms what I wrote here about the Reuters story.

This piece of information is also interesting:

About 10 percent of the dues-paying members of the ITPAA, the main anti-outsourcing group in the U.S. are Indian-Americans.

posted by Dan on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM


Good stuff going on these days in the world of self critique.

"The Passion of the Christ" forces film critics to move well beyond their typical spectrum for a film review producing some of the best commentary on modern film I've seen in a long time.

The FCC talks about cracking down on indecency on the airwaves and the television media starts having open discussions about it on the air, radio hosts are reviewing their own tactics and still pushing the free speech motive and the music industry asks if it the sex, violence and exploitation really sells more records.

And now the media is wondering if competition is good? We Americans carry ourselves with confidence, but when we're challenged in the marketplace we talk about closing the shudders, locking the doors and digging a moat. I'm game for competition. It gives us better products, more choices and an excuse to put "The Wealth of Nations" in between our Dr. Phil and Atkins diet books.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

I'd like to kick off the ball here with a slightly different twist on this (increasingly tiresome) debate.

This is a BAD idea for India. It is not a great thing for the US (though, on the whole, will not have much impact one way or another), but it is terrible for India.


Because it skews both the political and economic fortunes of that vast, largely impoverished, but potentially prosperous land even further in the direction of an already priveleged, educated, now trans-national minority.

When I lived in India in the 1990s I was struck by two things (well, I was struck by much more, but two relevent things here). First, the government spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy wooing NRIs (non-resident Indians), who were implored to invest ever greater sums in real estate and businesses, in addition to sending home remittances to family that totalled about ten percent of GDP. Secondly, wealthy families (who were extraordinarily generous to me and my husband) were not only thoroughly westernized; every aspect of their education and childhood were geared toward sending them overseas. In India, everything top-notch is referred to proudly as "export quality." One time, at a friend's wedding, I referred to all the young people I met as "export quality" and this was taken as a huge compliment. In fact, I found it rather sad that so many people felt obliged to send their children overseas.

So now, some ten years later, not just NRIs but PIOs (people of Indian origin) are to be given all the rights and priveleges of Indian citizenship? Nearly half of India's people are illiterate, but the US or Canadian-born children of Indian parents or grandparents are to gain equal access to college and professional school places as those born and raised in India? Who dreamed that up?

What is really happening here is that the BJP (with only the weakest opposition from the Congress Party) is strengthening its hold on the international "export quality" class at the expense of the nation as a whole. The BJP raises huge sums from NRI and (I guess increasingly) POI populations, who see India above all as the homeland of their Hindu religion, and perceive the BJP as its staunch defender.

The closest analogy here would be between Jewish Americans' relationship with Israel, via the Likud Party (which operates a massive fund-raising and lobbying organization here). In that respect, it would be hypocritical to call India's attempt to "claim" NRIs and POIs as their own, while seeing nothing wrong with the kind of close relationship that exists between Jewish organizations in Israel and the US, as well as between the governments of these two countries. It isn't the kind of pattern I wish to see repeated, but it is not about to undermine America's inherent strength.

On the other hand, if the wealth and power of American citizens are to be directed and channelled by politicians overseas, this poses serious questions about the internal dynamics of those countries. This may be beyond the purview of the current debate about offshoring US jobs, but it's time someone raised the issue. It will be around for a long time, and its importance cannot but grow.

posted by: Kelli on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

I just realized that unless you read the story linked to at the end of Dan's posting you will have no idea what I am talking about. The quote about 10 percent of ITPAA members being Indian Americans comes from a story which addresses a little-known recent decision by the Indian Government to grant Indian citizenship to native-born and naturalized citizens of select countries (including the US). It is this decision and its larger context that I addressed in the previous posting. Sorry about any confusion.

posted by: Kelli on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

“The closest analogy here would be between Jewish Americans' relationship with Israel, via the Likud Party (which operates a massive fund-raising and lobbying organization here).”

Are you sure that you want to continue down this dubious road? Have you been reading too much of Michael Lind or Lyndon LaRouche? I may be making too much of the above comments---but they sure do sound weird. In what way has American foreign policy been harmed by the influence of the Likud Party?

posted by: David Thomson on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]


Lay off your monomaniacal focus. Not everyone who criticizes Likud is anti-Semetic. Some of them happen to be jews! I've been pro-Zionist as long as I can remember, but Sharon goes too far. If you look at the wall outline on a map, it doesn't even make any strategic or security sense. Any person can see that the outlying settlements on the West Bank have to go, and that the Palestinians on the Gaza probably have to be relocated. What Sharon is doing is creating a security nightmare.

posted by: Oldman on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

Oldman writes:
"Any person can see that the outlying settlements on the West Bank have to go".

Any person who can read knows that at least one or two million Israelies disagree. I would hazard to guess that at least two to five million Americans also disagree.

Other than this minor point I'm impressed with your knowledge of military strategies. Sharon should hire you as his Defence minister.

posted by: Mik on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

Sreenath Sreenivasan is a founder and member of some racialist organization, South Asian Journalist Assoc.,
only asian jornos in North America can apply.

As far as I know there is no Irish-American Jorno Assoc, no Italian-American, no Jewish-American Jorno Assoc.

It is interesting to see that big city "conservatives" or "libertarians" like Drezner are so respectful of racialist profiteers like Sreenivasan.

posted by: Mik on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

Dave Thomson,

Read my post--I do not criticise, I merely touch upon a fact well-known to all who read the WaPo and NYTimes on a regular basis. As the world's only superpower, its most popular destination for smart emigrants (thank God), and for many of the world's poorer nations, its central banker (their output: people; their harvest: billions in remittances per annum).

Under the circumstances, it is not suprising that foreign political parties (not just governments, but parties!) have set up their own infrastructure here. Do I think this is a good thing? No. But do I see any way around it? No. It's here to stay. Just don't tell me I don't see what I see. And don't call me an anti-semite. Just don't go there.


Who loves ya? Me.


At different stages in their entry into the American mainstream, you can be pretty sure there were "racially" or "ethnically" pure organizations for each of the groups you name (or don't the "Sons of Hibernia" or "Sons of Italy"--always sons, huh--strike a bell?). Indian Americans are a fantastically successful ethnic minority. They contribute much to the nation, are well-adapted and integrated, intermarry at a high rate, have remarkably strong family values. They have benefitted from a relatively late entry into America (post civil rights struggle, not to say post-racist) but what they have achieved in the aggregate is quite amazing and highly laudable.

It would be a tragedy if the media focus on "jobs migrating to India" causes any kind of backlash against Indian Americans. I don't think it will. But we have to entertain the possibility.

My point was that, through globalization, US power is now being woven into the very fabric of foreign political structures, both at the national and party levels. In an age of anti-Americanism and terror, we must always be mindful of this. We don't necessarily have to do anything about it--but we can't close our eyes and pretend it's not happening either.

posted by: Kelli on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

Kelli says:
"They (Indians in USA) contribute much to the nation, are well-adapted and integrated, intermarry at a high rate."

What is your evidence that they intermarry? In my prof life I knew hundreds of Indians, maybe 90% newcomers and 10% born here. I knew one (that is 1) Indian (first gen) who married American girl. All first gen came with wifes or mail-ordered wifes from the old country. Remarkably, all sec gen fellows I knew, went to India to pick up their mail-order.

It is anecdotal evidence, but 15-20 USA born fellows, ALL of whom went to the old country to pick love of their lifes? Rather remarkable, don't you think?

posted by: Mik on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]


I did a little poking around, and here's what I found. You probably are seeing an accurate slice of life in your office--more than 90% of Indian-born men in this country DO look home or within the Indian community for wives. But looking a bit ahead, to the second, and even the 1.5 generation (those who come to the country as children with their parents)here's what the 2000 Census says: Indian Americans are the ethnic group MOST likely to marry out of their group. For men, just over half (54.4%) of them marry fellow Indian Americans or Indians. More than a third (34.9) marry whites; when marriages to black, Hispanic and other Asian Americans are figured in, the outmarriage rate for men is over 40%. For Indian American women the figures are somewhat lower: 27.9% of them marry whites; with marriages to other ethnic groups added in, they still marry out around one-third of the time.

Can I rest my case?

posted by: Kelli on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

Dear Mik,

You write:
"Any person who can read knows that at least one or two million Israelies disagree. I would hazard to guess that at least two to five million Americans also disagree.

Other than this minor point I'm impressed with your knowledge of military strategies. Sharon should hire you as his Defence minister."

Thank you, Mik. I turned away from the path of glory a long time ago, and now I find myself retreading it's pathway. Soldiering is in the family blood. So is business. Once upon a time, great things were expected from me but I choose the hermit's life. Now I think I need to rejoin the fight. If Sharon hired me, I'd build that wall in a defensible position, relocate both Palestinians and Jews unilaterally, and provide developmental aid to soften the blow.

Screw waiting for the Palestinians to negotiate, just impose a settlement that after they stop screaming murder they'll realize was a halfway decent deal and things will probably get better. Always be the die hards, but that's what Mossad is for afterall, right?

Dear Kelli

You write:

Who loves ya? Me.

I'm truly touched Kelli. My two great failures in life were not achieving the greatness my father wished for me before his death, and failing to win the love of a good woman. Your comment however innocent eases slightly the burden of the latter. Alas, cupid has not been so kind to the oldman. I wish my father could have lived to see what I plan to do next ... I disappointed him so while he lived. So thanks for the vote of confidence Kelli, and fully expect me to keep it up and then some. Things are gonna change for the better... even if I have to do it myself! ;-)

posted by: Oldman on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

There is nothing strange about 10% of ITPAA members being Indian-American, although only if, as I assume, virtually of those Indians were born in America. As an American-born son of Indian immigrants, I find it crucial to clarify that there is a HUGE difference between Indian immigrants and American-born Indians.

Many Indian immigrants these days are more loyal to India than to America. They are obsessed with the outsourcing issue because it will help India, but they don't care about what happens to American workers.
However (and I am not trying to boast or say that we are super-patriotic, but it's just a matter of accuracy) all American-born Indians are completely loyal to America. Not super-patriotic, but as solidly patriotic as the next American. We are not the same as the immigrants, for crying out loud!

Bottom line: Many (althouh not all) Indian-born Indians care more about India than about America. They don't care about the welfare of American workers, because they view Americans as "the other" rather than "one of us." Criticism of these people is justified; some of these people should be publicly characterized as traitors against America (recieving the fruits of America yet backstabbing the nation by making it their personal mission to get jobs sent overseas to the "motherland" of India).
However, all (yes, all) American-born Indians care much more about America than India. A large proportion of Indian-Americans go into engineering and computer science, and so they are overrepresented in those fields that feel threats from outsourcing. Therefore American-born Indians should indeed constitute a substantial portion of people active against outsourcing, there is nothing surprising about it.

Given the excessive PC surrounding race and ethnicity (i.e. it's offensive to talk against immigration in the prescence of Hispanics, or it's offensive to talk against affirmative action in the prescence of blacks), it's important that no one feels it is offensive to talk against outsourcing in the prescence of Indians. You may often find an especially receptive audience among American-born Indians who are employed in or in school for science and technology fields.

posted by: Jay on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

Thank goodness there is a fellow Indian-American who feels that outsourcing is NOT a good thing! I absolutely agree to your POV about Indian-born Indians who see it in their self-interest to make sure the American jobs go to India.

I would loathe the Indian newspapers that boast about how they are acquiring jobs while we Americans lose ours. (And there is a sense of brutal teasing on part of the Indian publications--meaning they *India* are gaining and we *America* are losing and there's nothing we can do about it).

However, don't truly blame the foreign workers who came here on visas to do our work or the workers overseas who are taking our jobs. The people whom we should really be angered about are the CEOs and the Government (yes the Almighty American Government). The CEOs are looking for a rather gigantic profit margin (what to do with that profit is another story) and the Government are not doing enough to stop this disease.
I just hope what Kerry says in his campaign is the real deal and not election-talk.

posted by: anonymous on 03.02.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

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