Friday, June 11, 2004
Video lives forever
Faithful readers of danieldrezner.com may remember that around three months ago, I did an interview on tape for ABC World News Tonight on Kerry's tax proposal and offshore outsourcing in general. At the time, I wrote:
In the end, ABC cut my interview.
However, I have been informed by close friends that part of my interview was aired tonight on World News Tonight -- nearly three months later. Why? Probably to follow up on the BLS data -- but I still need to read the transcript. [UPDATE: I was finally able to watch the segment on the web by accessing this page, but you have to (temporarily) subscribe to RealOne to see it. The story was on the BLS report. All I say is, "People are panicking a lot over a very, very small part of the job picture." But I look way smart saying it.]
While it's nice to get the airtime, it is somewhat unsettling to think that ABC will be playing bits and pieces of that interview if outsourcing should crop up again on World News Tonight.
When I related this anecdote to someone way above my policymaking pay grade, they nodded sagely and said, "Always go live -- avoid taped interviews, because then you're at the mercy of the producer and the reporter."
So now I know. And you do too.
Blogging and partisanship
My last guest post is up at GlennReynolds.com. It's on whether blogging improves or degrades the quality of political argumentation across the political aisle. I remain cautiously optimistic.
Go check it out.
Same network, different worlds
CNN's Chris Isidore provides the most in-depth coverage of the BLS report showing that offshore outsourcing is responsible for a piddling number of lost jobs. Among other things, he has the only story I've seen that actually quotes anyone from the BLS.
Isidore's story provides a lovely contrast with to how fellow CNN employee Lou Dobbs ran with the same information on his show. Let's compare and contrast!
Read the whole thing -- Isidore does a good job of explaining the caveats to the BLS numbers, as well as giving critics an opportunity to make their points.
To be fair, Dobbs and Sylvester did not out-and-out lie in their version of events. They just left out
We here at danieldrezner.com salute Lou Dobbs for his unique ability to slant data that flatly contradicts his hypothesis -- as well as CNN's other reportage. Way to go Lou!!
For other treatments of this story, check out Paul Blustein in the Washington Post, as well as the New York Times and Financial Times. The Washington Post also has a nice round-up of other press treatments.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
The BLS weighs in on offshoring
One of the problems with the outsourcing debate is that the estimates about job losses due to offshoring are mostly coming from management consultants, who appear to be basing those numbers on some really shoddy guesstimates. Official data collection from the Bureau of Labor Statistics didn't sem to directly address this phenomenon. My back-of-the-envelope calculations from the BLS Mass Layoff data suggested that the number of people laid off due to offshoring was around and about 3% of total layoffs.
Starting this calendar year, however, the BLS decided to ask employers whether offshore outsourcing -- or onshore subcontracting that led to offshore outsourcing -- was the reason for the mass layoff.
Data for the first quarter are now available for extended mass layoffs -- and it turns out that my 3% estimate was incorrect. This is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics press release:
So, to conclude -- the percentage of jobs lost due to mass layoffs -- in turn due to offshore outsourcing -- as a percentage of total jobs lost through mass layoffs was not 3% -- it was a whopping 1.9%. If you drop out seasonal employment, the figure rises to 2.5%. So my back of the envelope calculations from a few months ago are an exaggeration. My apologies.
The caveats -- this data does not cover two other kinds of job loss via outsourcing -- 1) Those let go due to ousourcing when fewer than 50 people were let go; and 2) Those jobs created de novo overeas that may have been created in the U.S. instead were it not for the outsourcing phenomenom.
At the same time, this data also does not cover two kids of job gains via outsourcing -- 1) Those jobs created via insourcing, when a foreign firm hires U.S. workers; and 2) Those jobs created via the budgetary savings reaped from outsourcing.
The bottom line -- offshore outsourcing is responsible for a piddling number of lost jobs.
I'll be commenting on these figures this evening for Nightly Business Report on PBS. Check your local listings!!
UPDATE: Here's how Reuters plays the story:
Only trouble is, the headline says "OUTSOURCING CAUSES 9% OF U.S. LAYOFFS" -- which is true but includes onshore as well as offshore outsourcing.
Blogging will be light the next couple of days, as I'll be attending/presenting at the Council on Foreign Relations National Meeting. I'm bringing the wi-fi, but this meeting is an all-day affair, and blogging is not an accepted social practice at CFR meetings.... yet.
Last year, Howell Raines resigned while I was en route -- I wonder if something big will happen this time around.....
Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Matt Stoller, tendentious liberal
Matt Stoller has a post over at Blogging of the President entitled, "Daniel Drezner, The Mediocre Reasonable Conservative." I'm going to reprint the bulk of it here so no one can claim anything was taken out of context:
Wow -- how to respond:
1) Yep, it's true -- I was clearly defending "the anti-semitic attacks on George Soros" when I said in the post Matt linked to that I thought Tony Blankley excelled at "saying unbelievably stupid things," or when I said "Blankley is clearly an ass. As a Jew, I find that last bolded sentence repugnant" or when I approvingly linked to Eugene Volokh's post on why Blankley's statement was anti-Semitic.
It's a good thing Matt wasn't selective in how he quoted the post, or someone might have gotten the wrong impression.
2) As for the charge that I've neglected Iraq as difficulties have mounted -- once again I'll plead guilty to Stoller's charge. I've only discussed the mistakes made in Iraq here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here over the past six weeks.
3) Stoller has a fair point in stating that "calling a serious thinker on international politics a 'loon' without evidence is tantamount to intellectual cheating." Of course, I think have a fair point in saying that Soros is not a serious thinker on international politics. Part of the reason I didn't go further into thoughts on Soros is that they're going to appear in another venue. However, if Stoller wants some evidence, here's a brief snippet from my forthcoming review of The Bubble of American Diplomacy:
4) Finally, for someone who gets outraged at offensive and anti-Semitic rhetoric (a truly bold position), I'm not sure whether it's rhetorically useful for Stoller to say I'm "cowardly" or compare me with "the business elite who dealt with Hitler." After reading that latter point in particular, my first reaction was, "gee, Matt Stoller is an anti-Semitic schmuck." My second reaction is the title of this post.
Stoller would probably label this post as "defensive" -- because it is. I have no qualms labeling his original his post as "dishonest."
My short responses:
1) Don't worry Matt -- I won't be devoting much time or effort to your prose in the future.
2) For the record, George Soros is clearly not insane, and I apologize if I gave that impression (thouh I don't think I did). He's accomplished many great things as a philanthropist. But even he describes his political views as "rabid." When they're not that, they're banal. If Stoller wants to take Soros seriously, fine -- that's his waste of time.
3) Oh, please -- an empire that sent in fewer troops than was necessary? An administration that now seems hell-bent on getting out of the country? Where's your evidence for empire?
Reflecting on Reagan
My latest guest post on Glenn Reynolds' MSNBC blog is up -- and surprise, surprise, it's about Reagan's legacy.
Go check it out.
My selfish reason for supporting gay marriage
From a purely selfish perspective, I shouldn't give a rat's ass one way or the other about the ability of gay Americans to get married. I'm not gay; I wasn't prevented from getting hitched. I think the argument that gay marriage undercuts the institution is hogwash, so whether it's legal shouldn't matter to me. I would derive some empathetic pleasure from seeing gay friends getting married, but that hasn't happened yet, so no effect there. There are many excellent reasons to support it, but none of them would appear to affect me directly.
However, The Onion reminds me of one personal incentive to support gay marriage with their fake news story, "Gay Couple Feels Pressured to Marry.":
The ability to ask my gay friends and colleagues when they're planning to get hitched and watch them squirm with discomfort answering the question -- that's going to be enjoyable.
Public opinion about offshore outsourcing
A while back, I blogged here and here about how American consumer behavior seems generally unaffected by the spectre of outsourcing -- i.e., Americans make choices based more on price than origin of production.
To be fair, some people do not think this way -- click here for a few examples courtesy of Newsweek. Beyond anecdotal evidence, however, what do Americans now think about outsourcing? And do these feelings affect their behavior?
Two recent polls -- one by the Employment Law Alliance ("the world’s largest independent network of labor and employment attorneys") and one by Ipsos (for the Associated Press) suggest some commonalities and cleavages on the issue.
On the one hand, the polls largely confirm that most Americans are mercantilists at heart. The Ipsos poll shows that 69% of Americans believe that outsourcing hurts the country -- and only 17% think it helps the economy. 58% of respondents in the ELA poll believe that companies outsourcing work that could be done by Americans to offshore contractors should be penalized by the US government.
At the same time, the ELA poll shows that 46% of Americans believe that offshoring has been exaggerated by the media. Still, it would be hard not to conclude that most Americans think offshore outsourcing is a bad thing.
So how does this affect actual consumer behavior? Here the answer changes. On the one hand, the Ipsos poll shows that when asked to choose between a product made in the USA and a similar one made elsewhere, 93% of Americans say that they'd buy the American product. However, if the foreign good is cheaper, that percentage falls to 54%. Furthermore, a slight plurality (38% to 35%) do not check product labels so as to "buy American."
The AP story by Will Lester goes on to suggest a generational divide in the economic reaction -- with younger folks more sanguine:
As the story concludes, "Fresh concerns about U.S. jobs being shipped overseas are not being turned into renewed public sentiment to buy American."
So, to sum up -- Americans do not like offshore outsourcing as a phenomenon -- but over time, and increasing number of them are happy to reap the benefits of it as consumers.
This is really the biggest intellectual divide on the outsourcing issue -- whether one thinks the most important effect of offshoring is on employment or on consumption. Most Americans say the former but do not act on it. The data I've seen suggest that outsourcing's effect on employment is negligible -- and the effect on consumption is a positive one.
Just what is Ralph Peters smoking?
The Reagan tributes continue apace (mine will be up shortly). The immediacy of his passing, combined with the fact that the last time president who served two full terms died was thirty-five years ago, means there's going to be a bit of rhetorical overkill.
For an example, consider Ralph Peters' New York Post column (link via James Joyner). The column does an excellent job of describing how the morale and training within the ranks of the military improved dramatically under Reagan. But it also contains this bit of comparison between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan:
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but to me Peters' implication was that Reagan's predecessor did not mean it when saluting the Marine guards.
Now, like Virginia Postrel, the stark contrasts between Carter and Reagan is the reason why I registered as a Republican at age 18. But Peters goes too far here. Jimmy Carter was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and served for seven years as an officer in the Navy. His service was in the nuclear-submarine program under Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, a man known for having some pretty high standards. As James Joyner points out, "[Carter] presided over many of the changes that would lead to the fielding of terrific new equipment in the early 1980s."
Was Carter a failure as a president? Good God, yes. But I have no doubt that
To be fair to Peters, I may be jumping on poor phrasing rather than Peters' actual intent. But there it is.
UPDATE: Thanks to William Kaminsky for linking to this New York Times story on presidential salutes -- turns out that Reagan was the first president to return a military salute. [So, like, this trashes your Carter argument, right?--ed. Only if you relegate every other President before Reagan -- including Washington, Madison, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower -- into the same category as Carter.]
Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Chavez referendum update
A brief follow-up to my last post on efforts to recall Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The New York Times reports that a referendum date has been set in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez:
So, hurdle one -- canceling the referendum via a technicality or legal delay -- has been cleared. However, the BBC reports that Chavez will not be taking this challenge lying down: "He has already begun campaigning, warning voters of the consequences of an opposition victory."
More cost savings from protectionism
It seems that California is not the only state that is coming to grips with the costs that come from outlawing offshore outsourcing.
The AP's Allen Breed reports that in the wake of efforts to block the offshore outsourcing of government contracts, some state legislatures don't like the pricey hangover:
How IT salaries are affected by outsourcing
The Boston Globe's Diane E. Lewis reports on the effect that offshore outsourcing is having on IT salaries:
Read the whole article -- and you can download the executive summary of the META group report by clicking here (registration required).
Given that 2000 was the peak of dot.com hysteria, the salary rebound is pretty impressive.
UPDATE: This elaboration on salary structure comes from page 11 of the executive summary:
As for the magnitude of offshoring (from page 16):
Monday, June 7, 2004
A very important post about.... Jennifer Lopez
I have no doubt that hundreds of tabloid writers and millions of Americans are salivating over Jennifer Lopez's third marriage -- this time to Latin crooner Marc Anthony. [There are other reasons millions of Americans might salivate over J. Lo--ed. You know my preferences when it comes to Latino film stars.]
Far be it for danieldrezner.com to deny Americans their God-given right to mock celebrities. However, since I've been defending American celebrities as of late, let me stick up for J. Lo's recent nuptials. Consider the following:
1) J. Lo's moving up the talent chain. This Bill Zwecker column in the Chicago Sun Times nicely encapsulates J Lo's romantic history:
There is an encouraging trend here. With each successive relationship, J. Lo's beau seems to have an increasing amount of talent -- which presumably raises the level of mutual respect between Miss Lopez and her significant other. One can easily make the claim that Anthony is the best singer of the lot, but one could also say he's the best actor of the lot -- Anthony's
2) "Marcifer" have a lot in common. Turns out J. Lo and Anthony have known each other and been friends for more than a decade. Furthermore, as the Sun-Times story notes:
Maybe these two crazy kids have a future together.
3) Compare J. Lo with some of her peers. Consider the recent statements of some other women who aspire to achieve celebrity status in more than one artistic realm.
The Associated Press reports the following about singer/actor/dancer Janet Jackson:
Meanwhile, here's the latest on fashion designer/model/actress Paris Hilton, according to MSNBC's Kat Giantis:
4) J. Lo's marriage has already lasted longer than Britney Spears'.
By celebrity standards, Miss Lopez seems to have her head screwed on reasonably straight. We here at danieldrezner.com wish the newlywed couple the best of luck!
UPDATE: Kat Giantis has further details on the wedding itself, plus the following:
When protectionists flunk reading comprehension
Hey, I'm moving up in the world -- my New York Times review of Jagdish Bhagwati's In Defense of Globalization is the topic of an Alan Tonelson essay at the leading protectionist web site, americaneconomicalert.org.
We here at danieldrezner.com would have more confidence that globalization opponents know what’s best for typical Americans – and their counterparts around the world – if they even occasionally displayed the dimmest understanding of basic economics. But dreaming up self-serving, wildly off-base caricatures is so much easier than studying and learning.
Tonelson must not have have actually read the rest of the review, which was sufficiently critical of whether Professor Bhagwati actually rose to that challenge to prompt an response from Bhagwati.
Actually, what I was saying that there was a need for an economist to use the language of the average Joe. That requires two things -- a good economist and a good writer. The passages Tonelson cites are the background I provided (as any competent reviewer should) about Bhagwati's bona fides as a good economist. If Alan had read just a teensy bit further down that paragraph, he would have seen that I also said: "Born in India, educated in Britain and now an American citizen, he can claim to understand all points of view. He has won multiple prizes for excellence in economic writing." (emphasis added)
Yeah, nesting in the heart of America’s political establishment (Washington, DC) as "a Research Fellow at the U.S. Business & Industry Educational Foundation" displays a much greater common touch.
Sigh. Again, if Tonelson had actually bothered to read the review, he would have noticed that the paragraph before the one he quoted contained the following: "Public opinion polls repeatedly show Americans to be wary about globalization. The problem is not that economists are starting to doubt their own arguments -- the problem is that the rest of society neither understands nor believes them. Between statistical evidence showing that trade is good for the economy and tangible anecdotes of sweatshops and job losses, most citizens trust the anecdotes."
Oh, and about the Americans facing "weakened job security"? Funny thing about that assertion. As Brink Lindsey pointed out a few months ago, the aggregate number of jobs destroyed in the U.S. economy fell by 9.6% between 2001 and 2002 (from 35.4 million to 32 million).
Tonelson gets a C- in wit and an F in reading comprehension.
[So let's see -- Bhagwati didn't like your review, and the protectionists didn't like your review. Does anyone like your review?--ed. Chester thought it had many fine points.]
I've outsourced my latest outsourcing post
Practicing what I preach, instead of posting my latest mini-essay on offshore outsourcing here at danieldrezner.com, I've outsourced it to... GlennReynolds.com. Regular readers will recognize some of the material, but there's a lot of new stuff as well!
Go check it out.