Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Why Obama should stop talking about outsourcing

Well, President Obama has been speaking non-stop about outsourcing. In his campaign video that I’m being subjected to endlessly in Northern Virginia, he’s even trotted out a new word: "insourcing."  I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s just toeing the line drawn by his union supporters. Otherwise, there is something ...

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Well, President Obama has been speaking non-stop about outsourcing. In his campaign video that I'm being subjected to endlessly in Northern Virginia, he's even trotted out a new word: "insourcing." 

I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's just toeing the line drawn by his union supporters. Otherwise, there is something clearly awry with his Council of Economic Advisors.

But stop the presses: Obama is guilty of outsourcing, too. And while president. He's outsourcing security at our embassy in Iraq (and probably others but I've only wasted time checking one).

Well, President Obama has been speaking non-stop about outsourcing. In his campaign video that I’m being subjected to endlessly in Northern Virginia, he’s even trotted out a new word: "insourcing." 

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s just toeing the line drawn by his union supporters. Otherwise, there is something clearly awry with his Council of Economic Advisors.

But stop the presses: Obama is guilty of outsourcing, too. And while president. He’s outsourcing security at our embassy in Iraq (and probably others but I’ve only wasted time checking one).

President Obama is outsourcing our national security. Literally. Take a gander at this part of the website provided by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Almost all firms are foreign and those that aren’t employ lots of third-country nationals. He is advertising for outsourcing firms with your tax dollars…which means Barack Obama is promoting outsourcing with your tax dollars.

Rather than delve into this too deeply let me just say two things: These firms are all very good at what they do. Very good. Second, this is who should be doing this work. This is not a job for the U.S. military. They are not security guards. Rather, outsourcing these jobs is the right thing to do, and who cares what their mailing address is or where their employees come from? Obviously, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton agree with me because they have kept this Bush-era policy for more than three years. Three years of government outsourcing and President Obama still carries on — and I applaud him for it.

Yes, it’s a blatant attempt at avoiding discussion of the Obama economy. But this outsourcing rhetoric has the benefit of putting Obama’s economic literacy on display — and it’s worrying. There is a very serious conversation to be had about what the president’s economic policies have translated into for American leverage around the globe and we will get to that in future posts. (In the meantime, if you want more finesse and grey matter on the subject you can read about it here.)

The frightening thing about this outsourcing discussion is that the president appears to believe his rhetoric. I assume it’s just politics but it’s dishonest politics, even so. The reason for outsourcing is to achieve greater economic efficiency. Of course, the national security realm is hardly the area that you want to see that pushed as a first order priority. But don’t forget, there are Americans who can do this security work, and who are better trained than anyone else. They are just more expensive.

So, why isn’t Obama doing anything about this dangerous outsourcing of thousands of jobs with taxpayer money on his watch? There can only be three answers here.

The first is that he’s just not paying attention. Fair enough. Why would the president of the United States focus on security guard contracts? But this is the biggest embassy on the planet and withdrawal from Iraq and downsizing the embassy there is the centerpiece of his foreign policy. He paid enough attention to remove his nominee for ambassador to that post. He also talked about the embassy security guards in his campaign. (Remember Blackwater? He and the his party carped on the subject for so long the company actually had to leave the country, which is another "feature" of the president’s policies and anti-capitalist populist rhetoric that merit a separate post.)

But back to why Obama is perfectly aware of his outsourcing. This subject has been the centerpiece of his re-election campaign thus far. After three-plus years of promoting various economic policies this is the one he has chosen to highlight. The only one. He has spent millions of dollars to tell people that he cares about this. And yet, those outsourcees still have their jobs.

Remember all that talk about jobs created and saved? He saved some jobs alright — outsourced ones. And remember I’ve only looked at just this one embassy. It’s too silly to look for more, though I’m certain other examples exist. This could potentially involve thousands of people. In January, the State Department estimated the embassy would cost $3.5 billion, annually, to run. Think of how many jobs you could save or create with all that cheddar.

The cynical explanation for all this is that the military is not represented by the SEIU or AFCSME. When the union bosses want something this president delivers. He knows who butters his bread. This is just a case where the union bosses haven’t had much to say. They just don’t care, so he doesn’t care.

Before the president’s advisors take me literally, I am not advocating that the military be unionized and turned into the TSA. The State Department already is unionized and that’s quite enough.

The third explanation is that the president is full of it and just wants to distract from discussion of the economy under Obamanomics. The monthly job report should tell you all you need to know about how well Obama is performing his "insourcing" duties, or his grasp of economics, for that matter. The president is making an absurd economic claim that he himself is spending billions — much of it your money — contradicting. And were he to "fix" it, it would put people’s lives in danger. Obviously, this is a bit of a stark example. But it also highlights just how bogus this line line of argument is. Sometimes the examples are very simple: Labor is expensive and companies move manufacturing to a new location where it’s cheaper. Sometimes jobs are moved to India. Sometimes they go to right-to-work places like South Carolina. In this case, American labor is expensive so the embassy has called upon third-country nationals. It’s all outsourcing. We’ve seen the president move heaven and earth to try to block the opening of a new factory in South Carolina. Yet, here he is promoting outsourcing at the U.S.’ largest embassy abroad and most likely at others.

So next time you hear Mr. Obama expound on outsourcing (or God help us, outsourcing vs. insourcing) remember that the president has turned to outsourced labor to protect the forward edge of the unclenched fist, the reset button, smart power, etc. etc.

Kristofer Harrison was a Defense and State Department advisor during the George W. Bush administration, and is a principal of ITJ Strategies.

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