Jewish World Review July 13, 2004 / 24 Tamuz, 5764

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Consumer Reports

Terminating American jobs | The state of California has devised a new plan to help solve its ongoing budget crisis. But while that plan might save California millions of dollars in the next fiscal year, there's a good chance it will leave some of the state's own residents waving goodbye to their jobs. California recently signed a contract with a Canadian-owned consulting firm, which may recommend that the state export some taxpayer-funded government jobs to cheap foreign labor markets.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared shortly after his inauguration that he would not rest until California was "a competitive job-creating machine." To be fair, the governor never specified for whom those competitive jobs would be created. If he meant those jobs would be created for the people of India, then the governor is well on his way to delivering on his jobs promise.

California's latest plan to cut back government spending has put it in business with a rather strange bedfellow. The state signed a multi-year deal with CGI-AMS, a company that specializes in streamlining purchasing operations. California spends nearly $5 billion per year buying goods and services, and now a foreign company will be in charge of recommending how the state of California spends all that money.

There is no guarantee that exporting jobs will be a part of CGI-AMS' recommendations. And the state reserves the right to make any and all final decisions. But CGI's Web site openly boasts its global delivery centers in Mumbai and Bangalore, India, and with the contract structured so that the company receives a percentage of any savings it recommends, it seems likely that California will lose some of its government jobs to overseas labor markets.

Many state legislators are concerned that this deal signals a move toward outsourcing its jobs. Democratic Assemblywoman Carol Liu believes it to be an inappropriate way to save state resources. "I know the governor is looking for ways to reduce spending, but we are very concerned that he is trying to outsource jobs," Liu said.

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Prior to California's recent decision, Liu introduced legislation that would ban state agencies from using government funds to contract for services unless the work is performed in the United States. And Liu's not alone. Thirty-five states have introduced legislation aimed at curbing the practice of outsourcing American jobs, according to Justin Marks, policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Unfortunately, many of those bills have failed or are still pending. Only one state - Tennessee - has enacted such a measure.

Jamie Court, author of the book "Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom...and What You Can Do About It" (Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2004), told me that no state in the union should be legitimizing a taxpayer-paid bounty to a company wishing to send jobs abroad. "I think this is an unprecedented attempt to use power to offer a bounty to an outsourcing firm to downsize Californian taxpayers' jobs, using their own money," he said.

The exporting of American jobs by state governments is not exactly unprecedented. At least 40 states have contracts with companies that use overseas workers rather than Americans to staff state call centers, Marks said. But hiring a foreign company to possibly ship government jobs abroad at the expense of the taxpayer is certainly a new strategy.

The state of California said it aims to save hundreds of millions of dollars per year through this partnership. But the state is most likely failing to account for the lost income tax revenue and higher costs of state services that come with outsourcing jobs. As Court said, "If you save hundreds of millions of dollars by outsourcing California's jobs, you're also depleting the tax base. It's sort of a circuitous reasoning."

As the world's fifth-largest economy, California should be setting a positive example by keeping American jobs at home. Despite any cost savings that may arise, it's more important for the state to provide good jobs and good wages to its citizens than unemployment benefits and job training.

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Lou Dobbs is the anchor and managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Moneyline." Comment by clicking here.

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