Candidates aim to tar rivals over the outsourcing of jobs

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Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO has created a job-tracker database that it says lists on more than 400,000 corporations that have exported jobs, violated health and safety codes or engaged in discriminatory or other illegal practices.

The ongoing debate overlooks the fact that most economists generally agree that the decline of American manufacturing and the increase in white-collar jobs relocating offshore are a natural step in embracing the modern global economy.

“All you have to do is look at the price tags of the stuff that comes from Asia, specifically China, and compare that with what it was five or 10 years ago,” Mr. Montgomery said. “That benefit is spread across larger number of people than just ones who are directly affected by their job moving to China.”

Mr. Montgomery estimates that no more than 500,000 of the 8 million jobs lost since the start of the recession are attributable to offshoring.

The issue of outsourcing started gaining attention in the 1970s when manufacturing jobs started migrating to countries such as Taiwan and Mexico, where labor was cheaper.

But in this decade, as the recession has taken its toll and more high-paying white-collar jobs have started to follow manufacturing positions overseas, the debate over trade has mushroomed.

In the 2004 presidential election, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrats, blasted away at President George W. Bush after his top economic adviser wrote that the movement of U.S. jobs offshore owing to cheaper labor costs would prove “a plus for the economy in the long run.”

Four years later, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, came under fire in the Republican presidential primary after he told a crowd in Michigan, “I’ve got to give you some straight talk: Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back.

“They are not. And I am sorry to tell you that,” he said.

While many believe that statement, and many like it, have made sound economic sense, with the economy and job loss first and foremost in voters’ minds, Democrats and Republicans have learned that when it comes to winning an election, nice-sounding political rhetoric can trump unfortunate economic realities, said Steven M. Suranovick, an economics professor at George Washington University.

“Voters and workers are looking for short-term solutions to a problem that has been here for a couple years now, and it is very easy for politicians to pick up on and point the finger at outsourcing as a way of gathering support - especially among blue-collar workers,” he said.

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