By Zaid Jilani
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning finds that 44 percent, a plurality, of Americans think the economy is getting worse, rather than staying the same or getting better. With unemployment hovering around 9.6 percent while economic inequality is at levels not seen since the Depression, many Americans feel as if the economy is leaving them behind.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that Corporate America certainly isn’t doing its part to help bring America out of its economic malaise. The paper surveyed employment data by some of the nation’s largest corporations — General Electric, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Cisco, Intel, Stanley Works, Merck, United Technologies, and Oracle — and found that they cut their workforces by 2.9 million people over the last decade while hiring 2.4 million people overseas.
The paper notes that this is actually a sharp reversal from trends in the late 1990s, when these major companies were creating more jobs in the United States than overseas. Yet by 2001, things took a turn for the worse, and these corporations have been adding more jobs abroad than at home, as is illustrated here:
As you can see from the chart, the economic recession has had little impact on Corporate America’s patriotism. In fact, in 2009, representatives of many of the nation’s most powerful corporations attended the “2009 Strategic Outsourcing Conference” to talk about how to send American jobs overseas. Conference organizers polled the more than 70 senior executives who attended the conference about the behavior of their companies in response to the recession. The majority said their companies increased outsourcing in response to the downturn, with only 9 percent saying they terminated some outsourcing agreements:
Another question asked of the executives found that the top reason for companies to outsource was to “reduce operating costs” (46 percent of respondents). Only 12 percent of respondents said their reason for outsourcing was “access to world class capabilities.” This means companies are outsourcing to save themselves money, not make better products.
Unfortunately, for some of these companies, sending American jobs overseas isn’t enough. They also want to bring the profits back into the United States with as little tax liability as possible. Cisco Systems, which had 26 percent of its workforce abroad at the start of the decade but 46 percent of its workforce abroad by the end, is currently involved in a lobbying campaign titled “Win America” calling for a tax repatriation holiday that would let big corporations “bring money they have stashed overseas back to the U.S. at a dramatically lower tax rate.” A similar tax break in 2004 actually increased the amount of money companies store overseas.