Burning Question

Should Mitt Romney embrace outsourcing?

Mitt says he wasn't in charge when Bain Capital sent U.S. jobs abroad — but he might be wiser to defend the practice as a sound business strategy instead

The Obama campaign has put Mitt Romney on the defensive by relentlessly attacking his record at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded. Undermining Romney's portrayal of himself as a job creator, Obama has pointed out that Bain bought companies, then cut costs and boosted profits by laying off Americans and hiring lower-paid workers overseas. Not on Romney's watch, cries the GOP candidate's camp, arguing that Romney had essentially stopped running the company on a day-to-day basis by the time Bain engaged in outsourcing. But some frustrated Romney supporters say he should stop using technicalities to sidestep the issue and start embracing offshoring as a common business technique that can be good for the U.S. economy. Would that be a smarter move?

Absolutely. Hiring overseas can boost prosperity at home: Instead of nit-picking about when he left Bain, says Michael Tanner at National Review, Romney should be offering a "full-throated defense of capitalism." Contrary to Obama's silly demagoguing, "outsourcing is generally good for America." It allows companies to farm out low-paying, unskilled work, and focus on the more lucrative jobs that Americans do best. Debt, taxes, and regulations — not outsourcing — are destroying U.S. jobs, and "it's time for Mitt Romney to stand up and say so."
"Romney's chance to embrace outsourcing"

But defending outsourcing will expose Romney's ruthlessness: It's true that outsourcing can help companies lower prices, sell more goods, and hire new workers, says Steve Benen at MSNBC. The flip side is that outsourcing also causes undeniable pain for workers at home. For Romney to embrace the practice as a "fact of modern business," he would have to support benefits and training to get those it hurts back on their feet — instead, "he fully intends to shred the safety net."
"The nuances surrounding outsourcing"

The whole argument is dishonest and unproductive: Romney isn't just failing to defend outsourcing, says Robert Robb at The Arizona Republic. He tried to ricochet the outsourcer-in-chief label back at Obama, "because of all the stimulus money that went to foreign firms and operations." Enough. The "dislocating effect of the loss of American manufacturing jobs" is a big issue, and both presidential candidates should address it seriously instead of trying to score cheap political points.
"A vacuous squabble over outsourcing"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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