Free Trade Costs White Collar Jobs, Too

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Outsourcing in the United States has obviously been a major obstacle for American manufacturers over that last two decades, but it isn’t the only sector that’s been torn apart by free trade. Even though manufacturing is touted as a key industry to revitalizing the lagging economy, careers in computer technology are also feeling the burn of offshore production.

University of California professor Norm Matloff warns that outsourcing and H-1B visas, which bring foreign workers into U.S. firms, are destroying the U.S. software engineering profession. Computer science departments have been stymied, because they are heavily dependent on research and faculty funds from the very firms whose outsourcing practices are destroying the occupation in America.

Falling enrollments also mean fewer faculty positions and graduate students. Despite their funding being threatened by fewer enrollments, most computer science professors are unwilling to contradict their corporate benefactors’ erroneous claims that outsourcing is somehow good for America.

Instead, the professors acknowledge that programming is a lost occupation for Americans and claim that there is still a future for American students in designing computer systems—a field dubbed “computer software systems architecture.” Matloff, a computer science professor himself, does not agree with this. He points out that it is impossible to design computer systems without having years of programming experience. If you lose programming, you lose the base for the occupation, and all the rest goes offshore as well.

Some economists claim that lost occupations will return to the United States once wages rise in India and China. Matloff disagrees again, pointing out that manufacturing work has not returned to the U.S. as foreign wages have risen. America is carelessly forfeiting both its manufacturing and high-tech occupations.

Other economists allege that other new high-tech professions will rise to take the place of the lost computer engineering profession. But, as Matloff points out, venture capitalists routinely demand that the new companies they finance outsource as much as possible to maximize profits.

Business is business, and whether you are selling engine turbines or smart phone software, outsourcing to an area with no labor regulations creates a fiscal advantage. The purported claim that only blue collar, labor jobs are outsourced by free trade is preposterous. Entire industries are slipping away from the grasp of the United States, and through a deluded sense of optimism, we are allowing it to continue.

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