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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

The Obama Jobs Program: Ship ‘em to Sri Lanka

In June, 2010, there were roughly 14 million unemployed Americans.  President Obama has made much noise about saving or creating jobs, jobs bills, and extending unemployment benefits.  My dad used to say “actions speak louder than words”, and Barack Obama’s actions belie his claims to care about creation of jobs.  Case in point:  training programmers in Sri Lanka to offshore American jobs.

Despite President Obama’s pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $22 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia.Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent’s low labor costs.

Candidate Obama was adamant about reducing offshoring by “denying tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas”.  But now we have USAID, led by Obama appointee Rajiv Shah, funding Sri Lanka’s small-but-growing offshoring industry:

“Courses in Business Process Outsourcing, Enterprise Java, and English Language Skills will be offered at no charge to over 3,000 under- and unemployed students who will then participate in on-the-job training schemes with private firms,” the embassy said.

USAID is also partnering with Sri Lankan companies in other industries, including construction and garment manufacturing, to help create 10,000 new jobs in the country, which is still recovering from a 30-year civil war that ended in 2009.

But it’s the outsourcing program that’s sure to draw the most fire from critics. While Obama acknowledged that occupations such as garment making don’t add much value to the U.S. economy, he argued relentlessly during his presidential run that lawmakers needed to do more to keep hi-tech jobs in IT, biological sciences, and green energy in the country.

He also accused the Bush administration of creating tax loopholes that made it easier for U.S. companies to place work offshore in low-cost countries.

(Note the obligatory “Blame Bush” hit)

The Obama administration is using taxpayer money to train foreign programmers to provide offshoring/outsourcing for American companies.  Should we not be investing these training funds in retraining unemployed Americans?  In a time when “onshoring” appears to be catching on, Obama again finds himself on the wrong end of the strategy spectrum.

But we should expect little more from a president whose biggest strength is campaigning.  Unfortunately for us, we have discovered that that’s about all he knows how to do (unless you count the systematic destruction of the nation’s economy – he excels at that, also.)

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