Jewish World Review Feb. 17, 2004/ 25 Shevat, 5763
The Default Democrat from another world
How do you feel about "outsourcing"? John Kerry, the Default Democrat that his party's poor voters are trying hard to pretend to be excited about, is very opposed to it. His stump speech includes fierce denunciations of American corporations that export jobs overseas. He has pledged his support for a "Call Center Consumer's Right To Know", which would require that the guy at the call center identify his location at the beginning of every call. Right now, you just get vague hints - for example, if I'm in New Hampshire and dial directory inquiries and ask for a number in Woodsville and the fellow says, "Certainly, sir. What hemisphere is that in?"
Unfortunately, this "Right To Know" system wasn't in place when Kerry's campaign placed calls to potential voters in Wisconsin. So it was only a few observant Democrats with "Caller ID" displays who happened to notice that the calls were coming from an Ontario area code. Ontario is not in the United States. They don't even have call centers in Ontario, only kinky misspelled call centers. Yet all those calls explaining that "John Kerry's the candidate you can count on to stand up to selfish corporations exporting American jobs to foreign countries" were coming from Canada.
So Kerry took immediate action and fired the company. A couple of days later, he found himself beset by rumors about him and a young intern, who's since left the country for Kenya. What a guy. Even his interns are outsourced to Third World jurisdictions. So all the doorstepping of the poor gal that would normally be done by big-time salaried National Enquirer correspondents with expense accounts has now been sub-contracted to minimum-wage East African stringers.
What does Kerry's wife, ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz, make of this? Not the intern, but the outsourcing. Well, the missus's Pittsburgh-based family business has 22 factories in the United States and 57 on foreign soil. Even Heinz is out-sauce-ing its ketchup to foreigners.
Thus, to date, the John Kerry presidential candidacy to keep jobs in America has exported its campaign calls to Ontario, its sex scandal to Kenya, and the spousal ketchup to Middlesex. What's wrong with this picture? Nothing. Except Kerry's hostility to the global economy. Part of this is just the necessary image re-positioning of a politician who suffers from the disadvantage that hardly anything about him appears to be American-made. His education, for example, was outsourced to a Swiss finishing school. But the rest of it betrays an ignorance about how the world works.
For example, whenever I caught Kerry on the stump in New Hampshire, he railed against American companies who, for tax purposes, "rent a post office box in Bermuda". Good for Bermuda, I say. If you couldn't rent a post office box off-shore, you can imagine what rate of business taxes there'd be in America.
At the Davos economic forum the other day, a live greeting was beamed down to the assembled grandees from a British astronaut, who read out some one-world guff about how, viewed from space, the Earth is not divided by borders. I'm sure that's true. It's also true that in space no one can hear you scream, which is just as well, because that's what I'd be doing in a world without borders. If we ever do achieve that blessed utopia, you can pretty much guess which end of the scale the one-world government will set the tax rates at. There'll be no post office boxes in Bermuda and John Kerry, Kofi Annan and Romano Prodi can regulate the economy to their hearts' content.
Right now, they can't. Borders equal choice, and competition. The reason American jobs and companies jump the frontier is because, while the US is one of the more benign countries in the developed world when it comes to personal taxes, the conduct of business there gets more and more onerous, thanks to such factors as the excessive Federal regulation favored by Kerry and his ilk and the exposure to massive lawsuits favored by his principal rival for the Democratic nomination, the pretty-boy trial lawyer John Edwards.
Whenever Kerry goes on about exporting jobs, you're sort of left with the impression that they're all going to some Third World backwater paying its nine-year-old workers six bucks a week. In fact, the senator's Canadian campaign calls are far more typical. Not because trying to explain Kerry's "nuanced" position on Iraq is the kind of highly-skilled job way beyond your average Hutu kindergartner - it seems, in any case, the Ontario calls were automated - but because of simple economic reality.
I wouldn't outsource my campaign calls to Liberia because the phone line out of the country only works for two hours a week and it would be kind of embarrassing to have your Monrovia campaign caller macheted to death by a drug-fuelled gang before she's finished explaining your health-care plan to the guy in Wisconsin. When American companies create jobs abroad, they look for good infrastructure, an educated work force, and less exposure to John Kerry-type micro-regulation - so they go to Ontario, Ireland, England, but not the Sudan.
More importantly, anything John Kerry is likely to do about this problem will make it worse. Because of the protectionist regime set up for the benefit of American sugar producers, Lifesaver candy is now made in Quebec, where sugar is cheaper. The government's artificial insourcing of sugar jobs in Florida does far more damage to the broader economy.
Whatever Kerry thinks, companies are sovereign entities: they can't be geographically contained. The good news is that, in the future, more and more of the world's people will be "sovereign individuals", in William Rees-Mogg's phrase. I doubt very much that tomorrow's Franco-German-British summit will discuss the demographic death-spiral Europe's in, but that's really the only economic factor that will matter in 20 years' time: the shortage of people - on the Continent, in Japan, and elsewhere. If you're, say, an educated Singaporean, you can write your own ticket to anywhere on Earth: you'll be able to outsource yourself. John Kerry's lazy reflex protectionism is irrelevant to this future.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
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© 2004, Mark Steyn