US election focus on jobs could backfire on Ireland
“It’s the first time we’ve seen the figures between the two used in that fashion,” said Murphy. “If Ireland is pointed at in terms of jobs being moved offshore . . . we should continually point out that Irish companies are creating jobs in the US at the same rate.”
This balance “is an argument that is and should be used”, he continued. “It’s worth putting this out. It would be good that it gets out in the US media that Ireland is an employer in the US – just in case Ireland gets mentioned more in the election rhetoric.”
Irish companies in the US increased hiring by 16 per cent last year, Enterprise Ireland reported earlier this month, a statistic Murphy called “absolutely spectacular”.
Irish companies that want to export to the US find it necessary to set up operations there “because the US is quite an insular country, and it’s impossible to do exports from Ireland remotely,” Murphy added. “You have to look local. You have to look American. American companies will not ring an Irish telephone number.”
Murphy and Conlon argue that outsourcing, an aspect of free trade, strengthens the parent company in Ireland or the US, and eventually creates more jobs at home.
This is also the prevailing view among US economists. Despite protectionist rhetoric by Obama, there are hints it may even be the policy of the White House.
But in the super-heated atmosphere of the election campaign, outsourcing and offshoring will doubtless continue to be used as epithets, and we’re unlikely to see a rational debate about the merits or otherwise of the practice.
“Offshoring is a powerful political symbol, because it seems unpatriotic [helping foreigners at the expense of Americans] and heartless [putting profits over people],” Robert Samuelson writes on the opinion page of the Washington Post.
“But economics is not politics. The success or failure of the next president in reducing unemployment will depend mostly on how much – or how little – his policies influence Americans to spend, hire and shed their present pessimism.”