In this highly polarized electoral season, there may be one piece of legislation on which partisans on both the left and right can probably agree--Congressman Tim Bishop's proposal to ban the United States Agency for International Development from funding training programs designed to prepare students in foreign countries for jobs in offshore IT and call centers.
Bishop, a Long Island Democrat, said on Thursday said he introduced to an appropriations bill language that would severely restrict USAID's ability to spend taxpayers' money by effectively subsidizing foreign employee training costs for highly profitable companies looking to offshore call center jobs in countries like Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Under section 7028 of the FY2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, USAID would be barred from providing funds to any U.S. business that plans to move jobs overseas. It would also forbid the agency from funding training programs that prepare foreign workers for jobs at outsourcing companies.
"Outsourcing is a job killer, and this explicit prohibition on any aid program that makes it easier to send American jobs overseas is long overdue," said Bishop, in a statement. "I made the case to the appropriations committee that this language was necessary to ensure once and for all that American taxpayers are not supporting outsourcing."
InformationWeek first reported in 2010 how USAID was spending $10 million to fund a program to train students in Sri Lanka for IT outsourcing jobs. In April, I uncovered a similar program to train students in the Philippines to work in that country's burgeoning offshore call center industry. The program, known as JEEP (Job Enabling English Proficiency) was part of a $100 million USAID economic development plan for the Muslim enclave of Mindanao in the Philippines.
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Such programs are odious for a number of reasons, which is why Democratic and Republican lawmakers should have no trouble agreeing on Bishop's amendment. For starters, the federal government has no business using public funds for programs that benefit foreign companies but do little to boost employment in the U.S. Second, USAID is a habitual offender on this issue. The agency canceled its IT outsourcing training program in Sri Lanka after I exposed it and Bishop lodged a formal complaint to USAID chief Rajiv Shah , then embarked on a similar program in the Philippines a couple of years later.
Finally, USAID's justification for training foreign nationals to work in offshore software development and call centers is that these programs provide economic opportunity to individuals in developing nations who might otherwise turn to terrorism against the U.S. Yet it's been shown time and again that militant Islam's terror plots against the West are fueled by ideology and zealotry, not by poverty.
Bishop's proposed offshoring restrictions are on the money because they apply only to companies and agencies receiving public funds. Private businesses have every right to pursue an offshore outsourcing strategy if desired, in the effort to serve customers and shareholders. But the federal government has no business using your money, and mine, to subsidize those overseas exploits.
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