Ted Strickland slams Mitt Romney for outsourcing. But Obama hasn’t fought outsourcing, either.

September 4, 2012

The first night of the Democratic National Convention got a touch of William Jennings Bryan last night with former Ohio governor Ted Strickland's stemwinder attacking Mitt Romney as a liar who outsourced American jobs. To Romney, Strickland declared, "all profits are created equal, whether made on our shores or off," adding that the GOP nominee has "so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport…Barack Obama is an economic patriot. Mitt Romney is an outsourcing pioneer."

Fair enough - Bain Capital invested in plenty of companies that offshored jobs. But is Obama really the anti-outsourcing advocate that Strickland makes him out to be?

Finding data on outsourcing isn't particularly straightforward. This Congressional Research Service report (pdf) by James K. Jackson attempts to quantify it by, among other things, looking at the number of employees US-based multinational corporations have in the US as compared to abroad. The red line is domestic employment by multinationals; the blue line is employment by those multinationals' affiliates abroad:


Source: James K. Jackson, Congressional Research Service

This data suggests that outsourcing began in earnest in 2000. Before then, employment among multinationals' domestic and foreign operations grew in concert, whereas after that foreign employment continued to grow as domestic employment stagnated, even as the economy grew in the 00s. The above data only goes until 2008, though. Did Obama reverse that trend? Not at all:

The overall trend toward multinationals hiring abroad but not at home persisted in 2009 and 2010. Now, to be fair, this isn't proof that outsourcing is taking place. It could be that the multinationals are just adding foreign jobs while keeping domestic jobs constant. But it does indicate that Obama hasn't been changing multinationals' practices regarding foreign employment.

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Brad Plumer · September 4, 2012