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Report: Obama Launches New Program to Help Corporations "Take Advantage of Low Labor Costs" Abroad

by David Sirota

With the President Obama reversing his campaign promises on trade issues by pushing to pass NAFTA-style trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, and with the unemployment crisis persisting, the key jobs question is once again front and center in American politics. Specifically: How do we create jobs here at home and build our most valuable 21st century industries?

Rajiv Shah, a 36-year old former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development for the Obama administration. Under director Shah, the USAID will partner with private outsourcers in Sri Lanka to teach workers there advanced IT skills, as well as skills in business process outsourcing and call center support. Prior to the USDA, he worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the leading private development organizations. The first and foremost answer is that our government should stop doing stuff like the program described in this stunning new report from Information Week:

U.S. To Train 3,000 Offshore IT Workers

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...

The outsourcing program (is) 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.

Now look, I'm all for a robust foreign aid budget - we don't do nearly enough to help the developing world. However, using foreign aid money to specifically help private corporations "take advantage of low labor costs" in the developing world - that's absolutely grotesque.

Right now, Even if we do not reform our atrocious trade policy that incentivizes a wage-cutting race to the bottom, the least we should be doing is investing every single available dollar we have in job training and job creation here at home.

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