Whether right or wrong, these critiques are difficult to rebut. Doing so involves explaining the global perspective of the ultra-rich business elite to the struggling U.S. worker. They're also disingenuous attacks for President Obama, of all people, to make. They're disingenuous because Obama isn't a consistent, principled critic of the business elite. He is an inconsistent, opportunistic critic.
He started playing this game during the Democratic primary in 2007, insisting that if elected president he would renegotiate NAFTA. To no one's surprise, he wasn't in office a month before he reneged on that promise. He was pretending to be someone who believed the populist critique of free trade agreements, but like the academic and business elites with whom he staffs his administration, Obama buys into the conventional case for free trade and never wanted to renegotiate NAFTA. He still doesn't, no matter how many times he complains that "Romney's firms shipped jobs to Mexico." In the long run, capital and labor mobility either benefit us or make us no worse off, insofar as global competition cannot be escaped. I tire of Obama pretending his position is different, and feel especially sorry for the voters he's misleading.
How credible is it that Obama actually thinks there's something unethical about sending jobs to China? Well, here's what Obama said about another ultra-wealthy entrepreneur who outsourced jobs: "We celebrate somebody like a Steve Jobs, who has created two or three
different revolutionary products. We expect that person to be rich, and
that's a good thing. We want that incentive."
And who heads the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness? Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric. "Since Immelt took over GE in 2001, the company has lost 37,000
American jobs, and added 25,000 jobs overseas," Cole Stengler writes in a Huffington Post article titled "Obama Jobs Council Packed With Outsourcing Companies." I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Competition from foreign workers is going to disrupt labor markets for the foreseeable future; a company that foreswore outsourcing would be neither efficient nor viable in the long run. If Obama simply disagreed that would be one thing; instead Obama pretends to think Romney is malign for his indirect complicity in outsourcing years ago, even as he praises and elevates various business elites who are directly responsible for massive outsourcing right now.
Forget what Obama says.
Look at what he does and ponder who he is. Were America divided into two economic tribes, the "American protectionists" and the "Acela corridor elites," Obama would belong to the latter. He surrounds himself with guys like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, who recently said, "There are those today who would resist the process of international integration; that is a prescription for a more contentious and less prosperous world. We should not oppose offshoring or outsourcing."