Thomas Friedman makes my teeth hurt

(Several updates below.)

I’ve been in India for only a few days and I am already thinking about reincarnation. In my next life, I want to be a demagogue.

Yes, I want to be able to huff and puff about complex issues — like outsourcing of jobs to India — without any reference to reality. Unfortunately, in this life, I’m stuck in the body of a reporter/columnist. So when I came to the 24/7 Customer call center in Bangalore to observe hundreds of Indian young people doing service jobs via long distance — answering the phones for U.S. firms, providing technical support for U.S. computer giants or selling credit cards for global banks — I was prepared to denounce the whole thing. “How can it be good for America to have all these Indians doing our white-collar jobs?” I asked 24/7’s founder, S. Nagarajan.

Well, he answered patiently, “look around this office.” All the computers are from Compaq. The basic software is from Microsoft. The phones are from Lucent. The air-conditioning is by Carrier, and even the bottled water is by Coke, because when it comes to drinking water in India, people want a trusted brand.


(Just out of curiosity, does anyone know where the components to those Compaq computers and Lucent phones and Carrier air conditioners are manufactured and assembled? Where does Microsoft load and package its software?)

Update: a reader in the financial services industry forwards a few numbers. (Standard disclaimer: it all looks legit, but I haven’t verified this for myself).

Carrier Plants Outside North America (Square feet in thousands)
Owned: 7,695
Leased: 1,732

From a Lucent report: “As of September 30, 2003, (Lucent) owned or leased 14 manufacturing and systems integration sites, consisting of approximately 7.5 million square feet. Six locations, consisting of 6.2 million square feet, are in the United States, three of which are owned. The remaining eight sites are located in six other countries.

From an HP (Compaq’s parent) report:
“Our manufacturing plants, research and development facilities and warehouse and administrative facilities occupied approximately 50 million square feet, of which approximately 33 million square feet were located within the United States.”

Also, another reader notes, “those same brands would be used in any American office (such as the ones that have been emptied) — so what’s the big gain?”

One more:

My dad’s worked at the Carrier plant in McMinnville,
TN for over 30 years. A couple of weeks ago, he found
out they’re shutting down next year. His plant is a
union plant, and Carrier is moving production to three
non-union factories here in the U.S. and one in
Mexico. Obviously, the Mexican plant is non-union and
then some.

So the quality of what American jobs Carrier is
providing is declining, but Friedman didn’t point that
out in his treacly apology for greed.

At this point, I think we can safely say that Thomas Friedman has already achieved his objective for reincarnation: “to be a demagogue…to huff and puff about complex issues — like outsourcing of jobs to India — without any reference to reality.” And he gets to do it in this life! How nice for him!