| George W. Bush and John Kerry during the final debate in Tempe, Arizona. (Reuters)
Washington, Oct. 14: With opinion polls showing that John Kerry may make it to the White House by the skin of his teeth on November 2, the Democrat challenging President George W. Bush has moderated his campaign rhetoric on outsourcing.
'Outsourcing is going to happen,' Kerry said last night during the final nationally televised debate with Bush. Answering a question if he blamed the Bush administration for the loss of American jobs, the presidential aspirant who is running neck-and-neck with the incumbent in all polls barely three weeks before voting said:
'I have had shop stewards stand up and say: 'Will you promise me you are going to stop all this outsourcing' And I have looked them in the eye and I have said: 'No, I can't do that'.' For Indian Americans watching the debate, what took their breath away was Kerry's claim that he has acknowledged 'in union halls across the country' that offshoring of American jobs cannot be stopped.
Kerry's performance last night was part of a steady shift from politicisation of outsourcing for electoral gain to reality check of a trend which is an inevitable part of globalisation.
Kerry set the stage for his categorical assertion last night that 'outsourcing is going to happen' when he said less emphatically in his second debate with Bush last week: 'You can't stop all outsourcing... I have never promised that. I am not going to because that would be pandering. You can't. But what you can do is create a fair playing field and that is what I am talking about.'
He took a realistic view of the challenge facing Americans when he said: 'China and India are graduating more graduates in technology and science than we are. We have got to create the products of the future.'
Kerry went into a detailed explanation last night of his stand on outsourcing. 'What I can promise you is that I will make the playing field as fair as possible, that I will, for instance, make certain that with respect to the tax system that you as a worker in America are not subsidising the loss of your job. 'Today, if you are an American business, you actually get a benefit for going overseas. You get to defer your taxes.
'So if you are looking at a competitive world, you say to yourself: 'Hey, I do better overseas than I do here in America'. That is not smart. I don't want American workers subsidising the loss of their own job. And when I am President, we are going to shut that loophole in a nanosecond...The second thing that we can do is provide a fair trade playing field...The fact is that there have been markets shut to us that we haven't stood up and fought for.' Kerry said in an interview this week that outsourcing 'is an issue about which some in the (Indian American) community are concerned. There have been misrepresentations of my position on the issue...The outsourcing I oppose results from distortions and inequities in the tax code and other failures of a level playing field...
'As an advocate of free and fair trade, I will make sure criticism of business practices which harm American workers doesn't generate a backlash against Indian Americans.
'I have absolutely no use for anyone who uses the outsourcing debate as an excuse to fan flames of intolerance.'
Finance minister P Chidambaram saw the change that was coming on the US political landscape on this issue when he said last week after extensive meetings here and in New York that what Kerry has been saying about outsourcing was 'pre-election rhetoric'.
American 'business understands very well that outsourcing brings insourcing and keeps it competitive. Nobody questions the wisdom of outsourcing,' he said at a seminar in New York.