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Outsourcing bogey revives in US

Admirers of the most famous United States critic of outsourcing, 62-year-old CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs, have launched a campaign to persuade him to run for the top job, reports Pramit Pal Chaudhuri.

world Updated: Jan 19, 2008 22:45 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times

Admirers of the most famous United States critic of outsourcing have launched a campaign to persuade him to run for the White House. The Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee called on 62-year-old CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs to consider a run for the US presidency. It set up a website "to allow people to express their political support for Lou Dobbs, to show Dobbs what kind of support is out there, and to have some supporters organised, if he decides to run."

Dobbs, who has for years used his CNN post to launch savage attacks on US companies who outsource jobs to India and elsewhere, had recently told the

Wall Street Journal

he didn't have either "the personality or nature to be a politician." However, Dobbs did not rule out the idea entirely saying, "I cannot say never."

The draft Dobbs for president campaign could help revive outsourcing as an election issue in the US. Though all the major Democratic candidates have taken swipes at US companies for outsourcing jobs, the message has so far had little resonance in the broader campaign.

The committee behind

is primarily an anti-immigrant group, but the website warns about the "war on middle class America" — a reference to a segment of Dobbs's show called "The War Against the Middle Class" replete with outsourcing bashing. The committee's head, William Gheen, claims a survey showed 70 per cent of his group's support list were prepared to vote for Dobbs. By Thursday evening the website had received $ 320,000 in contributions.

Dobbs is equally at home attacking Chinese exports to the US, illegal immigrants from Mexico and call centres in India.

He has long raised the bogey of millions of white collar jobs fleeing the US for India. In an interview he once denounced, "Denying citizens of [the Midwestern US state of] Indiana a job to help citizens of India."

Says outsourcing expert Jacob Kierkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, "Dobbs is the latest incarnation of a long historical list of American 'middle class' demagogues. His thinking is one-dimensional: trade (ie foreigners) are to blame for all ills that befall the US middle class."

Others were even more dismissive. Tim Adams, managing director of the Lindsey Group and former Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs, said, "I don't think Dobbs candidacy is a serious effort. It's mostly a public relations stunt to help bolster his ratings."

If Dobbs ratings are a measure of the appeal of his anti-outsourcing and anti-immigrant message, then countries like India have little to worry about. A report in December noted his CNN show averages 830,000 nightly viewers and was 16th in place in cable TV news and talk show ratings. The larger evening news programmes had viewerships about ten times larger.