Top Democrat says U.S. Chamber agenda is outsourcing jobs

Jon Ward Contributor
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A top Democrat on Tuesday said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “agenda” is to send U.S. jobs overseas.

“The Chamber has an agenda, and it’s aimed at promoting outsourcing of American jobs, and spending money against those who stood against them,” said Jon Vogel, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC0.

Vogel made the comment at a forum hosted by National Journal, which included his Republican counterpart, Guy Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Upon hearing Vogel’s comment, Harrison pounced.

“Wait, wait, wait, wait. The Chamber’s agenda is outsourcing U.S. jobs. The U.S Chamber of Commerce? I just want to make sure,” Harrison said.

Vogel and Harrison talked back and forth for a moment as the audience tittered. Vogel made reference to comments by the Chamber’s chief executive, Tom Donohue. A DCCC spokesman later sent out a list of comments by Donohue on the topic.

“There are legitimate values in outsourcing,” Donohue said in 2004, “to gain technical experience and benefit we don’t have here, to lower the price of products, which means more and more of them are brought into the United States.”

“But the bottom line is that we outsource very few jobs in relation to the size of our economy,” Donohue said. “American companies employ 140 million Americans … The outsourcing deal over three or four or five years and the two or three sets of numbers are only going to be, you know, maybe two, maybe three million jobs, maybe four.”

The Chamber also recently opposed legislation called the “Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act.”

According to OpenCongress.org, the bill “would give companies a two-year payroll tax holiday, reducing the amount of Social Security taxes they would have to pay, for new employees who replace workers doing similar jobs overseas.”

“It also revokes provisions of the tax code that Democrats say encourage companies to outsource their work force.”

The Chamber said in a Sept. 23 letter to U.S. Senators that “the concept of economic growth is not a zero-sum game.”

“Replacing a job that is based in another country with a domestic job does not stimulate economic growth or enhance the competitiveness of American worldwide companies,” said the letter from R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s top lobbyist.

Josten urged senators to extend all of the Bush tax cuts instead, maintaining that the U.S. business community has expressed a preference for the cuts as a way to stimulate economic growth.

At the forum, Harrison continued to mock Vogel’s comment.

“We have jumped officially the shark,” Harrison said, as the audience laughed. “If you wonder why people think Democrats are anti-business. Thank you.”

Vogel tried to salvage his point by distinguishing between the national Chamber and its affiliates around the country.

“I think you need to separate the local chambers who have endorsed our candidates from the U.S. Chamber,” he said.

But the DCCC doubled down later on a variation of the charge by Vogel that outsourcing was the Chamber’s “agenda,” titling its e-mail to reporters, “NRCC Executive Director Unaware U.S. Chamber President Tom Donahue Supports the Outsourcing of American jobs.”

Vogel’s comment came in the midst of his accusation that outside groups spending money on TV campaign ads for Republicans have the wrong values and priorities.

“If you look at the groups who are spending money … it kind of delineates the clear difference between the two parties,” Vogel said. “We have a group called 60 Plus that is spending millions of dollars. The group 60 Plus is funded by insurance companies who have made billions off of privatizing Medicare. So there’s an agenda behind their ads.”

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