The Corner

Interesting

stuff in Alan Reynolds’s latest column, about whether we should worry about “exporting high-paying service jobs to India.”

Reynolds writes: “Worrying about U.S. companies importing services from India is a classic example of the journalistic inclination to ignore the forest and focus on a few twigs. The United States is by far the world’s biggest exporter of services, just as the United States is by far the leading exporter of goods.

“The United States accounted for 18.1 percent of worldwide service exports in 2001, according to the WTO, up from 17 percent in 1990. India accounts for only 1.4 percent of world service exports. India is in 21st place among world exporters of services and in 30th place for goods. . . .

“The United States had a $64.8 billion trade surplus in services in 2002 . . . . Services accounted for 30 percent of all U.S. exports and 43 percent ($3.1 billion) of U.S. exports to India. . . .

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes these allegedly vanishing jobs among ‘computer and mathematical science occupations’ — i.e., computer programmers, software engineers, systems analysts, support specialists, network administrators, etc. These jobs exploded with the tech boom, rising 11.9 percent in 2000 alone, but such panicky hoarding of computer geeks was no more sustainable than 5,000 on NASDAQ. Even in 2002, however, employment in these computer-related occupations was nonetheless higher than in 1999, and so were salaries” (emphasis in original).

Reynolds also notes that previous complaints about losing manufacturing jobs to Japan or China “invariably involved disparaging U.S. service jobs as ‘McJobs’ — inferior to working with a sewing machine or wrench. In the case of India, however, even the most menial computer service chores — such as tech support and handling health insurance claims — are now being glorified as ‘high-wage’ jobs.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.