Friday, March 11, 2011

"...Russia has the best engineers in the world..."

Below is select dialogue as printed by the White House yesterday between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and American Vice President Joseph Biden in Moscow.  Why the the White House printed this select translation snippet I am not quite clear. Please read with me:

PRIME MINISTER PUTIN:  (As translated.)  You might be interested in getting to know Russia better, visiting other sights and cities.  And on top of that, the relationship between our two countries has been developing quite well.  Last year, the (inaudible) Russia has grown by 29 percent. 
Turning -- we have completed several important things, including seeding for and verification of START III, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  And the major American companies are doing business in Russia and are doing well.  To name a few, General Electric, Boeing and Chevron -- virtually all the biggest companies are here.
And it is especially pleasing for us to witness the rise of the presence of big Russian investments between -- again, we are very pleased and very thankful to you for the fact that this has been -- (inaudible) -- and very sensitive areas such as I referred to earlier, use of nuclear energy.  And I'm pleased with the fact that all of it has been passed through the procedures of the Foreign Investment Commission, and we are grateful for you for that to happen.
You mentioned Boeing; yesterday, I met with a group of American and Russian CEOs -- conference.  A Russian -- the chairman of a Russian organization, I'll not state it, said that there was reason for American companies to be here because the markets are here and named some other reasons why it was in the interest of American companies. 
The chairman of Boeing USA in Russia said, I beg to disagree with my friend.  He said the market in China for aircraft is seven times bigger.  He said let me tell you why we're here.  Russia has the best engineers in the world.  Russia has intellectual capital.  Russia is a great nation.  Your titanium lets the planes fly that you buy. 
PRIME MINISTER PUTIN:  (As translated.)  Allow me to make a point, we have the largest in the world engineering center here in Moscow. ... 
I will express total support for the strengthening Russian/American economic relationships, but I don't want it done at the expense of American prosperity. GE, Boeing, and Chevron are all 'virtual GSEs'[1].  Their business models depend significantly on military contracts, government contracts, leases, subsidies, and tax credits from the federal government. I suppose it is good to see them investing those dollars in Mother Russia.  After all, Russia is a significant buyer of Treasuries, although nowhere near as significant as China or Japan.  And there is probably no doubt about the engineering and software development talent in Russia; an important 'side effect' of communism in the U.S.S.R. was the development of some of the finest mathematicians and scientists in the world. Certainly, they are used to salaries much lower than American engineers.

But I still resent seeing companies I support as an American taxpayer building jobs in foreign countries while total employment in the United States has collapsed so significantly in the last four years. Just in case anyone needs a reminder, here from google public data is what total employment has looked like in the United States and Whatcom County for the last few years on record:
Total Employment United States and Whatcom County, Seasonally Adjusted

So I have to ask: What does President Obama's "export economy" apply to? Does it mean we are exporting jobs at U.S. taxpayer expense? Well, perhaps we shouldn't blame Obama or Russia or large companies solely for this.  But just exactly what is America's job creation and job retention strategy?

[To be continued...]
[1] 'virtual GSEs' : "government sponsored entities" without such an official declaration

No comments: