News outlets are uncritically reporting Republicans' efforts to label President Obama the “Outsourcer-in-chief,” an attack outlined in a Huffington Post column by RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who says the administration outsourced jobs to “Indonesia, India, Mexico, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark” and more, “mostly in the form of stimulus funds.” But a look at the fine print on the RNC's website ObamanomicsOutsourced.com reveals a pretty flexible definition of the term “outsourcing” -- so flexible, in fact, that it encompasses its opposite: foreign-owned firms coming to the U.S. to employ American workers. We've grabbed five examples of the flimsy support underlying this attack:
- As evidence of jobs purportedly outsourced to Indonesia, the RNC cites a $1.5 million grant to reduce air pollution in Jakarta. The RNC may object to this use of federal funds, but it isn't outsourcing; the grant simply provides aid to a city that “has a particularly high incidence of respiratory diseases.” The EPA's overseas grant program is nothing new. In fact, many of the foreign grants awarded by the Obama administration were initiated by the Bush EPA.
- The RNC claims Obama outsourced jobs to Australia via a $162,000 contract for tumor samples from the Melanoma Institute of Australia. The Recovery Act provided funds for the Cancer Genome Atlas Project of the National Cancer Institute to “collect more than 20,000 tissue samples from more than 20 cancers, complete comprehensive maps of the genomic changes in 10 of those cancers and sequence and characterize at least 100 tumors of up to 15 additional cancers.”
- As an example of stimulus jobs purportedly outsourced to Russia, the RNC points to Ener1, whose subsidiary EnerDel received a $118 million stimulus grant in 2009 to expand advanced vehicle battery manufacturing operations in Indiana. Although Ener1 underwent bankruptcy and was acquired by Russian businessman Boris Zingarevich, the company said EnerDel would “continue normal operation” and there's no evidence of jobs moved to Russia.
- The RNC claims Obama outsourced jobs to Denmark because the Recovery Act provided $25 million to Houston-based Haldor Topsoe, Inc. for a pilot biorefinery project. Although Haldor Topsoe's parent company is headquartered in Denmark, the project is located in Des Plaines, Illinois.
- The RNC also points to $51 million for U.S. subsidiaries of the Danish company Vestas through the 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit. The subsidy supported wind manufacturing plants in Colorado. The RNC highlighted that the company may lay off 1,600 U.S. workers but didn't note that those cuts hinge on the extension of the Production Tax Credit, which Obama has called for.
The “Outsourcer-in-chief” campaign is the sort of attack that takes time to fact-check. Judging by the examples above, it's pretty clear the RNC is counting on journalists not to bother.