SAVINGS, DEBT, AND CREDIT AVAILABILITY Consumer expenditures arc affected by savings, debt. and credit avaipability. U.S. consumers have ei high debt-to-in co me ratio, which slows down further expenditures on housing and Iiirge-ticket items. Credit is very available in the United States but at fairly high interest rates, especially to lower-income borrowers. Mere the Internet can offer a helping hand: Consumers seeking a mortgage can go to lcndingtrcc.com, fill out a single loan application, and receive seveiEil loan package proposals from competing banks within ■IS hours,
OUTSOURCING AND FREE TRADE An economic issue of increasing importance is the migration of manufacturers and service jobs Off shore. Outsourcing is seen as a competitive necessity by many firms, hut as a causc of unemployment by many domestic workers, l-or example, in December IBM decided to move the jobs of nearly 5,0Ut) programmers to India and China. GE has moved much of its research and development overseas. Microsoft, Dell, American Impress, and virtually every major multinational from Acceiiture to Yahoo! have already offshured work or are considering doing so.
The savings are dramatic, with companies cutting 20 to "0 percent of their labor costs, Eissumingthe work is of com parable quality. However, beyond the short-term gain for employers and pain for displaced domestic white-coliar employees is the scaricr long-term prospect. The exodus of programming work, in particular, throws the future of America's tech dominance into doubt, Many wonder whether the United States can continue to lead the industry as software programming spreads around the globe from India to Bulgaria, In Bombay, for example, there is high-speed internet access, a wo rid-class university, and a venture capital industry— ill I the ingredients you need to spawn the next eEirthsbEikiny technology innovation,41
Outside the labor market, advocates for and against free trade debate the merits of protective tariffs.
A GAP storelronl relays the familiar, ieoDQniiatilfi r^P Icofc..'
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