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Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains. ~Thomas Jefferson

Cases in point:

“Some of the country’s best-known multi-national corporations closely guard a number they don’t want anyone to know: the breakdown between their jobs here and abroad.

So secretive are these companies that they hand the figure over to government statisticians on the condition that officials will release only an aggregate number.”

Call that return on investment.

“The latest data show that multinationals cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.

As the country faces an unemployment crisis, President Obama, lawmakers and business lobbyists have all touted the country’s biggest companies as critical to creating jobs.

The head of Obama’s jobs council, General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt, said during a tour of a company plant in Greensboro, S.C., that firms should be ready to answer questions from the public.

…GE breaks out its employment numbers in company filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2010, about 46 percent of GE’s 287,000 employees worked in the United States, compared with 54 percent in 2000.

But many firms, including some whose executives have counseled Obama on the economy, do not put their number of U.S. workers in their annual reports.

IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano has met a number of times with the president, most recently in July at a lunch with other executives to talk about jobs and the economy. IBM stopped giving its U.S. head count in 2009.

…Data from before 2009 showed IBM rapidly shifting workers to India. Dave Finegold, dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, estimates that 2009, when the company stopped sharing its U.S. employment figure, also marked the first time the company had more employees in India than the United States.

You won’t find Procter & Gamble’s U.S. head count in its filings, either. When initially asked for the number, company spokesman Paul Fox wrote in an e-mail: “We do not track nor report U.S.-specific jobs numbers vs. jobs overseas.” After it was pointed out that P&G’s chief executive, Bob McDonald, had cited such figures in a Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed piece, Fox acknowledged the company did track that data. The number of U.S. employees is 35,000 out of 127,000 total, or 28 percent.

Other companies that do not reveal their job breakdowns include Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Apple and Pfizer, which stopped reporting the number in its SEC filings in 2000.

The latter two are part of a coalition of companies pushing for Congress to give them a tax break on money they have parked overseas, saying that any money brought back to this country would spur hiring.”

But…

“…that’s not how it worked last time.

Congress and the Bush administration gave companies a similar tax incentive, in 2005, in hopes of spurring domestic hiring and investment.

While the tax break lured 800 companies into bringing $312 billion back to the United States, 92 percent of that was used for dividends and stock buybacks, according to the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research. The study concluded the program “did not increase domestic investment, employment or research and development.”

Indeed, 60 percent of the benefits went to 15 of the largest U.S. multinational companies — many of which laid off domestic workers, closed plants and shifted even more profits and resources abroad in hopes of cashing in on the next repatriation holiday.”

“For chief executives of multinational companies who are used to answering only to their shareholders, the country’s jobs crisis has uncomfortably switched the political spotlight onto their decisions about who they employ and where. It has also thrown into relief the fact that when U.S. multinationals chase profits and hire workers anywhere in the world, they become less tied to any one country, including this one.”

Like Jefferson said.

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