This morning I saw a newscast on CNN about President Obama’s request to the US Congress to extend his executive order for Dream Act youth to allow them to pursue their lives here and avoid having their families torn apart by deportation. It was a very sympathetic newscast and I share the concern.
Yet none of the news networks covers the issue of H-1B visas and unemployment for those US citizens with training in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics: not CNN or cable, not PBS or broadcast, not NPR, not Democracy Now!, not newspapers either. These reporters want our support, but they ignore their audience.
There are other sources and experts like Prof. Norman Matloff, Prof. Peter Cappelli, and a whole chapter by Hedrick Smith in “Who Stole the American Dream?”. How does importing someone from China or India with mediocre skills to take my job provide any help or comfort to a youth from Venezuela or a hard-working nanny from Mexico?
What is the difference between all the politicians and newscasters who ignore and outright deny the current high rates of unemployment including high, long-term unemployment for graduates of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics compared to the on-going climate deniers who still get plenty of attention by the news?
“If they can can get you asking the wrong questions, then they don’t have to worry about the answers. [character written by Thomas Pynchon]“
The timing of this US announcement is soon after the International Monetary Fund admits that it was wrong about Greek debt which was the model for justifying austerity in order to bail out reckless investments by European banks. Yet, the fears of “systemic contagion” across Europe sound a lot like the goal of former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “foaming the runway” for US banks with a government bailout after our mortgage crash. Will the change of heart on the US “grand bargain” persuade leading Democrats like US Senator Patty Murray to stop worshiping Larry Summers and stop the proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare? Are there any Democrats in the US Congress that have clearly and loudly opposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare? Some leading Democrats are even voting down Food Stamps!
This influx of additional workers comes when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are planning for serious losses in funding. The linked article indicates that the NIH might not itself lose jobs, but you can expect serious problems at research universities that rely on federal funding. I won’t defend the details of those numbers. For example, the funds/number of grants looks rather high, and maybe our country should better consider the science job market when awarding grants that depend on hiring graduate students and Post-Docs.
Maybe the Democrats in the US Congress view these H-1B visas as “tools” for President Obama’s budget cuts. When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker first mentioned his proposed cuts to schools and municipalities, he promised “tools.” He gave them new laws to help the local leaders undercut unions so the schools and municipalities could better live within their newly reduced budgets. Maybe the Democrats in the US Congress (and President Obama) view all these H-1B visas as tools to help faculty at research universities better live within the increasingly severe budget cuts. H-1B visas depress wages, promote a more coercive workplace, and facilitate age discrimination. The “tools” for local governments also took money out of local economies. The H-1B visas will discourage US students, especially the good students. The image of a bad job market will take long to recover if the job market changes.
At least science students are now receiving a consistent message in that the federal sequester greatly reduces the opportunities to train in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and the proposed tsunami of H-1B visas at the same time makes it clear that the US Congress (especially Democrats) and corporations only want the cheapest labor possible. So the truly “best and brightest” are directed to other careers. They may avoid the age discrimination promoted by H-1B visas.
I was heartened to watch this video clip where Cenk Uygur questions whether Democrats really, truly feel pressure from the Left in the same way at Republicans feel from the corporate funded Tea Party.
The mainstream media was exceptionally quiet this week about immigration reform. Summaries last Friday and over the weekend about immigration reform by the usual talking heads conveniently omitted any discussion of high skill visas (H-1B). Usually, they at least included a sentence about how H-1B visas are necessary to growing our economy, omitting any supporting evidence. For example, they do not talk to The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) which generally supports a path to citizenship, but opposes some of the H-1B proposals that could import non-citizens comparable to 10% of the US engineering workforce.
Recently, US Senator Amy Klobuchar chaired hearings on long-term unemployment for which she received well deserved respect. Yet, she is the same senator who first introduced the provision to greatly increase the number of H-1B visas which compete with existing US workers for jobs. Any discussion of immigration reform before this proposal was about DREAM Act Youth and poor Mexicans crossing the Arizona desert. The competition from H-1B visas for good middle-class jobs is especially noticeable for older workers over 50 years old, but even for those 35 years old in Silicon Valley. There was recent news coverage about the sharp increase in rates of long-term unemployment and rates of suicide among those over 50 years old.
The situation is a lot like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership which promise jobs, but mostly deliver hardship and more corporate control. It’s unfortunate that celebrated progressives like US Senators Amy Klobuchar, Tammy Baldwin, and Patty Murray are all advocates of more H-1B visas and more austerity in government (bipartisan debt reduction). Is that what Emily’s List means now? As posted before: “Dear Left, Enjoy Your Pot and Gay Marriage Because That’s All You’re Getting”
National austerity economics is rightly criticized now for relying on the shoddy analyses in the Reinhart-Rogoff paper. The claimed skill shortage and pressure for more H-1B visas is even worse because it is not even based on a published paper. News reporters confidently parrot that importing more high skill workers is important to building the US economy. The topic is graduates of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Who is really the “best and the brightest”? Do employers seek skills they cannot find locally or are the employers just looking for cheaper labor that is easier to exploit? Professor Norm Matloff at the University of California-Davis writes “No study, other than those sponsored by the industry, has ever shown a shortage.” This week, a new study of the recent labor market has again shown that there is no shortage. Here is the article at Slashdot, in the Washington Post, and the original report.
Key findings include:
Guestworkers may be filling as many as half of all new IT jobs each year
IT workers earn the same today as they did, generally, 14 years ago
Currently, only one of every two STEM college graduates is hired into a STEM job each year
Policies that expand the supply of guestworkers will discourage U.S. students from going into STEM, and into IT in particular
Funny how the Washington Post identifies the Economic Policy Institute as “Left Leaning,” but has no such labels for pro-corporation, right-leaning groups, like the authors of the Reinhart-Rogoff paper.
It’s a good time to talk about recommitment. In the Wisconsin Capitol, citizens and their legislators worked hard to defend labor protections. In the US Capitol, the legislators issued some official statements. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker started his agenda with $140 million in tax breaks for corporations, discovered the budget shortfall, and argued for austerity. In the US Capitol, corporate CEOs discovered the federal deficit after unfunded wars and massive tax cuts, but pressure for austerity is strongly bipartisan. We hear complaints about the partisan nature of Washington, DC now, but watch carefully! The Sequester, the Fiscal Cliff, and their relatives are bipartisan plans to cut the social safety net of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Effort is bipartisan to hobble the Post Office. Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership are a bipartisan project to bypass worker rights and environmental protections. Immigration Reform is primarily about bipartisan pressure for more H-1B visas to promote age discrimination, contrary to the press coverage.
The Wisconsin situation started with a manufactured crisis. The Federal situation uses a constellation of crises. We had issues to start, then leadership converted issues and concerns to serious crises in order to attract support. Watch their actions, not just their official statements. “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”
“It would reform the legal immigration system to do things encourage more high skilled workers.” These are the H-1B visas which take good middle class jobs away from those US citizens who studied hard to graduate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). One of the bipartisan senators that proposed raising the cap on H-1B visas five-fold was on the committee that wrote the omnibus compromise bill.
Most news organizations present the H-1B issue as offering citizenship to the best-of-the-best students who are all going to start companies that will employ lots of US citizens. They contrast by showing US STEM graduates as lacking ambition and lacking recent skills. It’s not true and never was. It’s a fiction by Microsoft, Google, Intel and other high-tech companies that want cheap labor in coercive conditions. H-1B visas also help promote age discrimination. There is no shortage of US STEM graduates and they have good skills. References for further information include: Norman Matloff at UC-Davis, Peter Cappelli at the Wharton Business School U-Penn, Hedrick Smith’s 2012 book “Who Stole the American Dream?”, and Paula Stephan’s 2012 book “How Economics Shapes Science”.
Debate about the Michigan “Right to Work” legislation presumes that Democrats would never do such a thing. Yet, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workers have experienced similar issues from non-citizens on H-1B visas, a program designed to create a more coercive workplace. If US companies imported foreign workers to break a union strike, we would talk about scabs. If they have H-1B visas they become “The Best and the Brightest,” and we are told each person with an H-1B visa will start a company and will employ lots of US workers. NPR, “60 Minutes” by CBS, and the White House all loudly proclaim a shortage of STEM workers. Sorry, it’s not true. It hasn’t been true for decades. Democrats accept money from Microsoft and Google, just as Republicans accept money from Koch and DeVos. Democrats said they couldn’t address the H-1B visa issue until Congress starts on omnibus immigration reform. They point at anyone who objects to massive numbers of H-1B visas competing for good US jobs as people who are intolerant of foreigners. So, they will copy and paste the existing rules for H-1B visas into the new legislation and distract us by all the discussion about the Dream Act and Mexicans trying to steal our jobs as dishwashers and lawnmowers.
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