calvin and hobbes pumpkin

Calvin an Hobbes

We’re all being “entertained” now with the game of Calvin Ball in Washington, DC, a game played by comic strip characters Calvin and Hobbes who will feature soon in a documentary about the comic and its creator “Dear Mr. Watterson.”  The two characters competed to carry a ball and would constantly change the game rules for their personal advantage.

This week, I watched news coverage of the latest Immigration Reform events.  Ray Suarez on the “PBS NewsHour” and Juan Gonzalez on “DemocracyNow!” both emphasized coverage of Immigration Reform for DREAMers and undocumented workers while offering no coverage of H-1B visas, no questions about guestworkers affecting farmworker unions, and no interviews with the national labor unions who supposedly endorsed the immigration reform proposals.  One immigration advocate said “there’s a high skill component [to the proposed bill]” indicating no one was really interested in the consequences of H-1B visas because visa rules are too complicated to understand, too boring to hear, just like Wall Street wants us to believe about the bailouts.

News reports about Immigration Reform are structured now very much the same as news discussions (PBS) in advance of the 2003 Iraq War which were consistently a panel of military officers and the topics limited to the most aggressive, pro-war approach.  Even special forces experts like Colonel Pat Lang were not allowed say much during the discussions.  Here’s an Action Alert from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR, 2008) about coverage of the Iraq War.  Peace advocates were excluded because they had no value.  News organizations salivated at all the future audience ratings for an active war.  PBS NewsHour was and still is sponsored by Boeing and other military contractors.  Funny, these same military contractors also like H-1B visas for computer programming and engineering.

Job letters often include language like

At this time we are continuing to pursue candidates that more closely suit our business needs

yet these same employers may be pursuing H-1B visas claiming they cannot find appropriate skills despite many unemployed US citizens with good training and skills.  If the rest of us shop for fruit, clothes, or books, we look.  We may look for a while, but eventually we choose to buy or choose to leave.  We often realize that what we see will meet our needs even if it is not what we anticipated to buy.

We don’t normally expect someone else to subsidize the choices just because we arbitrarily say we cannot find what we want.  Peter Cappelli writes that we would not sympathize about a shortage of diamonds if we knew the person was just complaining about price.  He uses the term “purple squirrels” where an employer merges skills from enough distinct jobs so they will not find anyone to hire who meets all the requirements.  The situation is not necessarily deliberate; the poor economy leaves managers, who may not really know the job market, to try to consolidate jobs to save money.  I saw a recent job announcement for skills in advanced computer server management including M$-Windows and Unix, and the person needed to type faster than 60 words per minute.

Why don’t companies requesting H-1B visas have to show up at job fairs?

There are reports about active methods to avoid US citizens.  These methods would be more difficult if companies had to recruit more.  Normal job fairs offer placement in home healthcare, temporary clerical, phone bank, or delivery truck driver.  College job fairs are mostly financial companies looking for cheap interns.  Neither venue is a productive situation to look for work as full-time computer programmer or full-time data analyst.

The current job market is a serious game of Calvin Ball.  Leaders from politics, academics, and business agree that we need more people with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  Colleges want to fill their classes and receive tuition, especially out-of-state tuition from non-citizens.  Businesses need the skills and want to pay as little as possible with no concern for loyalty except as an indentured servant.  Even respected news reporters avoid the real questions.  The “Real World” now plays Calvin Ball with job expectations just as back in the times of the song “Allentown” by Billy Joel: “For the promises our teachers gave, If we worked hard, If we behaved”.

Photo from vivek jena licensed under Creative Commons