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Why We Don’t Have Good Jobs!

7:47 pm in Uncategorized by anotherquestion

It would be great to put some restraints on vulture capitalists.

Remember the idea “It’s the economy, stupid!”?  Remember the concern about income inequality?

Fast food workers are striking for better hourly wages, against wage theft, and for better advancement opportunities.  Other low-wage workers such as Walmart workers are also striking for better wages.  So, we have some discussion about raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hour or even $15/hour.

In Britain, there is a vigorous discussion about investment, technology, and good jobs.  “Business Secretary Vince Cable has told MPs the government will not let Pfizer use the UK as a tax haven and promised to secure British science jobs.”  And later:  “The chancellor says he will take a “hard-nosed approach” to determine whether Pfizer’s proposed £60bn takeover of UK firm AstraZeneca will deliver for UK jobs and science.”

Funny that.  In the US, the “liberal” party called Democrats is dithering about whether to support an increase in the minimum wage.  In Britain, a cabinet member of the conservative party is speaking out strongly to protect good jobs and to prevent looting of corporate resources.

It would be great to put some restraints on vulture capitalists in the US who loot productive companies and lay off workers, then hide the money in overseas tax havens.  It would also be great to protect good jobs from the start instead of only arguing about how to fix the safety net after people have already fallen out of the middle class.  I share the concern about low-wage workers, but it would be nice to have some concern about the 1% who are looting capital, laying off workers from good jobs, and only then showing compassion for those at the bottom.

Can we find a better example of the thorough incompetence and indifference by the Democrats in the White House and US Congress? Read the rest of this entry →

The Secret about Immigration Reform

7:19 am in Uncategorized by anotherquestion

The Democrats, Republicans, and news media are crafting a message that Immigration Reform is about a battle between helping young DREAMers and families that are hard-working but undocumented vs. certain concerns about securing our national borders to exclude any more terrorists.  The DREAMers were brought to the US by their parents at a young age.  The undocumented families overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally.  Here is one recent example of a news story on DREAMers.  They were raised in the US and feel like US citizens, but have no papers to go to college or live a normal life.

There is a third side to the Immigration Reform Bill from the US Senate, a side that does not involve or benefit the DREAMers, nor the families, a side the news ignores.  H-1B visas allow employers including companies and universities to hire non-citizens with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  The employers use these visas when they claim they cannot find suitable US citizens.  The Senate Immigration bill would raise the cap on these visas from the current 60,000 per year to 200,000 per year or higher.  Universities are exempt from the cap.  Again, these H-1B visas are not part of helping the DREAMers, nor the families, but are in the bill to satisfy corporate lobbyists.

Employers are very skilled at writing job announcements to exclude US citizens because they prefer to hire non-citizens.  These H-1B visas have been used to facilitate outsourcing jobs and displacing US workers.

Now a US citizen has sued a company for discrimination in this hiring process.

Brenda Koehler is a VMware-certified professional network engineer with a master’s degree in information systems and 17 years of experience. You might think that would qualify her for a lead VMware/Windows administrator, but Indian outsourcing firm Infosys apparently didn’t. And Koehler has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that Infosys ignored her qualifications and eventually hired a Bangladeshi worker to staff a position she was qualified for. [I linked to Slashdot, the original news source is here.]

There is a lot of silence in the news about these H-1B visas while the Democrats and Republicans craft the discussion as sympathetic DREAMers and hard working families vs a need for massive border security.  There are ongoing surveys by the National Science Foundation such as Survey of Earned Doctorates, Survey of Doctorate Recipients, and National Survey of Recent College Graduates.  The surveys ask good questions of the survey participants, but the analyses are generally not worthwhile.  Some years back, one published analysis observed a lack of minorities in science, but immigrants from China and India were filling the place of US minorities.  Other researchers have re-analyzed these public datasets.  Prof. Norman Matloff from UC-Davis published two recent analyses:  in Migration Letters (PDF), and with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).  He has a page of comments, quotes and links.

Tipping Point for Labor

10:00 am in Uncategorized by anotherquestion

Chinese factory floor

Growth in wages for laborers in China, but worse news for skilled and unskilled workers here.

Paul Krugman recently wrote about the existence of a possible tipping point for labor in China in his column “Hitting China’s Wall“. Is there a similar issue of a tipping point for high skilled labor (H-1B visas) in the current US economy? Paul Krugman writes:

Now, however, China has hit the “Lewis point” — to put it crudely, it’s running out of surplus peasants.

He writes about how a vast supply of cheap labor from the Chinese countryside enabled rapid growth of the Chinese economy especially in big cities. An important feature of this economic growth has been a large supply of cheap labor so wages remained low and money (investment) “simply stays bottled up in businesses.”

Is the US high skill labor market moving in the reverse direction? Claims of a shortage of high skilled labor are always suspect, but wages and salaries were higher during the Dot-com bubble. “High skilled” usually means those trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), from skilled trades to BS, MS, PhD.  The supply of H-1B visas continues to increase even though wages and salaries for high skilled workers remain mostly constant, or declining. The Immigration Reform Bill from the US Senate allows H-1B visas to increase by 3X or more.

The “Lewis point” mentioned by Paul Krugman is a point when supply of cheap labor tightens and labor gains more bargaining power, leading to higher wages. In China, the market for construction and factory labor may be tightening “Wages are rising; finally, ordinary Chinese are starting to share in the fruits of growth.” The high skilled labor market rarely involves unions or other strong bargaining units. So, an increased supply of high skilled labor further strengthens the power of corporations in any bargaining with US STEM workers, a reversed direction for what may be happening to low skill workers in China.

One difference is that in China the cheap labor leads to economic growth because “Some of that income flows to a politically connected elite; but much of it simply stays bottled up in businesses, many of them state-owned enterprises. ” We know that US corporations are not investing in research, development, or even in plant construction, unlike China and other countries, and most of the money remains with the “politicially connected elite” such as Wall Street.

Paul Krugman starts his article by describing the lack of transparency of Chinese economic statistics. It is difficult to produce good analyses when the numbers are unreliable. Funny though, US statistics on the high skilled labor market are also unreliable, and here. For example, corporations are ever more creative on avoiding US talent so they can claim a “shortage.” Much of the national discussion is about issues of hiring, while employers fire people “at will” to make it easier to dump older US workers and select cheaper H-1B workers.

I really liked the words by President Obama recently and by US Senators Patty Murray, Amy Klobuchar, and Tammy Baldwin. They speak about college students, the middle class, and growing the economy. It’s their votes I don’t like and the lack of accountability for Wall Street and other corporations. They champion budget austerity with glee.  Their immigration reform paints any opposition to H-1B visas as intolerant of brown people. They remind me of BP commercials on PBS about all the good things BP is doing to help the people of Louisiana and the Gulf coast, ignoring their role in the oil spill.

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