The War on Geeks

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The H-1B Visa program allows U.S. employers to recruit skilled, college educated foreigners, but an arbitrary visa cap forces tens of thousands of educated workers with American job offers to take their skills elsewhere. The first day the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting 2007 applications for H-1B visas, it received 120,000 requests for the 65,000 available slots. Democrats led by Speaker Pelosi have been talking about increasing the supply of visas to ease a "talent crisis." The Republican response?

Last week Mr. Grassley, the Iowa Republican, slipped an amendment into a spending bill that would tax businesses that hire skilled immigrants an additional $3,500 per visa to a total of $5,000 each. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, this represents a $3.1 billion tax increase over five years on some of America's fastest growing companies. 

YaleGlobal has more on the tech quota here, and Bill Gates argues for an infinite supply of H-1Bs here.

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  1. Fast growing industry=bigger teat for government to demand suckle.

  2. Last week Mr. Grassley, the Iowa Republican, slipped an amendment into a spending bill that would tax businesses that hire skilled immigrants an additional $3,500 per visa to a total of $5,000 each.

    Lemmee get this straight, A talented, educated and motivated worker wants to uproot his life, come to America, work, produce and pay taxes. His employer is even willing to eat $1500 to hire him. Senator GrAssley perceives this as A)a problem or B)a cash cow to be milked. He’ll be re-elected, of course.

  3. Gotta pay for those corn subsidies somehow…

  4. Somehow most of the Republican Party has ended up
    divided between neo-cons, evangelicals and
    know-nothings.

    we need a new party, lets call it the Conservative Party, since real conservatives really have no place to go.

  5. Actually, if companies are willing to pay $3500 per visa and are petitioning Congress to double the number of visas, Congress could have a $7.2 billion tax increase over the next 5 years (please check my math) if they just kept it at $3500 per.

  6. sixstring, you misread. It’s a $3500 increase. They presently pay $1500. Back to the calculator, now!

  7. But the ScarybrownEngineers will be taking MeaningfulJobs from HardworkingAmericansFor Less pay!

  8. Shit! Never do math on an empty stomach. I’m going to correct the latter. I’m thinking Lobster Bisque and a salad. The math I’ll leave for you.

  9. H-1Bs are basically highly paid, willing indentured servants. It’s no wonder that Bill Gates wants an unlimited supply. That way, he doesn’t have to pay competitive wages. How about expanding (greatly) the number of legal immigrants who could negotiate with Bill Gates and any other employer. You know, sort of a free-market thing. Or would that be too radical?

    (Yeah, I know, the likelihood of opening the door to immigrants in this day and age is damned low, but, please, let’s not picture Chairman Bill as Mr. Selfless.)

  10. Grassley’s actions kind of flies in the face of the standard Republicain “I’m-against-ILLEGAL-immigration” stance doesn’t it?

  11. But the ScarybrownEngineers will be taking MeaningfulJobs from HardworkingAmericansFor Less pay!

    Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Lets reduce the H-1B visas down to sixteen. And charge the employers a million dollars each for them. That should make everybody happy.

  12. Dey tuk ur jabs!

  13. I’m sure Bill Gates has nefarious ForeignLinks and is in the pocket of the HinduOverlords in their SecretPlan to complete the ConquestOfSeattle.

  14. SpacesBetween words Make MyBrain HurtLess.

  15. I’ve been in the US for 12.5 years, either on F1 (student) or H1-B visa. I’m currently with the latter, and able to remain for another 2.5 years. In mid-December I’m flying to Europe for two months, partially to do some job and apartment hunting. Thanks to the very generous system under which I came first to this country (student visa, full merit scholarship both for undergrad and graduate), and thanks to good choices of employment, I’ve gained enough knowledge and experience to find a well-paying and fulfilling job in Europe. It’s been a great decade and then some; I’ve had a lot of fun and few worries. I found the life here very cheap, and saved enough to cover my move back to Europe and live off my savings for a while. However, all fun must end sometimes, and I’d rather be somewhere where my skills and experience are a little more appreciated.

  16. Mike | November 2, 2007, 12:31pm | #

    Somehow mMost of the Republican Party has ended up divided between neo-cons, evangelicals and are know-nothings, just like the Democrats.

    Corrections made.

  17. Senator GrAssley perceives this as A)a problem or B)a cash cow to be milked. He’ll be re-elected, of course.

    On a related note: the reason I can’t even wholeheartedly endorse Ron Paul (for example) is even he’s gotten on the anti-immigrant bandwagon, endorsing the Anti-Immigrant Protection Line on the Mexican border (for example). Open borders are pretty non-negotiable for me.

    Can anyone name a candidate for president who wants to make legal immigration easier rather than more difficult?

  18. Disclosure: I’m an H-1b foreign worker from Canada, living in the USA.

    The H-1b cap has made hiring foreign nationals a total pain in the ass. Now, you have to apply in April to get an H-1b for October 1st, so you have to have a phenominally long lead time in order to get anyone inside the door. Previously, when the cap wasn’t being hit until into the fiscal year, you could find some talented guy in, say, Paris on December day, and hire him and have him in your office sometime in February. A tolerable situation, if a bit slower and more expensive than hiring someone from Tucson (which it probably should be).

    Now though, the dynamics are very different. It’s difficult in practice to actually hire people from other first world countries. Our hypothetical Parisian programmer looking to move to Boston is not going to be happy when we tell him in December that sure we’d like to hire him, we’ll do paperwork in April or May, and we’ll get him at his desk on October 1st. By April, let alone October, he’ll have another job. Why should he wait for us and put his life on hold?

    On the other hand, another kind of business and employee is fine with this. There are consulting companies that operate basically as H-1b factories. They get H-1bs to bring foreign workers in from India or China, the developers come in, and basically find their own jobs as consultants, and go work at the company they found; giving a portion of their wages to the factor that holds the H-1b.

    These guys, being from the third world, don’t mind waiting for their kick at first world wages.

    But but but… really skilled technical professionals are more commonly found in other rich countries! So hitting this cap the way that we are is actually hurting our ability to hire good talent into the USA.

    Something should be done. Raising the cap so we don’t run out is one idea, having an infinite number is another. Or, releasing the damn things every few weeks, with some auction to see which employer can get them is another.

  19. Wouldn’t it make more sense to expand the visas in a H-1PU program, bringing in workers for low-paying jobs no one here wants?

    Oh. I forgot. Government:sense=Does Not Compute.

  20. Jozef:

    Have you considered Canada? If you’re young, experienced and educated, and speak English or French, our door is still more-or-less open. And we’re still cheaper than most of Europe.

  21. What about letting the market solve the problem? Shortage of engineers should lead to wage increases which will lead to more students enrolling in engineering school creating more engineers.

    The combination of H1-B visas and out-sourcing has led to decreases in engineering school enrollment.

  22. The combination of H1-B visas and out-sourcing has led to decreases in engineering school enrollment.

    Correlation does not equal causation.

    DRINK!

  23. Also, Gavin Peters, what is December Day?

    Damn Canadians and their weirdo holidays…

  24. For every job in the US, you can find someone cheaper in another country to come here and do that job. Is that what Libertarians stand for ?

  25. H1Bs have been used for years in the high tech industries to undercut wages of skilled US workers. They were intended to take up vacancies but companies found they could lay off their older experienced workers and bring in young H1Bs for bargain basement prices, which drove down wages of newly graduated US tech workers. Hi tech companies have been asking for more and more H1Bs for 20 years.

  26. Jozef

    Please consider staying anyway. Some of us do appreciate you (at least as you represent yourself), and we would like you to stay. Our immigration system is Byzantine, but there are those of us who can navigate Byzantium’s currents who are wiling to help.

  27. And so are once-powerful nations brought down to size (or bring themselves there, to be accurate). When all of brainy stuff occurs elsewhere, perhaps Senator Grassley will change his opinion? Of course, his constituents are more likely to be hog-sloppers than software developers, so he probably doesn’t give a damn…

  28. My company has a very hard time finding qualified candidates for engineering software development. We are a multi-cultural company and have people from all over the world developing here in the US, but partly thanks to the government, instead of bringing over qualified well paid engineers over here where they would pay taxes and consume US goods, we are opening up development offices overseas. We prefer not to this (in fact it probably doesn’t save any more money by doing this), but in a world will you are seeking the best and brightest, dumb policies like this will only encourage more hiring in the other countries.

  29. Taktix? | November 2, 2007, 1:29pm | #

    Also, Gavin Peters, what is December Day?

    Damn Canadians and their weirdo holidays…

    Yeah. We Canucks should have normal holidays, like “Martin Luther King Day”, “President’s Day” and “Columbus Day”, not to mention “Groundhog Day” and “Sadie Hawkins Day” and “Monday”.

  30. Hmm, I wonder how long it’ll be before Mr. Grassley is caught in a republican gay-sex scandal…

  31. For every job in the US, you can find someone cheaper in another country to come here and do that job. Is that what Libertarians stand for ?

    Something like that, fuckwit. Now you can tell your buddies how you figured us out.

  32. “What about letting the market solve the problem?”

    Well, we have to be clear about what the problem is. The problem is not that we don’t have enough AMERICAN engineers. There’s nothing, after all, that uniquely qualifies Americans for these job. The problem is that we want access to more engineering skill than we have.

    There are two ways to get more engineering skill: we can grow it domestically or we can buy it pre-made from overseas. At any given time, either may be the more efficient solution; it depends on the international supply of pre-made engineers. But even when it’s more efficient to import engineering skill, the government limits our ability to do so.

    Now, the market can certainly work around this limit; we can always pay more for home-grown engineers. That’s a market solution, but it’s not a FREE-market solution. The free-market solution is to let corporations evaluate for themselves whether it’s more efficient to buy foreign or domestic engineering skill, and then to let them do so.

  33. Fuckwit, what is a fuckwit ?

    So what is your profession, other than being an assshole ?

  34. Have you considered Canada? If you’re young, experienced and educated, and speak English or French, our door is still more-or-less open. And we’re still cheaper than most of Europe.

    And colder! 😉

  35. “…and I’d rather be somewhere where my skills and experience are a little more appreciated.”

    Yes, Jozef. Because here in this country we stopped respecting intelligence and education long ago. Good luck!

  36. What is a fuckwit?

    A “fuckwit” is a person who has consistently failed to obtain any degree of ‘clue’.

    This will often be in a technical sense, such as ‘top posting’ to usenet, quoting the entire text of a usenet post or email in your reply and adding a few words in response, or continually being a complete dickhead.
    (Additional reference may be found on Dick Gaughan’s site)

    A fuckwit is often the cause of an id-iot interface error

    Spammers are always fuckwits.

    The term “fuckwit” may now be used quite easily in non-technical circles and probably applies just as equally to many people we meet in everyday life. Rude people, devoid of manners. Loud people, especially those who use their mobile telephone in totally inappropriate environments and only know two voice volumes (‘silent’ and ‘shouting’).

    Many fuckwits drive buses. Actually, many fuckwits just ‘drive’ – badly.
    However, not all drivers, of buses or otherwise, are fuckwits.

    Fuckwits park on pavements and in disabled parking spaces when they are not entitled to do so.

    Fuckwits always believe they have ‘right of way’.

    Fuckwits drop litter in the street.

    Fuckwits only generally care about themselves and this is evident in their overall attitude toward everything and everyone else.

    Fuckwits always know absolutely everything in the history of everythingness.

    Fuckwits talk lots and listen little.

    Fuckwits never allow evidence to prevent them continuing to be a fuckwit.

    Fuckwits, basically, are fuckwits.
    There is no cure.

    You’ll know when you meet a fuckwit.

  37. For every job in the US, you can find someone cheaper in another country to come here and do that job. Is that what Libertarians stand for ?

    It’s called “freedom”. Kind of odd, isn’t it.

  38. Disclaimer: I am likely a fuckwit.

  39. Aresen,

    “Sadie Hawkins” (a dance in many American schools in the fall) is a celebration for which Americans dress like Canadians.

    Taktix,

    I believe “December Day” is a day that falls during the month between November and January upon which all Canadians agree is December. They celebrate it because they are all able to agree without appealing to a socialist government for government assistance

  40. Ottawa:

    Paul only wants closed borders for as long as we have a welfare state. It is not fiscally responsible to have both open borders and a welfare state. Once the federal government is no longer paying for services that individuals should be paying for than we can open the borders back up. Paul is a libertarian but also knows that you can’t keep a completely open border with the entitlement system we have.

    Tim:

    That isn’t true at all. See what is happening in India now. They (engineers) were much cheaper a few years ago but now they demand wages close (with the overhead added in) to what companies can find here. So now we are looking to eastern europe and elsewhere (vietnam etc.).

    The Indians i work with make the same as i do. they aren’t dumb.

    adrian

  41. The Indians i work with make the same as i do. they aren’t dumb.

    Duh! They’re engineers. They can do that math stuff.

  42. What about letting the market solve the problem? Shortage of engineers should lead to wage increases which will lead to more students enrolling in engineering school creating more engineers.

    Hey, let’s ban all imports. Let the market solve the problem! Shortages of all goods should lead to price increases which will lead to more American manufacturing. And if you REALLY believe in the market, you should want to ban all interstate commerce.

  43. “For every job in the US, you can find someone cheaper in another country to come here and do that job. Is that what Libertarians stand for?”

    It sure looks that way.

  44. Leigh, where does your company have offices? I develop CAE software.

    Our India office is now our biggest in terms of headcount (including our American based HQ).

  45. I’ve worked as a software engineer for 25 years and have programmed everything from mainframes to F-15 fighters and radar displays to PCs. It’s a field I would never enter now.

    Any job that doesn’t require a direct, physical presence can be sent to a 3rd world country that has much lower costs of living and hence, much lower wages.

    What we’re witnessing is a race to the bottom.

  46. “Hey, let’s ban all imports. Let the market solve the problem! Shortages of all goods should lead to price increases which will lead to more American manufacturing. And if you REALLY believe in the market, you should want to ban all interstate commerce.”

    People aren’t products. Free trade doesn’t have value in and of itself. It’s only value is if it increases the living standard of those who participate in it.

    Free trade in jobs will turn the US into a 3rd world country.

  47. Ottawa Reader-
    I was looking at possibly living in Nova Scotia for about half the year after I retire in a decade or so. I would need to earn some supplemental income to do this. From looking at the Government Canada websites, its seems very difficult for a non-citizen (esp from the US) to work legally in Canada unless they are a path toward citizenship. Am I not reading this right?

  48. Tim,

    Free trade in jobs will turn the US into a 3rd world country.

    The free trade in jobs is why all states are as poor as Mississippi.

  49. It’s a field I would never enter now.

    Since software engineer was number 1 of their Best Jobs in America, I gather that Money Magazine would disagree with you…

  50. What is a fuckwit?

    A “fuckwit” is a person who has consistently failed to obtain any degree of ‘clue’.

    This will often be in a technical sense, such as ‘top posting’ to usenet, quoting the entire text of a usenet post or email in your reply and adding a few words in response, or continually being a complete dickhead.
    (Additional reference may be found on Dick Gaughan’s site)

    A fuckwit is often the cause of an id-iot interface error

    Spammers are always fuckwits.

    The term “fuckwit” may now be used quite easily in non-technical circles and probably applies just as equally to many people we meet in everyday life. Rude people, devoid of manners. Loud people, especially those who use their mobile telephone in totally inappropriate environments and only know two voice volumes (‘silent’ and ‘shouting’).

    Many fuckwits drive buses. Actually, many fuckwits just ‘drive’ – badly.
    However, not all drivers, of buses or otherwise, are fuckwits.

    Fuckwits park on pavements and in disabled parking spaces when they are not entitled to do so.

    Fuckwits always believe they have ‘right of way’.

    Fuckwits drop litter in the street.

    Fuckwits only generally care about themselves and this is evident in their overall attitude toward everything and everyone else.

    Fuckwits always know absolutely everything in the history of everythingness.

    Fuckwits talk lots and listen little.

    Fuckwits never allow evidence to prevent them continuing to be a fuckwit.

    Fuckwits, basically, are fuckwits.
    There is no cure.

    You’ll know when you meet a fuckwit.

    Ditto

  51. I have a really hard time buying the argument that H1Bs are suppressing wages. And that is mostly because IT workers are highly paid to begin with. As adrian points out everyone I know makes the same as their US counterparts. And as I look around my office today every IT worker (developer, systems admin, infrastructure, and other) makes above average wages – most, if not all, own homes, take pretty decent vacations, etc I have no degree but make 6 figures and have since I was 25. Meanwhile all my non-IT friends my age (outside of lawyers and physicians) are scrapping by. Will an large increase in H1Bs suppress wages? Doubtful but the market should be left to figure that out.

  52. People aren’t products. Free trade doesn’t have value in and of itself. It’s only value is if it increases the living standard of those who participate in it.

    No, people are not products, but their labor is a commodity, for which they trade for money.

    Companies pay for that labor, and like anything else, they get what they pay for. Sure, it might be cheaper to buy some relatively valueless labor from overseas.

    But what you economic-mental-midgets don’t realize is that the extra capital they save is put into development and growth, creating more jobs here that cannot be filled cheaply overseas.

    People don’t seem to realize that corporate profits are not just rolled into the CEO’s salary. In fact, that’s called embezzlement. The money is used to make the company better, usually through hiring, diversifying and opening up new markets.

    The idea that corporate profits are just being used to wallpaper the homes of CEOs is just plain Marxism.

  53. An Ottawa Reader: I have indeed considered Canada, and it’s still high on my list. However, there’s a chance to stay with the company I’m working for now (and greatly enjoying it) in one of its European offices. We don’t have an office in Canada, though, but if we had or if I left the company, Canada would be again my first choice.

    Scop: I appreciate your support. But it’s difficult to remain upbeat on the immigration system if my previous sponsor, when trying to employ the help of his good friends Jimmy Carter and James Baker, was told that neither dared to mess with the INS. The system appears to be quite byzantine indeed.

  54. People aren’t products.
    Yes they are.

    Free trade doesn’t have value in and of itself.
    Yes it does.

    Its only value is if it increases the living standard of those who participate in it.
    No it’s not.

    Free trade in jobs will turn the US into a 3rd world country.
    No it won’t.

    That should answer your concerns.

  55. An article was just published an article for CIO magazine that has more on the H-1B vs green card controversy — it’s called Wadhwamania. Check it out at:

    http://advice.cio.com/rob_sanchez/wadhwamania

  56. I’ve worked as a software engineer for 25 years and have programmed everything from mainframes to F-15 fighters and radar displays to PCs. It’s a field I would never enter now.

    I spent a few months working at a defense contractor before I fled in horror. I think that spending years at one has made you bitter and possibly brain-crippled.

  57. What is a fuckwit?

    A “fuckwit” is a person who has consistently failed to obtain any degree of ‘clue’.

    This will often be in a technical sense, such as ‘top posting’ to usenet, quoting the entire text of a usenet post or email in your reply and adding a few words in response, or continually being a complete dickhead.
    (Additional reference may be found on Dick Gaughan’s site)

    A fuckwit is often the cause of an id-iot interface error

    Spammers are always fuckwits.

    The term “fuckwit” may now be used quite easily in non-technical circles and probably applies just as equally to many people we meet in everyday life. Rude people, devoid of manners. Loud people, especially those who use their mobile telephone in totally inappropriate environments and only know two voice volumes (‘silent’ and ‘shouting’).

    Many fuckwits drive buses. Actually, many fuckwits just ‘drive’ – badly.
    However, not all drivers, of buses or otherwise, are fuckwits.

    Fuckwits park on pavements and in disabled parking spaces when they are not entitled to do so.

    Fuckwits always believe they have ‘right of way’.

    Fuckwits drop litter in the street.

    Fuckwits only generally care about themselves and this is evident in their overall attitude toward everything and everyone else.

    Fuckwits always know absolutely everything in the history of everythingness.

    Fuckwits talk lots and listen little.

    Fuckwits never allow evidence to prevent them continuing to be a fuckwit.

    Fuckwits, basically, are fuckwits.
    There is no cure.

    You’ll know when you meet a fuckwit.

    Ditto

    I agree.

  58. I wasn’t a defense contractor. I was a DoD employee until I found a private sector job.

    I’m not bitter. I love engineering. I just want jobs to stay in the U.S. for U.S. citizens at good wages.

  59. Tim,

    Software engineering begets software engineering. Compilers may have disemployed assembly language programmers, but they did not start a race to the bottom among software engineers each making the old products more cheaply. Rather they allowed for lower cost development of better and more feature rich software.

    It is pretty clear that the more software engineering that is done anywhere in the world, the more software engineering there is to do. And the more of that software engineering that is done next door to you, the better you can take advantage of it.

    Thus importing as many engineers as the US can find is the best option. Outsourcing as much engineering as the US can is the second best option. And protectionist measures to “save US jobs” is the absolute worst option.

    At best, protectionism over software engineering will simply move software development and, in time, all the high valued labor that comes with it such as marketing, product design, and entire companies overseas. At worst, it will seriously stifle the industry and the wealth it creates for those in it and society as a whole.

  60. There is a simple way to kill the H-1B tax.
    Terminate H-1B visa.

  61. What is a fuckwit?

    A “fuckwit” is a person who has consistently failed to obtain any degree of ‘clue’.

    This will often be in a technical sense, such as ‘top posting’ to usenet, quoting the entire text of a usenet post or email in your reply and adding a few words in response, or continually being a complete dickhead.
    (Additional reference may be found on Dick Gaughan’s site)

    A fuckwit is often the cause of an id-iot interface error

    Spammers are always fuckwits.

    The term “fuckwit” may now be used quite easily in non-technical circles and probably applies just as equally to many people we meet in everyday life. Rude people, devoid of manners. Loud people, especially those who use their mobile telephone in totally inappropriate environments and only know two voice volumes (‘silent’ and ‘shouting’).

    Many fuckwits drive buses. Actually, many fuckwits just ‘drive’ – badly.
    However, not all drivers, of buses or otherwise, are fuckwits.

    Fuckwits park on pavements and in disabled parking spaces when they are not entitled to do so.

    Fuckwits always believe they have ‘right of way’.

    Fuckwits drop litter in the street.

    Fuckwits only generally care about themselves and this is evident in their overall attitude toward everything and everyone else.

    Fuckwits always know absolutely everything in the history of everythingness.

    Fuckwits talk lots and listen little.

    Fuckwits never allow evidence to prevent them continuing to be a fuckwit.

    Fuckwits, basically, are fuckwits.
    There is no cure.

    You’ll know when you meet a fuckwit.

    Ditto

    I agree.

    I see what you did there.

  62. From the CIO article linked above:

    during the time period from 1985 to 2000, about 435,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents a year graduated with Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Over the same period, there were about 150,000 jobs added annually to the science and engineering workforce.

  63. I just want jobs to stay in the U.S. for U.S. citizens at good wages.

    So your love of humanity stops at the Atlantic and Pacific coasts?
    “Keeping” jobs in a geographic region — whether a state, or a country — leads to all sorts of government interference that ultimately hurts the producers and the consumers.

  64. Over the same period, there were about 150,000 jobs added annually to the science and engineering workforce.

    I thought you said all the jobs were going overseas?

    Which one is it, Tim?

  65. How about the War on the American Worker?

    Have you heard about “HOW NOT TO HIRE AN AMERICAN WORKER?”

    http://www.youtube.com/programmersguild

    also for your reading:
    http://www.eng-i.com/E-Newsletters.htm
    The above could be a real eye-opener since the AmeriKan Korporate press won’t give you the truth.

  66. dbust1 | November 2, 2007, 1:55pm | #

    Aresen,

    “Sadie Hawkins” (a dance in many American schools in the fall) is a celebration for which Americans dress like Canadians.

    Touch?.

    FWIW, “Sadie Hawkins Day” is February 29th.* The name was given by the late Al Capp in his “L’il Abner” comic strip. Traditionally (in some European countries), on February 29th, women were allowed to propose to men. Al Capp just put an American spin on it.

    *Confirmed batchelors, beware of 2008!

  67. I’ve spent 7 years wrestling with the US immigration system, and have had to give up and go home. It’s a complicated story (aren’t they all?). On top of other efforts I made, I had an H-1B but the initial application and labor certification took over three years and I lost my job in the meantime. That means if I come back and get another H-1B, I only have about 2 years left on it. If I did manage to get a new visa, ignoring quotas and processing times, I still would have problems becoming a permanent resident.

    When I tell American friends how difficult to near impossible it is to emigrate to the United States, even with job offers, they are astonished. I’m a Canadian who speaks English perfectly and without a perceptible accent, has a degree in American History (!), has paid over $400k in taxes to the US Treasury, and has no criminal record. But I can’t get in! (It doesn’t help that I’m gay and have no desire to marry a woman to cement my status, putting aside that it’s much harder to use that work-around today.)

    It’s too bad because I truly love the United States. LOVE IT. It’s whole way of life is in my DNA and I thrive down there. I love the people, the energy, the history, you name it. Hell, I should probably wear a Yankee Doodle Dandy suit. Instead I have to live in boring Canada.

    I really hope you get a modern immigration system because I want to be buried in the USA.

  68. How the hell does this thread go 60+ comments without LoneWacko? Maybe TGUblahblahwhatever alliance thing actually worked, in which case consider this your nomination for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

  69. during the time period from 1985 to 2000, about 435,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents a year graduated with Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Over the same period, there were about 150,000 jobs added annually to the science and engineering workforce.

    From the original source (PDF)

    Of course, net employment growth is not a direct measure of employment demand or total job openings, since net growth does not include replacement for retirements or occupational quits, nor do these aggregate numbers indicate the types of workers sought (education level, experience, etc).

    Also, I see no indication that that 435,000 degrees was adjusted for the upwards of 20% of people who account for 2 of them or the upwards of 7% who account for 3.

    To top it off, I see no indication where that 150,000 came from. That has got to be a tough number to characterize. How do they get it? A footnote notes that they don’t include those working in fields such as patent law where their education is put to good use.

  70. How the hell does this thread go 60+ comments without LoneWacko?

    LoneWacko has LostHisJob to IllegalMexicans who get PaidLess to produce ParanoidConspiracies than HeDoes.

  71. LoneWacko has LostHisJob to IllegalMexicans who get PaidLess to produce ParanoidConspiracies than HeDoes.

    So is that the real reason hes afraid of nutjob Mexican sepratists? Because they do HisJob ForLess?

  72. He tried to cut down on costs by using less spaces but it wasn’t enough. So they TOOK HIS JERB

  73. Dan,

    Don’t wear a Yankee Doodle Dandy suit, people will think youre gay.

  74. . . . those working in fields such as patent law where their education is put to good use.

    lol

  75. …those working in fields such as patent law where their education is put to good use.

    Edits made.

  76. “H1Bs have been used for years in the high tech industries to undercut wages of skilled US workers.”

    Part of the process for securing an H-1b visa is showing that the foreign employee will be paid a “prevailing wage;” i.e. that commonly paid to American employees in a similar position. If the employer tries to cut out the American employee by paying the foreign employee a cheaper salary, the employee will not qualify for an H-1B visa. Therefore, the likelihood of H-1B visas depressing the wages of skilled American workers is nil.

  77. I was gonna say — I don’t think our T. would have agreed with that.

  78. Personally, I would rather open borders allowing for immigration, and then people who emigrate here can easily get jobs for which they are qualified. You still add more labor to the workforce, but in this case, these people don’t have to be separated from their families.

    I am not as comfortable with the idea of importing workers from other countries and making their right to stay in America conditional upon staying with the company that sponsored them or scrambling to find another sponsor (which can be made more difficult because of the politics involved and the silly laws that get passed). I am not a fan of giving that amount of control over the workers’ lives to a company and being beholden to that company. (Yes I know they apply for the visas and submit to those restrictions voluntarily, but many of them do so because their options are quite limited and it is the best of bad choices — a form of duress IMHO)

    I am all for allowing people a chance at a better life and prosperity, I just prefer if they emigrate here and become a resident of our great nation, the way that waves of immigrants did (and my parents did) in the older days.

    On the other hand, considering the current state of immigration laws, I can live with the work visa things and even expanding the ability amount of them.

  79. during the time period from 1985 to 2000, about 435,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents a year graduated with Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Over the same period, there were about 150,000 jobs added annually to the science and engineering workforce.

    Wow, talk about the Dept of Bad Statistics
    That 450,000 figure double and triple counts a large number of individuals; every single person MS needs to have a BS, everyone with a PHD needs to have both a BS and MS.
    That 150,000 undercounts the number of people that entered the workforce; it is the net gain after you take out the fact that most of guys (and a few girls) from the Manhattan & Apollo era’s either retired or died from 85-00

    Here’s an alternative datum for you. The nuclear navy has to spend about $100,000 these days per person (just salary, benefits make the price even higher) on engineers to keep them after their first 5 year commitment is up. So the market price for a US citizen w/ a Bachelors of Science and five years experience since college is somewhere around that.

  80. I think Episiarch just won the thread.

  81. Perfect timing for the title and context of this story. I found out today that I’m to be laid-off next Friday.

    (why’s everybody gotta hate on geeks?)

    🙂

  82. Kenny:

    TO take a job in Canada, you would need a job offer from a Canadian employer, who would need permission from Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) to offer a foreigner the job. How easy that is depends on whether HRSDC consider your field to be in high demand.

    Your usual bureaucratic second-guessing of the labour market. I said the door was more-or-less open, not open all the way.

    Best of luck.

    PS http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/

    Dan:

    I sympathize. I feel the same way about Quebec; in an ideal world, where my French was much better than it is, I’d move to Montreal tomorrow. As it was, I never seriously considered the Quebec labour market. I can always visit, and the loss (such as it is) is the Quebec government’s, not mine.

    It may be for the best. Canada’s no Galt’s Gulch, but I’m more bullish on Canada than on the US every day.

    In other news, the loonie is at US$1.0704. It hit a modern-era high of US$1.0718 today.

  83. However, I’m not losing my job to others. The company just shot itself in the foot (feet) a few too many times and now has no legs to stand on.

  84. Dennis wrote

    “Part of the process for securing an H-1b visa is showing that the foreign employee will be paid a “prevailing wage;” i.e. that commonly paid to American employees in a similar position. If the employer tries to cut out the American employee by paying the foreign employee a cheaper salary, the employee will not qualify for an H-1B visa. Therefore, the likelihood of H-1B visas depressing the wages of skilled American workers is nil.?

    It is amazing how someone like Dennis, who does not know squat about the H-1B program, can potificate about it with such authority.

    I refer everyone to 8 USC 1182(n).

    Yes, the as part of the H-1B process and employer must submit a labor condition application LCA giving the wage to be paid and the prevailing wage. Dennis got that much right — and that’s all.

    In an LCA, the employer determines the prevailing wage. The employer can use nearly any source for the prevailing wage. While there are some limitations on sources, they are routinely ignored because (Dennis, pay close attention here) the law specifically limits the approval process of an LCA to checking the form is filled out correctly.

    That’s right Dennis, an employer can put anything down as the prevailing wage, use an invalid source (as many do) or simply invent one and the LCA will be approved.

    As of last year, LCAs where the wage to be paid was lower than the prevailing wage were being approved.

    As far as anyone going back to investigate bogus prevailing wage claims, the law specifically requires the personal approval of the Secretary of Labor for that. Something that has never happened.

    In the computer industry employer prevailing wage claims on LCAs average $18,000 below the U.S. median for the same occupation and location. So Dennis, I hope you can begin see how employers can use the H-1B program to depress wages.

    Your see Dennis, the H-1B statutes have been been written to allow employers to abuse the program with impunity.

  85. In the computer industry employer prevailing wage claims on LCAs average $18,000 below the U.S. median for the same occupation and location.

    …and age? …and experience?

    But I seem to agree with you: Scrap the whole visa thing that limits immigrant workers’ market power and let them enter freely and negotiate their wage in the open market like the rest of us.

  86. (It doesn’t help that I’m gay and have no desire to marry a woman to cement my status, putting aside that it’s much harder to use that work-around today.)

    Some day, in a just and fair world, even gays will have the right to a loveless marriage of convenience for immigration purposes.

  87. have no desire to marry a woman to cement my status

    Yeah, they’re really cracking down on that cuz they know there’s almost no other legal way to stay in America. I learned the hard way to never, ever date a foreigner again.

  88. How the hell does this thread go 60+ comments without LoneWacko?

    As it deals with legal immigration of skilled and educated law abiding people he probably has no interest in the thread.


  89. SIV

    As it deals with legal immigration of skilled and educated law abiding people he probably has no interest in the thread.

    I agree, except I don’t really care about their education. In my experience [in Canada] most immigrants work much harder than the average “born here” Canadian.

    I go for coffee at a local shop run by Chinese immigrants. They work their tails off 10 – 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. It really gripes me that, when I’m walking to their store, I see healthy 20 year olds cashing their welfare checks at the Money Mart I pass on the way.

  90. “Scrap the whole visa thing that limits immigrant workers’ market power and let them enter freely and negotiate their wage in the open market like the rest of us.”

    Absolutely agree.

    I also have worked in IT for about 20 years. My current skills are as a DBA and programmer – the sweet spot for the types of skills H1B many holders have. Bring ’em in. If I don’t have the skills to compete, I’ll do something else.

    All I ask is that I get the benefit of the same kind of openness in markets where I’m the consumer instead of the producer.

  91. Lots of comments on this, don’t you think?

    H1-B MEANS CHEAP SLAVE LABOR!!

    Just wanted to get that out there.

  92. Un ?couter d’Ottawa-
    Thanks for the reply. That’s what I thought, that it’s almost impossible to work part-time; it has to be full-time (for it to make sense for someone to sponsor you) or not at all

  93. But I seem to agree with you: Scrap the whole visa thing that limits immigrant workers’ market power and let them enter freely and negotiate their wage in the open market like the rest of us.

    Ontario, Canada does this. It is not as fun as you might think, MikeP. Toronto is becoming less liveable by the year.

  94. Fuckin’ Elephant worshipin’ dot-head Curry-Bellies stealin’ our jobs!

  95. Tim writes:

    Free trade in jobs will turn the US into a 3rd world country.

    After NAFTA, the US embarked on the longest growth period in history. Even with the outsourcing, Cisco is still play $110k / year for SW engineers. And Google/MS/Apple still employs legions of American engineers. Explain that.

  96. Yeah, sure, easy to screw the IT guys.

    Since this is so great, how about we get H-1B lawyers to do legal work for $10/hr? No, no, can’t have that…

  97. Tim:

    I just want jobs to stay in the U.S. for U.S. citizens at good wages.

    I believe in libertarian ideals precisely because I want US to remain the preeminent economy with good wages. Did India come up with the iPod? Did China invent the Google or Yahoo search engine? Only by allowing Americans do what Americans do best are we going to succeed in this global economy. H1Bs, outsourcing, is all part of the equation that will keep us on top.

  98. For every job in the US, you can find someone cheaper in another country to come here and do that job. Is that what Libertarians stand for ?

    It’s the law of Comparative Advantage. Libertarians cannot be against it as much as one can be against the law of gravity. Outsourcing actually creates jobs in this country, by releasing resources for other more productive things… well, as long as those “resources” ARE productive, and not just Union.

  99. “That 450,000 figure double and triple counts a large number of individuals; every single person MS needs to have a BS, everyone with a PHD needs to have both a BS and MS.”

    The 450,000 number is *per year*, not overall. Few if any people get all of the consecutive degrees in the same year, so it’s unlikely that anyone is being multiply counted in that number.

  100. “Only by allowing Americans do what Americans do best”

    Doing something best is not necessarily the same as doing it most cheaply (unless by ‘best’ you mean best at manufacturing things cheaply regardless of quality.)

    We might be better at manufacturing something, but the economics favor moving production to China because of, among other things, their currency peg and the vast labor surplus. And willingness to cut corners. Then you get toys painted with lead and retarded children.

    There may be things Americans could do best, but which we aren’t given the opportunity to do, because other countries can do acceptable work more cheaply due to factors separate from the actual work.

  101. The 450,000 number is *per year*, not overall. Few if any people get all of the consecutive degrees in the same year, so it’s unlikely that anyone is being multiply counted in that number.

    That 450,000 is a long-running average, not a single-year snapshot. It should be apparent that if everyone got three degrees in three consecutive years and then joined the workforce, then 450,000 degrees each year would produce 150,000 new workers each year. Of course, not everyone gets more than one degree. Nonetheless, to the extent that anyone does (20% start an MS and 7% start a PhD according to the original source), the 450,000 number is overcounting graduates.

  102. There may be things Americans could do best, but which we aren’t given the opportunity to do, because other countries can do acceptable work more cheaply due to factors separate from the actual work.

    Of course this is exactly the law of comparative advantage brought up by Francisco Torres above.

    Even if Americans are best at doing everything there is to do, they become wealthier by doing those things they do the very best compared to other economies and yielding to other economies those things they do only a little better.

    Put simply, if an American is spending his time painting toys, he is not producing software. Which is a better use of his limited time? Which is a better use of an economy’s limited resources?

  103. Only by allowing Americans do what Americans do best are we going to succeed in this global economy. H1Bs, outsourcing, is all part of the equation that will keep us on top.

    So, let me get this straight. Bringing in foreign electrical engineers and computer scientist, and outsourcing those jobs to other countries is going to free up Americans to do jobs higher on the intellectual ladder? Higher on the ladder than designing the circuits and software that power the modern world? Out of curiosity, would you care to name those jobs that are higher on the intellectual ladder?

  104. if an American is spending his time painting toys, he is not producing software. Which is a better use of his limited time? Which is a better use of an economy’s limited resources?

    When Bill Gates says he wants an infinite supply of H1Bs, I do not think he is considering bringing in illiterate Chinese peasants to paint our children’s toys with lead-based paint. Somehow, I am getting an inkling that he wants to bring in an “infinite” supply of EEs and Computer Scientists from countries where earning $20,000 per year puts you solidly in the middle class.

    Mike, refresh my memory here, when you change the supply/demand curve by increasing the supply by a large amount (BG’s “infinite”), what happens to the price of that item. It has been a long time since I have opened an Economics text book but I dimly recall that the price will plunge to the bottom of the ocean and will in fact seek the center of the earth.

  105. Here’s an alternative datum for you. The nuclear navy has to spend about $100,000 these days per person (just salary, benefits make the price even higher) on engineers to keep them after their first 5 year commitment is up. So the market price for a US citizen w/ a Bachelors of Science and five years experience since college is somewhere around that.

    True. A non-citzen (AKA an H1B worker) is not eligible for these jobs. So, what is your point?

  106. How about we amend the H1B program in this way:

    Have the bureau of labor statistics conduct an annual salary survey for those jobs that US private industry has requested for the H1B program. Make it a requirement that the minimum salary offer for an H1B holder is the average salary detemined by the survey. Further, allow the H1B holders to freely move between companies while in the US.

    Then the H1B program would no longer be a blunt instrument of trauma wielded by US industry to bludgeon down wages.

  107. It is pretty clear that the more software engineering that is done anywhere in the world, the more software engineering there is to do. And the more of that software engineering that is done next door to you, the better you can take advantage of it.

    MikeP, is there a limit or does the software engineering cycle truly execute in an infinite loop?

  108. is there a limit or does the software engineering cycle truly execute in an infinite loop?

    At this point it’s an empirical observation. But it is hard to fathom a more positive-sum industry.

    When assembly language was invented, it became easier to develop the same applications that were being programmed in machine language. But it also enabled development of bigger and better applications. When compilers were invented, they were not used solely to recode old software: They too presaged a massive improvement in what could be done with computers. PCs brought their own new software development requirements. UIs brought even more. And the internet was not used simply to do spreadsheets online.

    Today software is found in more and more products all over the map. And the proliferation and complexity of software used for industrial process control is making even companies such as semiconductor equipment suppliers reconsider whether their highest value product is not their hardware, but the software that runs it.

    Each of these innovations, and the thousands of innovations interspersed between, brought more ideas and more opportunities for more and more complex software to be built.

    Is it infinite? I don’t know. But I also don’t know of anything that could derail that process. …well, except for, as usual, government meddling.

    If you have a different impression, I suggest you write a book with a title like The End of Software. It’ll sell to the pessimistic masses like wildfire.

  109. when you change the supply/demand curve by increasing the supply by a large amount (BG’s “infinite”), what happens to the price of that item.

    Curiously, the infinite allowances of workers from the rest of the US moving into Washington state hasn’t plunged the price of labor in Washington to the center of the earth. It hasn’t even plunged the wages in Washington to the level of those in Puerto Rico. Or Mississippi. Or even Idaho.

  110. MikeP, I did not ask you what did not happen to labor costs in Washington. I asked a first-semester level economics question about the supply demand curve.

  111. MikeP, let me make sure I understand your point about software. To paraphrase, the more SW that is written, the more SW needs to be written. If this is true, then writing software increases the demand for software, hence increasing the demand for SW engineers. Back to Econ 101; what happens to the wages of SW engineers when the demand for their product increases? If you actually answer instead of talking about the wages of shepherds in Idaho I anticipate you will say the SW engineer’s wages will increase. So, to summarize, importing H1B SW Engineers will drive up the wages of all SW engineers, according to your hypothesis. Has that actually been the case?

  112. wayne,

    I would say that software’s begetting software is a mitigating factor that holds up wages in the face of an increasing supply of software engineers. I don’t think I can prove that it completely mitigates increased supply, not least because the marginal engineer is only doing marginal work, but also because of the time it takes for new software to become familiar to other engineers.

    Of course, there are other effects involved that could drive software engineer wages up. Most important is outsourcing: As lower valued, lower paid software jobs are moved where they can be done more cheaply, the remaining jobs are paid higher both because of simple selection and because they can better leverage the lower valued work being done elsewhere.

    So I can’t prove that more software engineers means higher wages. In my understanding and experience, however, software engineering wages have done better than median wages over time, even with the addition of H1B immigrant workers.

  113. I did not ask you what did not happen to labor costs in Washington. I asked a first-semester level economics question about the supply demand curve.

    Actually, you equated an infinite allowance for something (H1B workers) for an actually infinite supply of that something. I tried to point out that those are not equal, or even proxies for each other. You also seemed to think that the wage would “seek the center of the earth” and not even be supported by the $20,000 floor you cited.

  114. Incidentally, the notion that “software begets software” is only a subset of the notion that “ideas beget ideas” or the more general “wealth begets wealth”.

    The number of workers in the US in 2007 is vastly greater than the number of workers in the US in 1907. Yet their wages are vastly greater too.

    There is clearly something more going on than simple supply and demand arguments.

  115. “The number of workers in the US in 2007 is vastly greater than the number of workers in the US in 1907. Yet their wages are vastly greater too.”

    Adjusted for inflation?

  116. “Actually, you equated an infinite allowance for something (H1B workers) for an actually infinite supply of that something. I tried to point out that those are not equal, or even proxies for each other. You also seemed to think that the wage would “seek the center of the earth” and not even be supported by the $20,000 floor you cited.”

    I will agree that the wage floor will most likely be a few thousand dollars higher than the equivalent off-shored IT job, maybe $23,000.

    I don’t follow your “allowance” vs “supply” point. I presumed that BG was hyperbolic when he used the word “infinite”; he merely meant all limits and restrictions removed.

    If BG and others get their way, the wage paid to engineers and CS’ists will drop significantly. This will cascade to other occupations. The middle class will take the hit; the rich (the owners of the companies hiring the third-world engineers) will benefit in the short term. The US will be less like the US we currently know, and more like India.

  117. Adjusted for inflation?

    Uh… yes.

    That you had to ask explains a lot about your disbelief that one person’s productive work might raise the value of someone else’s productive work. Well, now you know: GDP per capita is up by more than a factor of six over the last century — all while population has risen by more than a factor of 3.

    Care to reconsider your opinion on the effects of importing high skilled labor?

  118. I don’t follow your “allowance” vs “supply” point. I presumed that BG was hyperbolic when he used the word “infinite”; he merely meant all limits and restrictions removed.

    If the United States starts a new H1C visa program to regulate the migration of wookies, they can set the quota to 115,000 or to infinity. Regardless, the supply of wookies immigrating into the US will be zero.

    Similarly, the supply of software engineers immigrating into the US under an infinite or effectively infinite quota of H1B visas will not be effectively infinite. It will be regulated by the quality of the immigrants and the work there is for them to do. Immigrants who can do high value software engineering are not terribly common. Even under an infinite quota, the actual number immigrating will be limited.

    This effect is further regulated by outsourcing. Only the highest valued engineers doing the highest valued work will be brought to the US to be paid US wages. Work that can be effectively outsourced will of course go to laborers in cheaper locales — even if there is an infinite number of H1Bs allowed.

  119. The data you cited is for GDP, not wages. I agree that GDP is a good proxy for wages until about 1985 or so. I think real wages in the US have been stagnant for the last decade, or so.

  120. … This effect is further regulated by outsourcing. Only the highest valued engineers doing the highest valued work will be brought to the US to be paid US wages. Work that can be effectively outsourced will of course go to laborers in cheaper locales — even if there is an infinite number of H1Bs allowed.

    so, you conclude that outsourcing and employment of H1Bs will drive up the demand for, and wages of, American geeks?

  121. Yes. …just as the demand and wages of California geeks hold up in the presence of Washington geeks, and the demand and wages of Washington geeks hold up in the presence of California geeks — all in the presence of Illinois geek immigrants and outsourcing to North Carolina geeks.

  122. MikeP,

    You must be a college educated economist. Only an economist would have the gall to use American engineer’s wages as a proxy for Indian engineer’s wages when trying to convince skeptics that outsourcing jobs will directly benefit the group targeted.

    As always, our chat has been a pleasant foray into the murky world of economics statistics. I am sure we will do this again.

  123. The data you cited is for GDP, not wages.

    MikeP, one more point about GDP. As you know, raw GDP is adjusted using the “GDP deflator” to arrive at the inflation adjusted “real” GDP.

    I, and many others, think the US government is lieing about inflation, and has been for a decade or so. If that is correct, then the GDP data is a lie as well.

  124. The headline should read “Grassley introduces Send Jobs Overseas Act of 2007.”

    When a company hires an H1B worker, there is far more than the cost of a visa involved. That worker creates jobs and pays taxes for housing, food, clothes, a car, consumer goods of all types, plus pays income taxes (as do all of the people who are involved in supplying the worker’s needs and desires).

    By boosting the visa cost by 230%, our government will simply add one more incentive for companies to move those jobs overseas, where some other country will get the ancillary employment and the tax money.

    BRILLIANT thinking, Grassley! The merchants of Bangalore will sing your praises.

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