Youthful Errors

No, this post is not about my own youthful errors, numerous though they may be.ūüôā Instead, my post title here can be explained, less glibly but just as succinctly, as “Experience Counts.”

As readers of this blog (hopefully) know, I have over the years emphasized the point that H-1B is largely about age: Employers hire young H-1Bs instead of older (35+) Americans, because younger is cheaper. And like a lot of cheap purchases, this one follows the old adage, “Penny wise, pound foolish.” I claim that this is the connection between two articles in the September 12 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek.

The first article, “We’re Not Too Old for This,” is a typical example of the ever-growing genre of articles on the difficulties older workers face in Silicon Valley, replete with tales about 50-somethings trying to find hip ways to talk and dress so as not to seem like the grandparents of the millenials who interview them for jobs. While I would object to a statement that the oldsters’ problem is that their skill sets are out of date rather than a lack of an Urban Dictionary vocabulary, the article is generally accurate.

The second article, “Don’t Blame Me — It Wasn’t My Code,” is an interesting account of just how vulnerable businesses are to bugs in the software they use as infrastructure. The piece’s case in point concerns the software Cisco writes for its hardware. As the article points out, no software is completely bug-free, but I contend that more experienced programmers write better code. They are better able to anticipate where bugs might occur, and thus to write code in such a way that it is both less bug-prone and easier to discover the source if a bug does creep in.

Cisco hires a lot of foreign workers, typically finding them at U.S. universities, where the foreigners are earning degrees as young international students. Cisco then hires these young’ns under the Optional Practical Training program, hoping to get H-1B work visas for them in subsequent years. If the latter fails, Cisco can have them work for a Cisco subsidiary abroad for a year, then bring them back to San Jose or wherever under the L-1 intracompany transfer visa, no questions asked.

Of course, from Cisco’s point of view, it is not really “Penny wise, pound foolish,” not the “foolish” part anyway, because Cisco probably will not suffer any major consequences. Even if it were sued, it would just treat any damages awarded as a cost of doing business, and still come out way ahead. On a broader level, though, there are plenty of victims.

Social Justice, Theory and Reality

In 2003,¬†Beverly Tatum published her book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race”. The blurb on Amazon notes,

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see black youth seated together in the cafeteria. Of course, it’s not just the black kids sitting together-the white, Latino, Asian Pacific, and, in some regions, American Indian youth are clustered in their own groups, too. The same phenomenon can be observed in college dining halls, faculty lounges, and corporate cafeterias. What is going on here? Is this self-segregation a problem we should try to fix, or a coping strategy we should support?

We certainly see this at the university level, and as the above blurb notes, it’s not just blacks and whites, but also Asians, Latinos and so on. Assuming this is an undesirable phenomenon, as I do, the first point I would make here is that, at least at my university, the situation has gotten worse, not better, in the last 10-15 years. In particular, self-segregation among Asian-American students, mainly Chinese, has visibly increased, to the point at which it apparently even effected the design of the remodeled cafeteria in the student union. I won’t go into the details here, and hasten to add that most of¬†the Asian students definitely mingle with the general population, but still, the trend has been toward self-segregation.

What is causing this in the Asian case, I believe,¬†is that many of our students come from feeder schools in Silicon Valley, such as Mission San Jose (in Fremont, not in San Jose), Monta Vista, Lynwood and so on. These schools have enrollments approaching or even exceeding 90% Asian-American. Various articles have been written about this remarkable trend, such as one in the Wall Street Journal in 2005¬†and this 2015 article in Slate¬†(written by one of the self-segregators).¬†Basically, many if not most of these kids grew up in a mostly-Asian environment, and have never had much serious interaction with others. They’ve always hung out almost exclusively with Asians, and just continue the pattern in college, without even thinking about it.

Having said all that, I was quite startled to find the same situation at Brandeis University, which my wife and I visited (more or less on a whim) on Monday. Yes, whites with whites, blacks with blacks, Asians with Asians etc. And given that Brandeis, originally a Jewish-sponsored school and one whose enrollments are still close to 50% Jewish, that whites-with-whites category may break down further into Jewish and non-Jewish segments.

Should Brandeis be any different? Arguably,yes,¬†it should indeed, in principle, have much less self-segregation than do “ordinary” schools, because Brandeis has a strong theme of social justice. Since adherents of that philosophy define it in largely racial terms, it is puzzling, to say the least to see this self-imposed apartheid.

A student who struck up a conversation with us in the cafeteria, a Latina from Texas, put it bluntly: Though she deplored the situation and doesn’t engage in such behavior herself, she said that many of her classmates simply don’t feel comfortable with other races or ethnicities.

Again, what gets me is that this is Brandeis, the epitome of commitment to social justice. Indeed, the name of its student newspaper, The Justice, granted,¬†¬†an allusion to the school’s namesake,¬†former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis,¬†does¬†refer to “justice as in ‘social justice’.” The current issue, for instance,¬† carries an editorial titled “Change name of ‚ÄėColumbus Day‚Äô [to ‘Indigenous People‚Äôs Day’].”

So how can it be that these hyper-socially conscious students are uncomfortable rubbing shoulders with other races/ethnicities?

The U.S. still calls itself a “melting pot,” in contrast to the Canadian metaphor of a mosaic. Advocates of large-scale immigration have generally sold the notion in terms of assimilation. The Brandeis students, in supporting their own version of “separate but equal,” seem to be taking Canada as their model.

 

Just Out — the Hillary Clinton H-1B Wiki

For those of you who might not know the term wiki, it is like an online encyclopedia, bringing in all known (or at least lots of) information on a topic in one place. Today people attribute the term to some Hawaiian word for quickness, but I recall that when wikis first became popular, the explanation given was that “wiki” stood for “What I Know Is,” a highly suitable definition.

So, now we have what amounts to the wiki on Clinton regarding H-1B. For those of us who follow the situation closely, most of the material is not new, but some is new to me, and most importantly, author Julia Hahn has done a great job in gathering the amazingly long and rich paper trail on Hillary for the H-1B issue. It will be ignored by the press (and by the National Academy of Sciences), but if anyone needs a reference, this article is supreme.

Pay particular attention to Barack Obama’s scathing criticism of Hillary on H-1B in the 2008 primary election.

 

People Who Reich Never Knew He Never Knew

A column by Robert Reich, apparently from the last day or two, opens with

I finally found a Trump supporter‚ÄĒthis morning when I went to buy coffee. (I noticed a Trump bumper sticker on his car.)

What Reich doesn’t realize is that this is telling us a lot more about Robert Reich than it is about Trump or the Trump supporter he met. We all live in our own narrow little worlds, of course, but here we see that Reich’s world is so narrow that he had never met a Trump supporter until now. Given that many polls indicate that Trump and Clinton are within margins of error of each other, Reich’s degree of cloistering is remarkable. And his ability to write this without realizing how he looks is even more remarkable.

I don’t know whether Reich’s analysis of Trump’s business acumen is accurate or not, but here Reich is epitomizing the alarming polarization we have been seeing in the U.S. in recent years. The extra irony, of course, is that Reich’s economic views are probably closer to Trump than to Clinton.

Zoe Lofgren Is Shocked, Shocked at UC’s Behavior

I must apologize for the unusually scathing and sarcastic tone of this posting, but the tale of gross hypocrisy and disinformation I am about to tell easily warrants it. And by the way, there will be a bonus at the end, a dire prediction of what is to come.

The other day Computerworld reported that UCSF, the health sciences campus of the UC system, is replacing many of its IT workers with H-1Bs. Now Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the Queen H-1Bee of Congress, tells the magazine¬†she is shocked that UC would do such a dastardly deed. As I said here recently about Caterpillar’s hiring of H-1Bs,

H-1B is a highly complex issue. But if you take anything away from this posting, it is this: Hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF Americans is just as harmful as hiring H-1Bs to REPLACE Americans. Beware of any news article, research report or politician’s statement that dwells on the word replace. Don’t be fooled into barking up the wrong tree, as I have shown before with the example of Virgil Birschwale.

The key word above is politician,¬†and today’s Computerworld interview of Rep. Lofgren is a great case in point, typical political sleight-of-hand on her part. Just as I warned above, she is focusing on the word replace, diverting attention from the real issue, which is the H-1B/green card statute’s disgracefully loose minimum wage requirements. In spite of being termed the prevailing wage, these requirements are typically well below the real market wage.

Lofgren can’t plead ignorance of the law here. It’s not just that she is a former immigration lawyer and immigration law professor, and long-time member of the House Immigration Subcommittee. Much more directly, she herself has pointed out to this publication, Computerworld, that the prevailing wage is well below the market wage:

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose Congressional district includes Silicon Valley, framed the wage issue at the hearing, sharing the response to her request for some wage numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Lofgren said that the average wage for computer systems analysts in her district is $92,000, but the U.S. government prevailing wage rate for H-1B workers in the same job currently stands at $52,000, or $40,000 less.

“Small wonder there’s a problem here,” said Lofgren. “We can’t have people coming in an undercutting the American educated workforce.”

This is the central problem with H-1B. That last statement, “Small wonder there’s a problem…,” says it all. Lofgren KNOWS that the central problem is prevailing wage, NOT replace-by vs. hire-instead-of. In other words, Lofgren does NOT want to solve the problem. She’s known about it for years, and done nothing to solve it. (More on this below.) Her indignant statements today about UC amount to rank hypocrisy and political deception of the highest order.

And in turn, all parties involved — including critics of H-1B — are ignoring the elephant in the room regarding prevailing wage, the question of HOW the prevailing wage can be so far below the market wage. The answer, as I have tried — and alas, largely failed — to explain over the years is AGE. Though there are other reasons for the gap, such as prevailing wage not accounting for “hot” skill sets and games being played regarding job title, the largest portion of the wage gap is due to AGE: Younger workers are cheaper, and most H-1Bs are young.¬†

I can guarantee you that the laid-off UCSF workers are much older, and thus much more expensive, than their H-1B replacements, just as was the case at Disney and SCE. And again, it is not just a matter of replacement by any means; the “Intels” are hiring YOUNG foreign workers instead of OLDER (age 35+) Americans.

Today’s article does say that Lofgren tried to work with Rep. Darrell Issa to fix the prevailing wage provision, by prioritizing the allocation of visas to the employers offering higher salaries. I myself have supported such a policy in principle, but as usual, the devil is in the details, evident in the bill Lofgren introduced the same year she made the “Small wonder” remark. It would have implemented a wage priority system for H-1B, BUT it also would have set up a Staple a Green Card program, effectively a parallel program to H-1B which employers could then use to bypass the H-1B prioritization. Again, this is largely an age issue, as follows.

The Staple proposals, as many of you know, would give automatic green cards to all STEM foreign students at U.S. universities pursuing MS or PhD degrees. Of course, almost all these recipients would be YOUNG, thus swelling the youth labor market. It then would be business as usual for UCSF; they could get all the young foreign workers they want, simply by going a few blocks down the hill to San Francisco State University. Of course, those hired would no longer quite be foreigners, as they would be on track to get green cards, but the effect is the same: The older UCSF workers would still be out of a job.

And once again: The fact that that $60K wage floor for H-1B dependent employers is out of date is a red herring. Employers still must pay at least prevailing wage, which, low as it is, is far higher than $60K. The real issue is prevailing wage, and its relation to age.

Unfortunately, many critics of H-1B are allowing themselves to be duped by the tech industry lobbyists, IEEE-USA, the New York Times and so on into thinking the primary issue with H-1B is replacement of Americans, rather than the age issue. I was saddened to learn today, for instance, that Sara Blackwell, the courageous attorney representing the laid–off Disney workers, has also drunk this Kool-aid.

Pat Thibodeau, author of these Computerworld articles, once praised me for making a prediction that came true about H-1B. Actually, it wasn’t a very sage forecast at all, but mark my words on this one: After Staple becomes law, Pat will STILL be writing about Americans at UCSF, Disney, SCE etc. being replaced by young foreign workers (now from a different source), and Lofgren will STILL be telling Pat, “This wasn’t what the law was intended for.”

 

OMG, Right There in America’s Most Pro-Immigration City!

To paraphrase James Carville, some of those sanctuary city-vowin’, amnesty supportin’, “I know a great little place for pot stickers where they don’t speak English”-braggin’ citizens of San Francisco are now finding themselves bitten in the you-know-where by federal immigration policy (including the nonimmigrant visas such as H-1B)! They’ve been Disneyed!

But these are not your average Disney workers. These are highly sophisticated, aggressive people who know how to pull strings. It becomes especially important in light of UC’s generous defined-benefit pension plan. If someone has worked, say 10 years, at UCSF and had planned to work 25, they are having enormous fture pension sums snatched away from them. So it’s real money we’re talking about, which indeed may be what UC had in mind. The laid-off ITers won’t take this lying down.

But there you have it, right there in America’s most famous sanctuary city, richly ironic.

Not the Usual Article — But the Usual Story

I have long sought to explain to those interested in the H-1B issue that the common viewpoint,”Intels good, Infosyses bad” is (a) unwarranted, as the Intels abuse the system just as much as the Infosyses, and (b) dangerous, as it will lead to legislation that does NOT increase job opportunities for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Again, by “Infosyses” I mean firms that “rent” H-1Bs to U.S. firms, while the “Intels” are companies that hire H-1Bs directly, typically as foreign students at U.S. universities.

The¬†“Intels good, Infosyses bad” (IGIB) viewpoint, heavily promoted by the tech industry lobbyists and their allies such as the New York Times¬†but naively adopted by many well-meaning analysts, badly misses the point in one aspect in particular: IGIB dwells on the fact that there have been many cases (only a few of which have been publicized) in which a company fires its Americans and REPLACES them by Infosyses-supplied H-1Bs. The key word is replace; let’s call that disease Infosysitis. The problem is that the Intels inflict an equally serious disease, Intelitis, by hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF Americans. Both diseases are of great concern, and even if Infosysitis were eradicated, Intelitis would take its place.

Thus today’s article by Neil Munro of Breitbart is huge, one of the few that tells the real story about Intelitis. Here Caterpillar is an Intel, in the sense that it is directly hiring H-1Bs. And it is not REPLACING Americans, at least not overtly. It appears to be hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF Americans.

In addition, the article’s speculation that these H-1Bs are largely, likely exclusively, foreign students is almost certainly accurate, based on my experience. One way to see that is, as researchers and advocates on both sides of the foreign tech worker issue agree, an aspect that sharply distinguishes the Intels from the Infosyses is that the former sponsor their H-1Bs for green cards. As I have explained before, I am NOT saying the Intels are less abusive because of that; on the contrary, they use the lengthy green card process to trap their foreign workers, an abuse of the foreign workers as well as a reason why the employers shun hiring Americans in favor of hiring the foreigners. Instead, my point is that Caterpillar does offer green card sponsorship (see table in the article), hence their “Intels” status. Indeed, Caterpillar’s motivation may well be that H-1Bs solve a “How do you keep them down in Mossville” problem (indirectly a money-saving issue, as it would have to pay Americans much more to stay).

H-1B is a highly complex issue. But if you take anything away from this posting, it is this: Hiring H-1Bs INSTEAD OF Americans is just as harmful as hiring H-1Bs to REPLACE Americans. Beware of any news article, research report or politician’s statement that dwells on the word replace. Don’t be fooled into barking up the wrong tree, as I have shown before with the example of Virgil Birschwale.