Michael Teitelbaum Visits Davis — Invited by the Provost

Some of you may recall seeing Michael Teitelbaum’s name mentioned often in the ongoing debate on the H-1B work visa and related issues.  Among other things, he published a major book with Princeton University Press earlier this year, debunking the myth of a STEM labor shortage.  In it he also explains how desire to get Congress to expand the H-1B work visa program underlies the shortage claims made by those with vested interests and their allies, such as the tech industry, the immigration lawyers and so on.

Yesterday Michael gave the Provost Lecture at my institution, the University of California at Davis, a very prestigious honor.  Ordinarily this would not be surprising in view of Michael’s stellar international credentials (see the flyer link above), but his views on the H-1B shortage issues are completely antithetical to those of the UCD Chancellor and those of the dean of the UCD law school (where Michael’s talk was held), and of UC as a whole.  I thus commend Provost Ralph Hexter for inviting Michael to speak.

Michael’s campus talk will soon be available on video.  However, since he was speaking under the auspices of the Provost, he emphasized issues of lesser interest to readers of this blog, such as addressing the question of whether the U.S. is spending enough on basic and applied research.  He did briefly mention that the claims of the shortage shouters are incorrect regarding STEM study at the K-12 and university levels (and gave an interesting example of an outrageously unfounded piece by the New York Times editorial board), and he also spoke a bit about the powerful disinformation machine of the tech industry in promoting their claims of a shortage.

I believe that you readers will be much more interested in an informal talk Michael gave to my class earlier in the day.

The class itself is unusual, an in-house course on engineering ethics.  The Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology requires all engineering undergrads to get some exposure to ethics, and my department decided that this would best be done via establishing its own in-house course.  This is the first time I’ve taught the course, and have taken the theme that we cover issues facing the students as future engineers, engineering managers and so on.

Michael generously agreed to lead a discussion in my course yesterday, and it led to a lively student discussion on his hypothetical case involving a CEO or manager being pressured to hire H-1Bs when he knows that qualified Americans are available for the given job openings.  A number of students had comments and questions. One student strongly believed that his duty to the firm would be to ignore the Americans and hire the cheaper H-1Bs instead (though the other half of Michael’s question — should someone in that position tell Congress that the firm can’t find qualified Americans for its jobs? — apparently got lost in the shuffle).

But to me the highlight of the class came when my UCD faculty colleague Phil Martin, a prominent researcher on immigration issues, showed the infamous Cohen and Grigsby video, in which a major Pittsburgh law firm showed clients how to avoid the requirement to first seek qualified Americans to fill a position before sponsoring a foreign worker for a green card.

In the video, which the firm put on the Web for marketing purposes, unaware that it would be noticed and start a controversy, one of the partners in the firm says,

And our goal is clearly, not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker. And you know in a sense that sounds funny, but it’s what we’re trying to do here. We are complying with the law fully, but ah, our objective is to get this person a green card, and get through the labor certification process. So certainly we are not going to try to find a place [at which to advertise the job] where the applicants are the most numerous. We’re going to try to find a place where we can comply with the law, and hoping, and likely, not to find qualified and interested worker applicants.

I had had no idea that Phil would show this video, but it certainly had an impact on the students, a number of whose facial expressions seemed to convey that they were profoundly shocked.  (Note by the way that the videos filmed by that law firm also showed how employers game the system to circumvent the prevailing wage requirements, which apply to both green cards and H-1B visas, and which are below market wage to begin with,)

Another notable aspect of Michael’s visit to my class was that he recalled for us how a Microsoft official had told him privately that the firm has tons of applicants, but that it rejects most of them by applying an automatic computer algorithm, with no human involvement at all.  One student was very surprised by this, and seemed to find the news a bit distressing.  Actually this is a common practice in the industry, but Michael made the important point that this information is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s testimony to Congress that qualified American applicants just don’t exist in sufficient numbers.  (See also a related incident with Dropbox.)

Michael was in meetings with various campus entities throughout the day, so I’m quite grateful that he took the time to address my class, and again I thank the Provost for his involvement.

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19 thoughts on “Michael Teitelbaum Visits Davis — Invited by the Provost

  1. I can imagine how shocking this must be for a student. It’s basically like learning that your mother is a prostitute, or that your father is a major-league drug smuggler. The entire view of the world of these students must be changed. Students are given this steady diet of the wonders of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is fine. I am going to Turkey on Thursday, travel is great, we all need to be open to experience. But I could not get a job in Turkey or most countries in Europe. They can get jobs in the US. There’s a hugely unfair unequality of opportunity.

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    • Statistical Observer October 11, 2014 at 2:51 am: “I can imagine how shocking this must be for a student.”

      What, that bosses (for whom workers are an expense) c.p. prefer cheap, exploitable labor? Anyone who is shocked to learn that has plainly been ill-served by their parents (not to mention our educational system and dominant media).

      “I could not get a job in Turkey or most countries in Europe. They can get jobs in the US.”

      “Could not” seems overly strong here. I suspect the truer statement would be “it is far harder for a US citizen to get a job in China, India, Turkey, or anywhere in Europe than it is for any citizen of those nations to get a job in the US.” That being said, I’d like to see data on this topic.

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  2. > Some of you may recall seeing Michael Teitelbaum’s name mentioned often in the ongoing debate on the H-1B work visa and related issues. Among other things, he published a major book with Princeton University Press earlier this year, debunking the myth of a STEM labor shortage. In it he also explains how desire to get Congress to expand the H-1B work visa program underlies the shortage claims made by those with vested interests and their allies, such as the tech industry, the immigration lawyers and so on.

    Yes, it looks like those vested interests are hiring economists to flood the media outlets with so many studies that they cannot all be scrutinized and that they drown out opposing views. One very easy thing that it would seem that the media could do to filter this flood would be to only report on studies that have been peer-reviewed and which release their sources and their calculations. You can read more on this at http://econdataus.com/h1bstudy1.htm .

    In any event, http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10208.html does give some very useful information on Michael Teitelbaum’s book. It gives a summary, the table of contents, and you can download the a free PDF of the introduction. Also, there is an hour and 40 minute video of a talk that he gave. I’ve only had a chance to watch a half-hour so far but I’ve been very impressed. He brings some balance to the discussion that is sorely lacking from many of the studies being put out by those claiming a STEM labor shortage and the need for an increase in H-1B workers. Unlike those studies, he does not speak in absolutes and he does address the arguments of both sides. Hopefully, the media can start to apply some scrutiny to these studies as suggested above.

    By the way, someone posted a link to Norm’s post at http://www.reddit.com/r/ScienceUncensored/comments/2jf8xr/the_myth_of_a_stem_labor_shortage_and_h1b_work/ and I posted this reply there as well.

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    • Having peer review is a lot better than nothing, but it is no guarantee. A reviewer of an H-1B-related paper would have to know in very rich detail how the visa works, and the pitfalls awaiting the unwary (or deliberately ignorant) researcher. There are very, very few such people with such qualifications, and even most of them would not be asked to serve as reviewers.

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      • Agreed. I can see how peer review could be especially difficult for a specialized area like H-1B issues. That’s why I think it would also help to demand that papers release their sources AND their calculations. I looked at the spreadsheet released by Reinhart and Rogoff at http://usbudget.blogspot.com/2013/05/is-there-debtgdp-threshold-at-90_4.html and was amazed, not just at the infamous spreadsheet error, but by some of the strange methodology and how little data was underlying the conclusions. As you say, there are numerous missteps that a researcher can make even if they are honest. There’s many more that they can make if they are leaning toward a certain conclusion. And, when you are receiving money from a lobbyist organization, I suspect there is a strong tendency to “lean”. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

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    • Economists are the high priests of globalism, including immigration. Their science is based on the principle that people pursue their own economic self interest, and it would be odd and confusing if they themselves were to act otherwise. They are richly rewarded for pushing globalism; corporate boards are filled with them, along with out of work politicians.

      The social sciences are not objective, and practitioners often find things that correspond to their own views and economic interests.

      Typical ‘name brand’ economists make far more from corporations than from their day jobs. The less known economists aspire to join them and would meet with hostility if they didn’t go along.

      The modern corrupt network of government, academics, and rent-seeking corporations which has come close to destroying the world financial system [2008] is well explained in ‘Predator Nation.’ 2012 by Charles H. Ferguson.

      Case in point:

      ‘Laura D’Andrea Tyson (born June 28, 1947) is an American economist and former Chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration. She also served as Director of the National Economic Council. She is currently a professor at the Haas School of Business of the University of California, Berkeley.’ [Wikipedia]

      Not especially known for corruption, in 2011 she had four corporate directorships that paid her $784K a year. Other income not required to be stated by Berkeley.

      I remember she wrote an editorial for increasing H1-B quotas in the last attempt to do so, probably 2007, that was pure industry talking points.

      Could her opinions possibly be affected by her outside income?

      _________

      [I like Ferguson, who is an MIT PhD [political science, I believe] and knows the academic ‘game.’ He created the film ‘Inside Job’ about the banking crisis of 2008, which won the 2010 Academy Award for documentaries.

      From ‘Predator Nation’: ‘I spoke with senior officials in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division about possible antitrust action against AT&T and Verizon. They told me that one significant barrier to any such action was that few if any prominent telecommunication economists would be willing to testify for the government, because nearly all of them worked for the incumbents, at pay rates typically ten to fifty times higher than government consulting rates.’

      He attributes the fact that the U.S. ‘ranks about twentieth in the world in broadband deployment’ to the power of these oligopolies in maximizing profits.]

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  3. I appreciate Michael Teitelbaum’s criticism of the political process that applies to setting U.S. worker importation policies – driven by economic elites. The economic interests of the American middle class are rarely considered by most leaders in Washington, DC.

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  4. […] How Companies Cheat on H1B Visas. Some of you may recall seeing Michael Teitelbaum’s name mentioned often in the ongoing debate on the H-1B work visa and related issues.  Among other things, he published a major book with Princeton University Press earlier this year, debunking the myth of a STEM labor shortage.  In it he also explains how desire to get Congress to expand the H-1B work visa program underlies the shortage claims made by those with vested interests and their allies, such as the tech industry, the immigration lawyers and so on. … Another notable aspect of Michael’s visit to my class was that he recalled for us how a Microsoft official had told him privately that the firm has tons of applicants, but that it rejects most of them by applying an automatic computer algorithm, with no human involvement at all.  One student was very surprised by this, and seemed to find the news a bit distressing.  Actually this is a common practice in the industry, but Michael made the important point that this information is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s testimony to Congress that qualified American applicants just don’t exist in sufficient numbers.  (See also a related incident with Dropbox.) … https://normsaysno.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/michael-teitelbaum-visits-davis-invited-by-the-provost/ […]

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