Hillary’s Speech, an Ad Against Her and So On

Traditionally presidential election campaigns are said to begin in earnest after Labor Day, but with the mutual rancor between the two parties and their candidates, things should heat up right away now that both conventions are over.

This became concrete today, when a reader brought to my attention an anti-Clinton TV ad, consisting of excerpts from a speech Clinton gave in India. There Clinton says trying to stop offshore outsourcing is a “dead end,” something we should not bother with. Pretty powerful stuff, quite an effective counter to the brief mentions Hillary made against offshoring in her speech tonight. So powerful, in fact, that the DNC is trying to get TV stations to pull the ad from the air.

Of course, the more DNC pushes, the more attention will be called to the ad. This is a rare stumble for the well-oiled DNC machine/Clinton campaign, but the implications of the ad are of great significance, in my view. Here’s why:

In my post last night, I referred again to a Computerworld article in which an IT worker took  Clinton’s recent comments on the H-1B work visa as showing that, while she sympathizes with American workers harmed by the program, she considers them “collateral damage,” to be sacrificed by what she considers the greater good. After hearing her speech tonight, and the slick bio preceding it, to me the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together.

I found the account of Hillary’s mother quite touching — virtually cast aside as a child, going to work as a housekeeper at age 13, and so on. (I wonder how many people know that Trump’s mother also started out life as a poor housekeeper.) No wonder Clinton has not just sympathy, but empathy, for the welfare of children, the issue on which her main accomplishments have been. Good for her.

But at the same time, it is clear where the Greater Good motivation comes from. Clinton wants to do good things for children, underclass families, and so on, and she sees that in order to be in a position to do so, she needs to make common cause with the tech industry, the Wall Street banks, and so on. The TV ad begins by saying that after she made that speech in India, she received a hefty donation from an Indian politician for the Clinton Foundation, whose major focus is on the very issues Hillary cares about, i.e. children and so on.

Given that, it would be easy for Hillary to rationalize the inherent contradictions. She railed this evening against the misery caused by the banks in the 2008 crash, but fails to mention that some of the major factors underlying that catastrophe were policies that her husband Bill put into place while president, under pressure by those same Wall Street banks.

In her remarks in that recent interview reported in the Computerworld article, Hillary conceded that both high-skilled and low-skilled immigration harm American workers. But in her speech tonight, she said that rather than fixing immigration policy, her approach would be to expand the economy so that there are enough jobs for everyone. This was not an original line at all; on the contrary, it is a standard go-to line in the Democratic Party. I recall, for instance, a staffer for Sen. Barbara Boxer dismissing the H-1B problem, because (this is close to verbatim) “Mobile apps will be booming in the coming years, so there will be enough jobs for both Americans and H-1Bs.” Of course, what happened was that those jobs went mostly to even more H-1Bs. For instance, one of the most strident firms pushing Congress to expand the H-1B cap is Qualcomm.

It is no accident either that the Party has embraced the writings of my UC Davis colleague Giovanni Peri, who sees immigration in general, and H-1B in particular, as job creators for natives. As even a pro-immigration Financial Times writer pointed out, the White House report on Obama’s executive actions on immigration cited Giovanni no less than 38 times, with just a passing mention about the contrary views of George Borjas, and even then in a derogatory manner, but again this rationalizes Clinton’s views, and of course those of the Democratic Party, which wants to use the H-1B issue to leverage amnesty for what comedian Jay Leno called “undocumented Democrats.” In the interview, Hillary had referred to the “economic argument” in favor of H-1B, presumably Peri’s (which has been countered by other research).

It’s clear that it will be a nasty, nasty campaign. The above-mentioned ad is quite reasonable (though predictably, the Race Card was played immediately), but the ads will get more and more personal, more and more in-the-other-candidate’s-face. After I heard about the outsourcing ad this afternoon, I wondered what would come next from the Trump campaign, and my mind wandered to the issue of which candidate would make a better commander-in-chief. The Democrats have been saying Trump is too impetuous for that role, and that reminded me of the famous photo of the White House Situation Room, in which they were watching the events that they would hope would lead to bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice.

When that picture came out in 2011, my thought was, “Oh, no, Hillary looks awful, with her hand over her mouth, a look of fear” — certainly not a trait we want in a commander-in-chief. Thus, today I thought this may show up in an anti-Hillary commercial. So, imagine my surprise this evening when the slick bio shown at the convention actually tried to put a positive spin on the situation, claiming Hillary had the look of leadership. Maybe this was  a pre-emptive defense on the Democrat’s party.

In any case, there is no shortage of past public comments by both candidates that will come back to haunt them in biting commercials this campaign.

 

 

 

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The Future of H-1B under the Next President

Over the years of watching the H-1B work visa situation, I’ve seen many people, both journalists and ordinary citizens, say that H-1B would become an election issue. I’ve countered that it won’t become an issue, because the affected American workers haven’t organized. No pressure, thus no issue. That seems to be the case this year as well.

Granted, Trump did draw some attention to H-1B during the primaries, causing some of the other Republican candidates to move somewhat away from their previous support of the visa. But once Trump sealed up the nomination, we’ve heard very little about the issue from either Trump or his party. There was ust one very fleeting reference to it during last week’s convention, at least in the speeches I watched.

During the Democratic primaries, the H-1B issue never came up in a single debate. Even my candidate, Bernie Sanders, was usually pretty mum about it, except in one speech he made near Disneyland late in the campaign (referring to the Disney H-1B scandal).

Michael Bloomberg did mention H-1B in his speech this evening — as a way to criticize Trump, who has admitted to hiring H-1Bs in his businesses. He accused Trump of hypocrisy — an incredible statement by Bloomberg, in view of his fervent public support for H-1B, including heading an organization that advocates for the visa, and of course in view of the fact that his own business hires lots of H-1Bs. In fact, I just did a quick check of the employer-sponsored green card data of the last 15 years, and found that 91 contained the word “Trump” — while 2087 of them contained “Bloomberg.” Oh, well, at least Bloomberg brought up the issue, which is more than the Democrats have been doing.

Recently, though, Hillary was asked about H-1B. She in fact did indicate sympathy, but made allusions to countering “economic arguments,” possibly referring to the work of people like Giovanni Peri who claim that H-1B is a net job creator. Giovanni has enormous credibility in the Obama White House, and by extension the Democratic Party. That credibility is misguided and naive (or maybe just convenient), in my view, but I think it’s fair to say that Hillary believes that “economic argument,” and I believe the IT worker who accused her of treating victims of H-1B as “collateral damage” was right on point.

As has been noted, Clinton has a long history of active support for the “Infosyses,” the firms that hire H-1Bs and then rent them out to other employers, including Disney. The other day, top Democratic Party figure Ed Rendell said unequivocably that we need H-1B because of a STEM labor shortage, in spite of ovewhelming evidence to the contrary. Another major party figure, Leon Panetta, has a daughter who is an official in IEEE-USA, which has pushed for Staple a Green Card (see below). Hillary’s running mate, Tim Kaine, supports the notorious I-Squared Act, which would drastically raise the H-1B cap. And as even Hillary admitted, she wants to use H-1B as a wedge to get the Republicans to support amnesty for the illegals.

Worst of all, Trump and Clinton actually agree on one crucial aspect of foreign tech worker policy — Staple a Green Card, a proposal to give automatic green cards to foreign STEM students earning grad degrees in the U.S. As I have explained before, if Staple in enacted, it really won’t matter what happens with H-1B; even if Congress were to seriously clip the wings of the Infosyses (won’t happen anyway), Disney, SCE, Abbott etc. will just hire the Staple workers. In other words, no matter which candidate wins the presidency, he/she will support Staple. This should be a very sobering thought to everyone who is concerned about the foreign tech worker issue.

If U.S. techies really did organize, I believe their first priority should be to try to derail Staple.

A Rigged System, Indeed

This election has been bizarre, to put it mildly, but the Hillary Leaks e-mail messages, confirming Bernie Sanders’ claim that the DNC actively worked against him during the primaries, are just too much. I’m a lifelong Democrat, but I changed my registration to Independent this evening in protest.

The H-1B and green card process are rigged systems too. I’m reminded of the quote by prominent immigration attorney Joel Stewart, regarding employer-sponsored green cards: “Employers who favor aliens have an arsenal of legal means to reject all U.S. workers who
apply.” Talk about a rigged system!

The Deck Chairs Shuffling Act of 2016

Computerworld reports  on a new H-1B reform bill introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa. As is de rigueur these days, the bill focuses on the market sector I call the Infosyses, the rent-a-programmer companies. The bill’s highlight is apparently to raise the current wage floor that must be paid by H-1B dependent employers, increasing it from $60,000 to $100,000. The article’s quote of Prof. Ron Hira is spot on.

In response to Issa’s bill, Hira said it “will do nothing to eliminate the abuse of the H-1B program. It simply shuffles the deck chairs on the Titanic. Instead of losing their jobs to Tata or Infosys H-1Bs, the Southern California Edison workers would be training their cheaper H-1B replacements employed by IBM or Accenture.”

Nevertheless, the quote and the article as whole somehow miss a question that a 10-year-old would ask: If wages below $100,000 constitute underpayment, why would the requirement be imposed only on a subgroup of H-1B employers? Why is it considered OK for a non-H-1B employer to cheat his workers?

And why would this question be obvious to our hypothetical 10-year-old but not to the adults in Congress, in the press and so on? The answer is that the kid hasn’t been subjected to constant indoctrination that the adults have been bombarded by, with a false message that the Intels (by which I mean the firms that directly employ H-1Bs rather than renting them from the Infosyses) use the visa program responsibly while the Infosyses abuse it.

The article also mentions the recently-introduced Pascrell bill. I am a little surprised that none of the many articles I’ve read on that bill have mentioned that it is identical to the Senate bill by Grassley and Durbin, introduced last November. I have been quite critical of that bill; Pascrell should have done much better.

Finally, an instructive note about Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, coauthor of the Pascrell bill: A reader comment on one of my blog posts states:

Incidentally, I must mention that Dana Rohrabacher (R – Orange County) who has “faced off” with Loretta Sanchez in the past, used to have a great grade with NumbersUSA on the foreign visa category. His grade is now a D-. His area (after redistricting) now includes Irvine and Newport Beach which has tech companies that profit greatly from low cost foreign workers. I was informed that the Lincoln Club of Orange County, who has members that profit from the visa dynamic have threatened Dana. They said they would find someone to run against him should he not support foreign visas. It is amazing to me how these corporate “elites” can get away with this. They need to be exposed.

Those who pressured Rohrbacher presumably were the Intels. If so, you can see why almost all of the bills introduced in the last couple of years limit their “reform” to the Infosyses.

No Contradiction in Recent Clinton Statements on Foreign Tech Workers

A few days ago,as reported in Computerworld, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke for the first time on the H-1B visa, giving hope to some critics of the visa program. Indeed, the article accompanying the interview of Clinton was titled, “The Tech Lobby Should Be Really Nervous about What Hillary Clinton Just Said.”

But just a week earlier she had announced her support of “staple a green card to their diplomas,” i.e. granting automatic U.S. permanent residency to STEM foreign graduate students at U.S. universities, and the latest article is titled, “Clinton Calms Silicon Valley’s Worries, Promises To Preserve High-Skill Visas.”

To the non-cognoscenti, it would appear that Clinton has contradicted herself, or at least has regretted and walked back her earlier criticism of H-1B. But she hasn’t; instead, she is taking what has become the standard political sleight-of-hand, sharply separating what readers of this blog have seen me warn of repeatedly — the Intels vs. Infosyses distinction. The “Infosyses,” rent-a-programmer firms such as Infosys, Tata, Wipro and so on are painted as the Bad Guys on H-1B, while the “Intels,” consisting of not only Intel, Google and the like, but basically any firm hiring H-1Bs directly, are viewed as glorious, highly deserving of the right to hire foreign tech workers.

In other words, Clinton supports giving visas to the Intels while placing restrictions on the usage of the program by the Infosyses. And lo and behold, this is exactly Donald Trump’s position as well. I’m not defending either of them, as I oppose Staple and contend that the Intels and the Infosyses are equally culpable regarding foreign tech workers, but the fact is that both of them are consistent in their views.

Clinton was a strong supporter of the Infosyses some years ago. And though the Disney and SCE cases, in which Americans were fired and forced to train their Infosyses-supplied H-1B replacements, makes for terrible publicity, one must suspect that a President Hillary Clinton would not be too harsh even on the Infosyses, let alone the Intels. This is especially true in view of the fact that the Infosyses have a lot of clout of their own. I learned today that Infosys has a sleek new building on prime Palo Alto business real estate; they obviously aren’t planning scaling back their U.S. operations.

I don’t doubt that Clinton has some sympathy for the laid-off Disney workers. But one of them, quoted in the Computerworld article, really hit the nail on the head in describing Clinton’s comments as amounting to dismissing those workers as “collateral damage.” Clinton, in other words, thinks the Disney and SCE cases were unfortunate, yet small relative to the bigger picture.

What bigger picture? The obvious one is that Clinton wants the monetary support of both the Intels and the Infosyses in her quest for the presidency. But the less obvious, and I believe equally important, reason is that Clinton, like most politicians, has “drunk the Kool-aid,” truly believing that the U.S. needs the foreign workers to keep its world lead in technology. She’s dead wrong on that — I’ve shown that the foreign worker programs are generally harmful regarding that goal — but I think she does believe it, and thus feels that U.S. tech workers must be sacrificed for the greater good.

Politically, all this has implications for Staple. It expands the pool of foreign tech workers, as opposed to merely rearranging it, as some current bills would do. That way, both the Intels and the Infosyses would be happy.

Someone asked me recently why the Intels would support Staple, as they would lose access to immobile workers, which they highly value now. I’m sure they would prefer to keep that access, but at least it would still give them a YOUNG foreign labor pool to hire from (cheaper than hiring older Americans, even after the foreigners become free agent). This is a major point, because the primary reason why employers save money through H-1B stems from the age aspect. Second, there is evidence that the employers fear that the foreign workers will simply stop coming to the U.S. in the first place, put off by the current long green card waits. And “the devil is in the details” with Staple anyway; the waiting time may still work out to a couple of years, which may be all that the firms want these workers for anyway.

Silicon Valley Turncoat Minces No Words on H-1B

Antonio Garcia Martinez, author of a hot new expose’ of Silicon Valley, was interviewed yesterday on KQED-FM, and curiously the conversation turned at one point to H-1B and related visa programs.

Though he got a bit of the technical detail slightly wrong (which became an issue, as you’ll see below; trying spotting it before I explain), he hit the nail right on the head, saying what we all know — the Valley uses foreign workers for cheap, de facto indentured servant labor — but saying this not only in a very colorful way, but also, more importantly, as a former Facebook manager and cofounder of a startup. (He also agrees that age discrimination is rampant in the Valley but unfortunately fails to connect it to the foreign worker issue.)

So, here is an excerpt, about 16 minutes into the show:

host Michael Krasny:

…Also, we want to make people think of H-1B visas, which you say is “like masters of old, buying servants off the ship” or “H-1B visas are nonimmigrant and temporary, so the immigrant hazing ritual initiation, which is done at the cheap.”

Martinez:

Yeah, I liken it to indentured servitude…That effectively is what the H-1B visa is. You have to work for a certain company for 3 to 6 years before you get…permanent status. As we learned, this came up with my [startup] cofounder, who is not a U.S. national, leaving the previous company for AdGrok, and he was threatened to be reported to the immigration authorities…And that is how the H-1B visa works, and frankly a lot of companies exploit that to get relatively underpriced labor and slave away in the “galleys” of their companies.

Very strong stuff; I couldn’t have said any better myself, and again, he’s saying it as a former Facebook manager etc.

He did make a technical error, conflating H-1B with the green card process — and that allowed an HR person to write in later in the show (about 30 minutes in), saying that the H-1B visa is transferable, and that he processes such actions all the time. The problem is that that the indentured servitude Martinez talked about was due to the green card process, technically not H-1B.

I say “technically,” because the two are intimately related: The typical Valley procedure has been to hire the foreign national and then simultaneously sponsor him/her for H-1B and a green card; the former confers temporary work rights during the years while the latter is pending. So, it was natural for Martinez to confuse the two, and HR person pounced on it. Of course, the HR guy knew full well what Martinez was talking about, but hid that from the audience in order to make it look like Martinez was all wrong.

This is no minor point; the industry lobbyists and the politicians use this ruse constantly. In fact, that HR person likely did not just “happen to be listening” to the show. On the contrary, there are likely people assigned to dog Martinez in all of his public appearances, to negate what he says about H-1B and other issues.

Note once again that Martinez is talking about the “Intels” in my favorite phrase, “the Intels vs. the Infosyses,” illustrating my point that the Intels are just as culpable as the Infosyses.

Article in an IEEE Publication, of All Places

I have a detailed article on H-1B and “staple a green card to their diplomas” proposals in the July issue of Computer, a magazine published by the IEEE Computer Society.

I’ve been quite critical of IEEE-USA on the H-1B issue over the years. After long, active opposition to foreign worker programs, the organization made a U-turn in 2000, under pressure from the IEEE parent organization, which is dominated by corporate and academic people with vested interests in H-1B and so on. They (IEEE-USA) then started pushing Staple a Green Card as an alternative to H-1B, one that I consider just as harmful, and one on which they have refused to seek member input.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Hal Berghel, a columnist for Computer, asked me to write an article for the magazine. Bob Charette, a contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum who has written an excellent article debunking the myth of a STEM labor shortage, was also supportive.

So, it’s nice to see that, in spite of the actions of IEEE-USA, IEEE is not a monolithic organization, and is allowing some dissent.