Kamala Harris’ Holiday Faux Pas

VP Kamala Harris caused a stir with her tweet yesterday, “Have a nice [holiday] weekend!”, none of the usual politician talk of “Let us pause to reflect as we honor those who gave their lives for their country.” But I really don’t see why people are so surprised.

I don’t think this error of commission was deliberate. Instead, it’s a matter of how Harris views the world and the nation. She is the leftist daughter of two leftists. The military theme of the holiday is the last thing that would come to mind for her. It’s just a three-day weekend.

No doubt, if an adviser had suggested that she make an appropriate remark, she would have come up with something, say a visit to Arlington or a Bay Area military cemetery, or maybe commemorating a Black hero of some war or even the Japanese-American soldiers who fought heroically in WW II. Impossible to imagine, say, AOC doing even that.

As our nation becomes more and more polarized, we will find that more and more of our elected officials, on both the Left and the Right will be, shall we say, “nontraditional.” If someone had told me 10 or 15 years ago that we’d have members of Congress like AOC and Ilhan Omar, I’d be in total disbelief. And former Pres. Trump was nontraditional too, with his larger-than-life persona, and his being the subject of much criticism from the Right in the 2015-2016 election campaign that he was not a “real” conservative.

A related point about the nontraditional nature of many of today’s elected officials is immigrant status. Omar was a refugee, and Harris’ parents were immigrants. Quite a contrast to the many-generational roots of most presidents before Obama, a rather inbred group. One point in the 2000 election was that Bush and Gore were actually distant cousins.

So, what will less-deep American roots mean for US politicians in the coming years? As someone who has lived in immigrant households all my life, I know that children of immigrants tend to have different views of the world and nation than do sons and daughters of natives, and yes, possibly have less of an emotional connection to those who perished in past US wars. On the other hand, many immigrants are even more patriotic than the natives; say what you will about Harris’ folks, but their driving force was a keen desire to make America better.

So, Harris’ slip-up was actually rather telling. Some Americans will actually find it a refreshing change, while others may take it as an example of American decline. Take your pick. 🙂

Anti-Asian Violence and the Model Minority

As someone with longtime, deep connections to the Asian American community, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent spate of anti-Asian violence. As a longtime activist in improving conditions for African Americans, it is very troubling to me that the perpetrators of anti-Asian violence are disproportionately Black. And as a longtime admirer of the intense Asian American dedication to educational and career success, it is quite disturbing that there seems to be a connection of this success to the violence.

Even more frustrating is that the “woke” Asian American activists, largely made up of Asian American Studies professors whose creed is Critical Race Theory, are exhibiting willful ignorance of the Black aspect of the problem. We can’t solve the problem without understanding its nature.

Many Asians are getting hurt, physically, viciously. But the Asian “woke” insist that the problem can be solved by “education” and “restorative justice,” rather than increased policing. The sad, tragic truth is that these Asian activists care much more about their ideology than about the Asian victims.

The “Woke” and the Model Minority

There is nothing the “woke” Asian-Americans hate more than the Model Minority (MM) portrayal of Asians in the US. MM is viewed as presenting Asians as the minority with the “good” culture, implying that the cultures of African-Americans and Americans of Latino descent are less good. To be sure, labeling various minority groups as “better” and “lesser” is highly offensive and counterproductive, and should be unacceptable to all of us. But it especially rankles the “woke” Asian activists, as it runs counter to their simplistic image of the plight of the Black and Latino underclass as being due wholly to white supremacy and systemic racism.

It also sets up conservatives with an equally simplistic view that MM shows social programs to help the underclass are not needed. Take real estate, for instance. Even in the liberal Bay Area, racially restrictive housing policies remained at least through the 1950s, causing many African Americans to miss great real estate booms, and making it difficult for their descendants to now get into the market. Yet many Asian immigrants, arriving in the US with very little, somehow manage to buy houses. Ergo, the conservatives say, racial problems are minimal and poverty is not a problem for government to address.

So the Asian activists deny the reality of MM. “We’re not ‘Honorary Whites,'” they say to Blacks. “We’re victims, just like you.” One of the woke, Dao-Yi Chow, put it this way:

Chow says the model minority myth—based on the stereotype that Asian Americans are hard working, law-abiding individuals and the false perception that such qualities have led to their success over other racial groups—has played a significant role in creating a wedge between Asian Americans and other BIPOC communities. “We were painted as an example, a ‘good minority.’ And then there were examples of ‘bad minorities,’ and that was perpetuated, which created even more divide,” Chow says.

Apparently, many African Americans don’t see it that way. There is emerging evidence that the MM notion is breeding Black resentment against Asians, contributing to the tragic wave of anti-Asian violence we are now seeing.

 

Black-on-Asian Violence

Dept. of Justice figures cited by journalist Andrew Sullivan indicate that the assailants in Asian incidents are disproportionately Black nationwide, committed at a much higher rate than the Black share of the US population:

…24 percent such attacks are committed by whites; 24 percent are committed by fellow Asians; 7 percent by Hispanics; and 27.5 percent by African-Americans…[even though Blacks comprise only] 13 percent of the population…”

His own analysis of NYPD data found:

They record 20 [hate crime] arrests in 2020. Of those 20 offenders, 11 were African-American, two Black-Hispanic, two white, and five white Hispanics.

So, Blacks comprised 55% of these arrests, even though they are only 24.3% of the population of New York.

A Newsweek op-ed claims most anti-Asian hate crimes are not perpetrated by Blacks. In terms of raw numbers, it may be true, but again, viewed in terms of population percentages — there are 4 times as many whites as Blacks in the US — the problem, sadly, is disproportionately Black, as seen in the DOJ data above.

The Newsweek piece’s cited research paper (which did restrict its analysis to violent crimes) state that anti-Asian hate crimes are different from other hate crimes in that the offenders are more likely to be non-white. They add, “This finding may be attributed to animosity toward the ‘model minority’ from other minority groups.” I’ll return to this point below.

Bias in Reports by “Woke” Researchers/Activists

The activists use a broad definition going far beyond violence, including taunts and even employment discrimination, hurtful but less relevant to my focus here on violence. After one badly flawed and biased “woke” study emerged from a University of Michigan researcher, I attempted to engage with the author, stating that academic rigor and completeness must prevail over ideology. I pointed out that the incidents analyzed by the study were mainly nonviolent; the study’s own summary noted that it involved “1023 incidents…679 incidents of anti-Asian harassment and vandalism and 344 incidents of stigmatizing and discriminatory statements, images, policies, and proposals.” Only a small number were violent, and in many of those the race of the perpetrator was unknown.

I also pointed out how selective the study was, in not including evidence contrary to its theme of white anti-Asian hate. The author agreed — but refused to update her report.

Black and Latino “Leaders”

Of course only a small number of African-Americans are committing these crimes, and it would be easy to dismiss this as the actions of a few thugs. But equally concerning are comments and actions by Black and Latino leaders. Black San Francisco School Board member Alison Collins has made a number of anti-Asian tweets. She resents Asians for believing “that Model Minority BS,” and accused Asians of “using white supremacy thinking…to get ahead,” referring to Asians as “house n*****s.”

Though the board distanced itself from Collins, many Asians view various actions of the board, notably changing admission to the academically-selective Lowell High School to a random lottery, as anti-Asian. (Disclosure: I myself have proposed a partial lottery system for Lowell. My point here is the apparent motivation on the part of the Board, not whether the policy is worthy or not.)

California State Legislator Cristina Garcia also has problems with Asians. Frustrated with widespread Chinese opposition to Affirmative Action (with an implicit connection to MM), she talked of feeling “like I want to punch the next Asian” she encountered.

Indeed, Collins’ view of Asians “using white supremacy thinking…to get ahead” is common among the “woke.” They’ve even coined a term for it, white adjacency. Here again is activist Dai-Yi Chow, joined by an activist journalist, Lisa Ling:

[Chow] says that among the earlier generation of Asian Americans who immigrated to the U.S., many assimilated to white adjacency in hopes that it would be the quickest path to safety and stability in the country.

The March 21 Instagram Live discussion between Woodall and Ling directly addressed the subject. “White supremacy always tries to convince those who are non-white that they must either assimilate, or somehow come to terms with the standard of whiteness,” Woodall says. He notes that in referring to “white,” he is discussing a mindset and not a color. “And if we don’t have access to that mindset—and quite honestly, I don’t want access to it—the question then becomes, how do we dissolve a society that is predicated upon that mindset in being in control.”

The egregiousness of this distortion is breathtaking. The “woke” are saying that Asian immigrants to the US, by engaging in the same diligence in school and work they are famous for in Asia, are merely pathetic losers who want to “act white.”

Again, Collins and Chow and not alone. Here is a report on the New York City Dept. of Education:

A city DOE-sponsored panel designed to combat racism told parents that Asian American students “benefit from white supremacy” and “proximity to white privilege,” an outraged mom told The Post… The panel was helmed by the Center for Racial Justice in Education, a group being paid about $400,000 by the DOE, led by Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza…Two CRJE presenters at the February meeting — outlined a racial-advantage hierarchy…The presenters told the room that Asians were on the upper rungs, enough in “proximity to white privilege” to “benefit from white supremacy,” Flinn recalled.

The Model Minority Notion IS Real

Yes, to a great extent, the Model Minority notion is real, at least for East and South Asians. The Asian community activists dismiss Asian-American educational successes as due to immigration policy, formulated initially in 1965 and then in more depth in 1990, that favors educated professionals. In other words, the activists deny that the fundamental issue is one of Asian culture; it’s simply due to socioeconomic class, they say. But it IS indeed culture; the fact is that, due to a cultural reverence for education, even kids of low-income Asian families tend to do very well in school.

While it’s true that many highly educated Asians immigrate to the US via employer sponsorship in the tech industry, there are many others who come here through immigration law on family ties. These tend to be of low levels of education. In New York City, for instance, they work as, say, dishwashers or hotel maids and just barely scrape by financially. Yet their children tend to shine academically.

At New York’s elite Stuyvesant High School, Asians make up 74% of the student body, a figure that dwarfs their share of the population. And Asians represent over 90% of students who qualify for free or subsidized lunch; these are not children of PhDs, as implicitly claimed by the Asian activists. A study by the Center for New York City Affairs found that Asians kids are getting top math scores relative to other groups, across ALL income levels. Asians at the lowest incomes score at or above high-income Whites.

The “woke” activists also offer the explanation that Asian immigrants, by virtue of having the gumption to uproot themselves and move to the US, are not representative of Asian culture.This argument has been made by anti-racism author Ibram X. Kendi. But of course this argument fails, as the diligence of school kids in Asia is well known. In international test scores such as PISA, China is on top, closely followed by Korea. These tests are imperfect measures, but the extraordinary diligence of these children is clear; it is NOT just a trait of the immigrants to the US.

 

A Personal Example

Small world. It so happens that one of the most prominent pioneers of the Asian American Studies discipline, revered by the “woke” activists, is the late Don Nakanishi, my childhood friend. Don’s family lived next door to mine in the City Terrace neighborhood of East LA. He certainly did not come from the highly-educated socioeconomic class. His father worked in the LA morning produce markets, and his mom was a seamstress. He attended Roosevelt High School, predominantly working-class Latino. Yet Don took the classical Asian American upward mobility path. He was a star student academically in high school, was captain of the football team, and even was elected “Boy Mayor of LA.” He went on to Yale for his Bachelor’s degree and then Harvard for his PhD, followed by an outstanding career on the UCLA faculty.

In Don’s memory, UCLA bestows the Don Nakanishi Award, “for Outstanding Engaged Scholarship in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies,” a highly prestigious honor in the Asian American Studies field. It is thus ironic that the Asian American activists, who regard Don as a giant in the field, are denying the success of Don and hundreds of thousands like him, people that through the Asian cultural value on education have gone from humble beginnings to great success in various professions. (Don’s brother Mike became a dentist.)

 

Solutions

Denying the reality of MM will not solve the problems. On the contrary, Asians should be praised for MM, and we should look into possible ways that other groups, even Whites, might learn from them.

What then can and should be done? Start at the top, with people like Collins and Garcia, and the attitudes of the SF board as a whole. Incredibly, Garcia received just a “talking to” by Assembly Speaker Rendon.

The “woke” solution, education, is long on meeting the activists’ ideological goals but short on actual effectiveness. Simply talking about, say, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 is not going to sway those who engage in violence, let alone people like Collins and Garcia. But statements by prominent Blacks would help. NBA star Steph Curry has spoken out in support of Asians; we need more Black athletes to do so. And though anathema to the “woke,” who call for “restorative justice rather than criminalization,” there is an urgent need for more police officers in Asian neighborhoods.

On the other hand, Collins was correct in saying many Asians look down on Black people. The Asians need to understand the deep effects that a history of slavery, Jim Crow and so on have on today’s Black underclass. It’s not so simple as “You should do as we Asians do.”

Finally, please don’t politicize the issue. Let’s put politics and ideology aside and protect the Chinese grandmas, OK?

(As always, views here are my own, not those of the University of California, Davis. I have added some material after the original posting.)

Poverty, Academia and PC Speech

Like many of you, I have been increasingly concerned about the stifling of free speech on US university campuses. Meanwhile, a lifetime concern of mine has been the elimination of poverty, both US and worldwide. These two interests converge in this disturbing article in Inside Higher Ed.

The piece opens with

Lehigh University asked professors in its business school to advise the new Biden administration on their areas of expertise via short “kitchen table talk” videos. But one professor’s short talk on poverty, including its relationship to race, proved divisive — and that the topic needed a more thorough analysis, the university said. So after temporarily removing the video for review, Lehigh reposted it alongside additional context from other scholars.

“Relationship to race” here meant that the professor, Frank Gunter, downplayed the Race Card: “Gunter explains that he wants to dispel the following ‘widely held’ beliefs about poverty: that it is ‘mostly a matter of race,’ that it’s a ‘generational curse’ and that the poor have ‘no agency.'” In particular, Gunter cites a Brookings study that found that three simple actions would in most cases enable the impoverished to join the middle class: “finish high school, work full-time, wait until age 21 to get married and have children after marriage.”

Of course, this is similar to the views of sociologist/politician Daniel Moynihan back in the 60s and 70s, which later fell out of favor, and I’ve generally been critical of Brookings for its “hired gun” nature. Yet the study is bipartisan, and even Gunter’s critics don’t seem to be vigorously disputing its points, merely calling the Moynihan view as “discredited.”

The critics do correctly note a major error of omission in Gunter’s video: Though his statement that most of the poor are not black, and most black people are not poor, as is indeed correct, he fails to note that the poor are disproportionately black; the poverty rate is higher among black people than in the general populace. Gunter was remiss in not including this in his original video.

The critics also note that various government programs have been successful in reducing poverty. One may debate as to whether Gunter erred in not mentioning this, but the critics themselves are remiss for not mentioning a government program that research shows has contributed to black poverty — an immigration policy that brings high levels of low-skilled immigration.

In addition, the debate seems to have overlooked the obvious key point: If indeed the three “silver bullets” of the Brookings study are statistically accurate, then why are many young black people not taking advantage of them? And even more importantly, what can be done to change that?

As the Lehigh faculty senate commented, “Too many times statements are made in response to uncomfortable topics that do little to address the issue at hand.” Lehigh, by now restoring the video and pairing it with one expounding an opposing view, should be applauded for attempting to start a genuine debate. This would not happen at many other universities these days, and sadly, I don’t expect it to occur within the Biden administration.

On Trump, Biden and America’s Disgrace

On November 27, 1978, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Dan White snuck a gun into City Hall. He murdered Mayor George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk, then turned himself in to the police. His confession audio recording was made public.

There is a difference, mind you, between condoning and understanding. The latter is crucial. White had been subject to relentless political bullying by Moscone and Milk, enduring their smirks when he complained. Much to my surprise, I found myself sympathizing with him as I listened to the audio.

President Donald Trump believes the Democrats and the mainstream press have been out to get him ever since he took office. I urge everyone to read his controversial call to Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, which for me evokes the memory of the Dan White tape.

Yes, Trump too can be a bully, but there is no question that the press in particular has been grossly unfair to him, in almost any aspect. Of course, just as White had no right to resort to murder, Trump has been wrong in disgracing himself in the last few weeks.

Did Trump actually win the election, as he claims? Seems doubtful to me, but there is no doubt that there were indeed voting irregularities, e.g. in the Pennsylvania changing its voting rules late in the game. Yet Trump should have conceded the election at some point, and accepted the situation for the sake of the nation and, especially, for the sake of his historical legacy.

I doubt that Trump meant for his supporters to mob the Capitol yesterday, but he least had the responsibility to warn his supporters not to engage in violence. On the other hand, regarding these cries from the Dems and the press that yesterday’s event was an attack on democracy, I can only offer a hollow laugh. Though a lifelong Democrat, I voted for neither Biden nor Trump, largely because I believe the Dems have become the antithesis of their party name. Plenty of disgrace to go around, I’d say.

What now? Biden has said his priority will be to reunify the country. Even if he is sincere, that would be a herculean task. The mob in DC yesterday was not representative of either the nation or the GOP, but there is widespread feeling among Republicans and even independents that the election was tampered with. If Biden has any hope of unifying the nation, he must recognize that, rather than treating them as kooks. And by the way, he should urge the media, notably the federally-funded NPR, to do the same.

Another action Biden could take towards national unity would be to recognize Trump’s solid accomplishments, especially Operation Warp Speed. (And he should also ask the states why they are so slow in using the vaccines they’ve received.)

Though I voted for neither man, I believe America is due for a reboot. Biden is the one with the finger on the Reset button.Let’s see if Biden really means what he says.

The Left, the 2020 Election, and Race

A few months ago, in an e-mail exchange with a dear progressive Latina friend, I mentioned that I would vote for neither Biden nor Trump. I also pointed out that as a Californian, my vote doesn’t matter, since California will certainly choose Joe B. As she knows I too am a progressive, she replied, “No, you must vote for Biden. We need a landslide count, to repudiate Trump.”

My friend of course was not referring to Trump’s environmental record, or even his position on health care. No, you all know the issue she had in mind: Race.

The Left views Trump as a racist, pure and simple. I disagree, but the point is that this is how the election was perceived by the Left.

As Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post put it last Friday on NPR (emphasis added):

…this election is not just a choice between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, but it’s a choice between American democracy and white supremacy. And I think that if we are going to have these two overlapping – these two camps that are overlapping but not joining, as David said, if we’re going to have them come together, have this nation come together, we must as a nation talk about the role of race in our politics and in our society. The longer we ignore the role of race at play, the longer these divisions are going to go on and the deeper they will get.

In Capehart’s eyes, we have 70 million white supremacists in our midst. Yet he ignored David Brooks’ points just before his:

…I expected a 10-point Biden win. It didn’t come. The electorate surprised us in all sorts of ways – Republicans picking up seats in the House, Trump getting more non-white voters than any Republican in 60 years, gay voter – the gay vote for Trump or for Republicans doubling.

 

This putatively racist president actually increased his support among people of color and other minorities. The Left cannot stand something so diametrically counter to their narrative.

The Asian-American Left was exasperated by Trump voters among their co-ethnics, especially the Chinese. “Trump calls Covid-19 ‘the China Virus’! You must vote him out!” They cannot see that pocketbook and security issues might be top priority for those turncoats, and that maybe they don’t think the term “China Virus” is so terrible anyway.

Trump increased his support among Muslim-Americans, still small yes, but an increase nevertheless. Maybe the pocketbook and security issues concerned them the most too, and maybe some of them remember that that infamous list of seven majority-Muslim countries in Trump’s travel ban had originally been compiled by the Obama/Biden administration.

And most devastating to the Left’s narrative of all, the Hispanics! Trump got increased support among them too. Ah, the Left would say, but there is a REASON, explained in a New York Times article, “The Macho Appeal of President Trump.” It was pointed out to me by a Leftist trying desperately to defend the narrative. See, he says, it’s not that Latinos like Trump’s policies, no.

It’s an excellent article…Oh, wait, hold the phone! Isn’t that claim about the Latino vote…uh…racist? Racial stereotyping?

And if Trump himself had made such a claim, the Times, CNN, NPR and so on would say “In an effort to appeal to his white supremacist base,Trump tweeted today without evidence that Latinos care more about machismo than about real issues.” But no, here the NYT says it, and it’s not racist at all, according to the Left. On the contrary, to them, the NYT article shows that the Left’s narrative was right after all.

It’s become tiresome to always follow and/or preface my remarks like these by the disclaimers: No, I didn’t vote for Trump; yes, race IS an important topic, no,, I did not support the travel ban, etc. That’s why I wrote my blog post on not voting for either man, and gave it a handy TinyURL tag, https://tinyurl.com/yb7xkn29.

But I do care about careful discourse, and believe it to be vital to a functioning democracy. Call me quaint.

The Unmitigated Chutzpah Act of 2020

A hidden feature in Proposition 22 on California’s November ballot should outrage California voters, and shock many of you outside California.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the general content of the measure, which concerns whether drivers for Uber, Lyft etc. should be considered employees or independent contractors. Reasonable people might have different opinions on that.

No, instead I’m referring to paragraph 7465 of the full text:

After the effective date of this chapter, the Legislature may amend this chapter by a statute passed in each house of the Legislature by roll call vote entered into the journal, seven-eighths of the membership concurring, provided that the statute is consistent with, and furthers the purpose of, this chapter.

Not a simple majority, not 2/3rds, but 7/8ths! Outrageous, and I believe unprecedented. And that last clause may be even worse.

Furthermore, this paragraph was so buried in the text that even the measure’s leading opponents seem to have missed it. It’s not in the “Arguments Against” section of the voter’s guide put out by the CA Sec. of State.

Again, it’s not the general thrust of the measure that matters here. No law should be allowed to be that inflexible, especially if the inflexibility is so hidden, not to mention hidden by the most expensive lawyers corporate America can buy.

Trump Administration Makes Major H-1B Reform

In the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump promised to reform the H-1B work visa program. That should have been the least controversial of his plans, as the visa has long been recognized by both major parties as having major problems. Almost all the major candidates in 2016 — Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Clinton and Sanders — were critical of the program.

However, very little reform had come until this week. Trump did issue various executive orders, but as I’ve written here, they haven’t addressed the major problems. But yesterday, the administration announced a new policy, one that in my view is the first genuine reform of the visa in its 30-year history.

The H-1B statute (as well as the one for employer-sponsored green cards), imposes wage floors on employers who hire the visa workers. The new policy substantially raises these prevailing wage levels. To understand the implications of the change, one must first look at how prevailing wage works, and at its relation to the “Infosyses vs. Intels” metaphor I often use in these discussions.

There are four prevailing wage levels. Though they are described in terms of experience and expertise, they are actually pegged to different points in a wage distribution. Under the old policy, the Level I prevailing wage was set to the 17th percentile of the wages of all workers in a given occupation and a given region. These will now increase to the 45th and 62nd percentiles, respectively. (There are relatively few visas awarded at Levels 3 and 4, so I’ll limit my discussion here to Levels 1 and 2).

I mention the “Infosyses” and “Intels” in almost everything I write about H-1B, and consider it central to the entire issue. It’s the source of much confusion among (read “deliberate obfuscation by”) some of the players.

By “Infosyses” I mean the firms, mainly India-based, that hire H-1Bs and then “rent” them to US firms. The “Intels” are the employers who hire H-1Bs directly, typically foreign students studying at US universities. Note that the Intels are not just the big household name firms, just any company hiring H-1Bs from US campuses.

The Infosyses tend to hire at Level 1, while the Intels’ H-1Bs are typically at Level 2; the latter stems from the fact that the Intels typically hire at the Master’s degree level, which the regulations say should be Level 2.

It is often claimed that the main abuser of the visa are the Infosyses, while the Intels use the program responsibly. It would be easy to come to that misconception by simply noting the fact that the Intels hire their H-1Bs at Level 2, a higher wage. But as noted, the Intels hire at the Master’s level, thus a higher-quality worker. They are still getting a bargain in hiring the foreign workers, relative to US citizens and permanent residents of that quality; I’ll return to this point momentarily.

The DoL report explaining the move on prevailing wage is quite good. Frankly, I was prepared to see poor reasoning and not much detail, but the DoL looked at the issues in very fine, incisive detail, definitely one of the most carefully-reasoned government reports I’ve ever read. Whether you agree with their conclusions or not, the report is very carefully reasoned, and it’s clearly the result of a ton of time spent.

Will it help? Will more US tech workers be employed as a result of this move? The reason I use such phrasing is that many proposals to fix H-1B seemingly would be useful if implemented but in reality would not move the needle in terms of employment of Americans. Even shutting down the Infosyses entirely would have very little effect, as the employers would still want to save on labor costs, and have alternate ways to do so, as I’ve written before.

At any rate, yes, it would help, but more at Level 2 than Level 1, again due to the existence of alternatives in the case of Level 1. There really are no such alternatives at Level 2, so this new policy is big news.

However…another recurring theme in my writings on H-1B is that the visa is fundamentally about age. Younger workers are cheaper than older ones, and most H-1Bs are young. Though it is also true that young H-1Bs are cheaper than young Americans, the biggest wage savings arise from the age factor.

As noted above, the four-tier prevailing wage system is supposed to be a proxy for amount of experience, thus in turn a proxy for age. In other words, the prevailing wage core of H-1B is actually a government enabler for age discrimination, not to mention discrimination against US workers. Thus the new policy, which by statute must retain that age-related structure, does not solve the H-1B issue, though it’s a much-appreciated first step.

Another flaw is that the new policy does not account for the level of talent of a foreign worker. Take a company like Google. They hire only “the best and the brightest” — so they should pay more. But the prevailing wage structure cannot take talent into account, so Google can pay what in essence is “average” salary (at the given experience level) for much-better-than-average talent.

In that sense, Table 2 in the DoL report is misleading in saying that most of Google’s H-1Bs make more than prevailing wage. It was misleading to begin with, as those figures are based on the old prevailing wage, which the DoL found was substantially too low. But in addition, the table doesn’t take into account that Google workers, domestic or foreign, are of top quality.

Bottom line, data like that in Table 2 does NOT imply that Google is paying its H-1Bs fairly. The foreign workers could be making less than comparable Americans and yet still be making more than prevailing wage.

This is similar to a finding in the 2003 employer survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office that “Some employers said that they hired H-1B workers in part because these workers would often accept lower salaries than similarly qualified U.S. workers; however, these employers said they never paid H-1B workers less than the required wage.”

Another important point is that one must consider wage raises given subsequent to hire. The Intels typically sponsor their H-1Bs for green cards, essentially rendering them immobile. Employers love that their H-1Bs can’t jump ship to another firm, and Google stated in a meeting with several of us researchers that this is a key reason to hire H-1Bs. Among other things, immobility means the H-1Bs are in no position to demand big raises (also noted in the employer survey conducted by the National Research Council, commissioned by Congress), thus yet another way employers save money.

Some press reports quote industry officials as threatening to sue to block the new policy, on administrative law grounds. I won’t speculate on their chances for success, but hope this new prevailing wage policy, uh, prevails. 🙂 It’s a very solid, well-justified change, 30 years overdue. My hat is off to DoL.

Newsom for President, 2020

(Occasional additions made subsequent to initial posting.)

I voted for neither Hillary nor Trump in 2016. Regarded her as smart but corrupt, and even as of 2016 The Donald’s politics were much too far right for me, as a liberal/progressive. So I voted for Bernie Sanders as a write-in.

This year, I knew I couldn’t vote for either Biden or Trump. Trump’s moved even further to the right, and my problems with Biden are that he stands for Business as Usual at a time when change is urgently needed, and that I regard his running mate Harris as a phony opportunist.

Harris’ claim during a Democratic primary debate (ironically, aimed to put down Biden) that she was an impoverished black girl in the Berkeley flats rather than the daughter of two PhDs, was unconscionable, and she has a well-known history of opportunism.

Given Biden’s age, his choice of Harris is especially troubling to me. If he had picked Elizabeth Warren, whom I greatly admire, I would have seriously considered casting my vote for him.

A couple of weeks ago (well before the first debate), a reader of this blog told me that in his social set the trendy thing to do is write in Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom for President. I thought it’s a great idea, and look forward to casting my ballot for him. I’ve admired his performance on the Covid-19 issue. Mind you, he hasn’t done any better than anyone else, either Democrat or GOP, but I can tell he’s giving the issue his all.

Please don’t tell me Trump has cost 200,000 American lives; by that reasoning, Newsom and NY Gov. Cuomo, both Democrats, have their own large death tolls to answer for. Plenty of blame to go around, as the saying goes, a very new, unknown situation with lots of pitfalls.

I’ve stated many times in this space that the mainstream media have been extremely biased and irresponsible in their coverage of Trump. It’s criminal, really. But that’s entirely different from my supporting him, much less voting for him. As a lifelong liberal, there is just too much of an ideology clash. And much more important, noting his separating kids from parents at the Mexican border, that issue alone would completely obviate any chance I’d vote for him.

I must say that I do greatly appreciate the fact that Trump is the first president to stand up to China. It pains me to say that, as I am a longtime supporter of China, but with Xi’s appointment in 2012, the nation took a tragic wrong turn. The Chinese leaders now clearly bear deep ill will against the US. Most Americans are only vaguely aware of the grave danger here, and the Trump administration is to be commended for taking action.

Countless people on the left have told me, “Sure, Biden’s weak and Harris is corrupt, but Trump is destroying our democracy!” Really? What democracy? To address the issue of democracy, what better example than that of the Democratic Party? No way a party that stacks the primary electoral deck with superdelegates can be considered democratic. Absurd to call them democratic. More like plutocratic.

And they’ve ignored the will of the people on a number of issues, e.g. the H-1B work visa, a labor issue that the old Democrats would have been quite critical  of (as Pres. Bill Clinton’s Sec. of Labor Robert Reisch was in the early 90s). Yet they abandoned labor to support Big Business. A few years ago a Democratic Senate staffer sneered to an AFL-CIO official who was meeting with him regarding H-1B, “You people don’t count!” What a stark contrast to the traditional strong Democratic support for unions.

Better example: the “Dreamers,” people who were brought to the US as undocumented minors. Trump offered a deal, under which he’d get a Canadian-style immigration system, in exchange for which they’d get a better deal with the DACA people than even the Dems has asked for. The Dems refused to even consider it. I believe most Americans would have supported it, but in any case, it was clear that the DACAns do NOT have the heartfelt sympathy of the Dems. Instead, it’s cold calculation, to increase the number of future Democratic voters.

The Dems’ outrage after the George Floyd killing was hypocritical at best, feigned at worst. They’ve done almost nothing specifically for the African-American community since the 70s or 80s. On the contrary, the Democrats have shifted their attention to Latinos. For instance, a program initiated by the Democrats provides extra funding to Hispanic Serving Institutions; there is no African-American counterpart. (My own university is pursuing HSI status.) I support the HSI notion, as it incentivizes increasing Latino enrollment, but the point is that the Democrats have long taken black people for granted. Ever heard of Flint, MI?

As of late October, during the pandemic, the Democrats and Republicans have failed to come to an agreement on an economic relief package for those hard hit by the crisis. Yes, both sides are to blame, but the Democrats are the ones who’ve constantly claimed the bill is needed because many Americans are desperate. If the Dems really felt that, they’d take the GOP compromise. Clearly the Dems’ goal in refusing to do so is to gain political advantage over the GOP and Pres. Trump.

As noted, the mainstream media is advancing the DNC agenda, and is now devoid of any pretense of objectivity. In this sense (and others) we were on the road to the demise of democracy long before 2016.

Take the race issue, for instance. Yes, absolutely, many police department policies are in desperate need of reform, but the sad truth is that there are more white victims of this than black, and proportionately the two rates are similar. The same is true for police stops of motorists; once one does an “apples to apples” comparison, there is little evidence of racial bias. Yet we constantly hear police misconduct as demonstrating “systemic racism,” a term that has become throwaway, devoid of meaning.

Things are indeed still grim for many African-Americans, but the causes are complex and deep-rooted, largely modern consequences of the old times when we did indeed have systemic racism. But no, today’s systems are not racist, even though we do still have many individual people with unhealthy racial views.

The media have egregiously quoted Trump out of context on the race issue, notably on his remark “There were fine people on both sides” after the Charlottesville clash. He clearly was referring to people “on both sides” of the issue of whether to dismantle Confederacy-era statues, NOT neo Nazis. On the contrary, here is what Trump tweeted after the incident:

We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one! We want to get this situation straightened out in Charlottesville. And we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country.

Similarly, in the September 29 debate with Joe Biden, much has been made about Trump’s remark about the Proud Boys. But read the transcript! Trump had answered, “Sure I will do that” when the moderator Chris Wallace asked him if he would condemn white supremacist groups, and Wallace then asked him to name one. Trump then cited the Proud Boys, and identified them by their slogan. That was then twisted by the media to mean he supported the group, in spite of the context showing the opposite.

Those who defend the Democrats have a lot of explaining to do. When a prominent California lawmaker said, “I wanted to punch the next Asian I see in the face,” she was not sanctioned by her party or by the Democratic-dominated legislature. Arguably her statement could incite anti-Asian violence, exactly what the Dems accuse Trump of concerning his “China virus” remarks. How can the Democratic reproach Trump about race? (The legislator didn’t like that some militant Chinese-American groups oppose affirmative action. I support affirmative action too, but this is outrageous.)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign launched an anti-Muslim smear against Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary election season. She has also apologized for her “superpredators” remark, which some took to be racist. Again, it’s hard to justify the Democrats’ claim to hold the moral high ground on race.

I care a lot about this. I’ve been an activist on behalf of minorities ever since I was 16 years old, when I worked in the congressional campaign of Myrlie Evers, widow of the legendary slain civil rights leader. But we elected a black president, then re-elected him, and as has been pointed out, many of those cities in which the BLM protests have been most strident have black mayors and black police chiefs. Could such a racist society have elected/appointed all these people?

Yet those in the media propagate (if not promulgate) this myth of systemic racism. So does academia, and woe be it to anyone who disagrees. Freedom of speech is disappearing from university campuses. Can’t have a real democracy without a vigorous exchange of ideas, folks.

Indeed, the current hysteria is such that my post here will be interpreted by some as my supporting Trump’s policies, in spite of my clear statement above that almost all his views are antithetical to mine.

While I don’t subscribe to Eric Weinstein’s conspiracy views, Eric is at least right in saying that an unholy alliance of Big Business, the media and academia are running the show. We are being scripted. Sure, we do have the trappings of democracy, voting rights and all that, but this is not the democracy I believed in when I was growing up. Nor are the Democrats the party for the poor and oppressed that I revered during my formative years.

I’ll proudly vote for California’s Proposition 16, which would restore Affirmative Action to CA public policies. But for president, Gavin’s my guy.

Those Who Ignore History

Last week the federal Department of Labor announced the oddly named H-1B One Workforce Grant Program, funded to the tune of $150 million. Its aim is

…to invest in training for middle- to high-skilled H-1B occupations within key sectors in the U.S. economy, including information technology and cyber security, advanced manufacturing and transportation, to upskill the present workforce and train a new generation of workers to grow the future workforce…

Through local public/private partnerships, grantees will deploy training to provide individuals in their communities with skills necessary to advance career pathways to employment in middle- to high-skilled H-1B occupations within key industry sectors. Training models will include a broad range of classroom and on-the-job training, customized training, incumbent worker training, Registered Apprenticeship Programs and Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs.

It uses the language of 2020, but is a replay of the old industry lobbyist line, “We need H-1B workers now, to fill our tech labor shortage, but through training we’ll grow our own domestic workforce to alleviate the need for the visa program.” I say “old” line indeed, as it goes back to 1998, the year of the first industry push to expand the H-1B program.

The legislation enacted that year nearly doubled the visa cap, temporarily, and established a user fee, in which employers paid into a fund to retrain American workers. Two years later in 2000, a second increase was enacted; the industry convinced Congress and Bill Clinton that there was still a need for H-1Bs. Yet within months the Dot Com Boom burst, with massive layoffs in the tech world.

Putting aside the point that the industry almost certainly knew the implosion was coming when they argued for another increase in work visas, the point here is that the user-fee-funded training program remained. It turned out to be a failure, as some of us had predicted back in 1998. As I wrote in my 2003 article in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (emphasis added),

…to address the skills issue Congress added another major provision in the new law, insisted on by Clinton and some leading Democrats. It established H-1B user fees which would fund retraining programs, with the goal of training American workers to fill jobs then being filled by H-1Bs. This provision too was doomed from the outset. In addition to the allegations made that employers were using the skills issue merely as a pretext to avoid hiring older workers—in which case retraining would be useless—the training funds ended up being used largely to train workers for technician jobs, which are not normally filled by H-1Bs anyway. Two years into the program, Sun Microsystems a major Silicon Valley firm that had been at the forefront of lobbying Congress to expand the H-1B program in 1998, stated that the training programs had not reduced—and, more tellingly, they could not reduce—its dependence on H-1Bs. Later, the Bush administration also concluded that the program had failed to achieve this, its stated goal, and proposed canceling it.

Last week’s announcement by the DoL has the same flavor as the one in 1998: Give workers modern skills through relatively short-term training programs, often with apprenticeship titles, in contrast to the fact that H-1B visas are for jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree, typically a master’s in the case of Silicon Valley. We again see an enthusiastic buy-in by industry, and will again see in a few years a Sun Micro-style denial in the industry that they never intended the 2020 program to reduce their dependence on H-1Bs.

Worst of all, of course, is the implied message that we have a tech labor shortage in the first place, which no study (other than industry-sponsored ones) has ever found. To be clear, yes, some non-tech Americans will benefit, but the program won’t reduce the income of immigration lawyers.

On that score, how has the Trump administration done in terms of H-1B? Recall that I had predicted in 2015, as Trump was just starting his run for office, that he would punish the “Infosyses,” the Indian-owned outsourcing firms, while rewarding the “Intels,” the mainstream firms that hire as H-1Bs foreign students from US university campuses. In fact, Trump has acted quite onsistently with that prediction.

Earlier this year, for example, Trump declared he was banning the entry of new H-1Bs to the US until at least December. The key word is “entry”; the ban does not apply to foreigners already here, i.e. the international students at US schools. So foreign students were effectively exempted from the ban.

This past week, the Trump administration announced that student visas would now be restricted to four years’ duration. For those pursuing a bachelor’s degree, this would prevent them for working in the US after graduation under the Optional Practical Training program, which is used as a holding pattern by foreign students while they wait for an H-1B visa. Since OPT runs as part of the F-1 student visa, they would apparently be out of luck. But the master’s students — the industry’s “sweet spot” — would have two to three years of OPT time. So again, the Intels will be accommodated.

The pending executive order on H-1B is also said to set a policy under which the visas are doled out in order of offered salary, highest wages first. I do support this, but again it clearly is aimed at protecting the Intels while “doing something” about the visa program.

So, the Trump administration should get no more than a C- report card on H-1B. Biden has indicated he would not reverse Trump’s H-1B policy, which is probably true. The Democrats are just as beholden to the Intels as the GOP is; after Clinton signed the 1998 legislation, he went on a fundraising tour of Silicon Valley.

Trump, Taxes and Timing

So the “October Surprise” is here, even a few days early. Trump reportedly paid but a pittance in federal income taxes in certain years. Just what do the Democrats/NYT expect to gain from this report?

Trump will respond by noting that he pays, for instance, hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes, and a similar amount in sales taxes and so on. He’ll also point out the various financial scandals among the Dems, starting with Nancy Pelosi, whose gains were not only illicit but harmful to American investors etc.

And then what? No one will be surprised that many of the rich don’t pay much income tax. And the more the Democrats try to play up the issue, the less time and money they devote to issues they perceive will help them, such as Covid-19 and climate change.

Impeachment over the tax issue? Ever heard the term “selective prosecution”? Led by Pelosi? Really? The American people would see through that too.

Many will be outraged that someone in the IRS or Trump’s bank etc. illegally released Trump’s returns. That the NYT is proud that it stole this information also will trouble many.

Around this time in 2016, the Hollywood Confidential tapes came out. The Dems really thought that was a “gotcha.” But the tape really backfired on the Dems. It was brought up in the next debate with Hillary, and Trump responded by pointing out that Bill Clinton paid a legal judgment of $800,000 to one of the women he harassed. The camera then moved to Bill Clinton, sitting in the wings, very humiliating for all. Instead of leading Hillary to victory, it just caused a cynical “pox on both your houses” feeling toward both sides.

What so many fail to understand is that people don’t vote for Trump because they like him. But they like enough of his policies so much that they would vote for him no matter what, e.g. pocketbook issues, societal issues, safety issues. Many are more interested in their own tax bills rather than Trump’s.

The Democrats still haven’t learned that lesson. They are still pitching their wares to the large coastal cities plus Chicago, and even then are focusing their pitch on anti-Trump rather than pro-Biden.

I always think of the UK journalist who spent most of 2016 in Iowa. He found watching the national news rather surreal, with the journalists treating events as a kind of “in” joke shared by urban liberals, nothing that Iowans could relate to.

Not to say Biden won’t win. Maybe he will, maybe not. But if he does win, it won’t be about Trump’s taxes.