Keeping out the smart ones
Recently we again learned that there are millions of jobs in America that are going unfilled — 3 million more or less. Of these, 600,000 are low-tech jobs that require people to speak correct English, answer the phone properly and dress appropriately for the workplace.
But apparently not enough in our unemployed workforce can fill the bill – but that is another story already covered elsewhere. What we’re concerned about here is the almost 2.5 million available jobs that do require higher-level skills.
For those aware of the situation in our institutes of higher learning, this problem is somewhat unbelievable. Our research universities are full of foreign students who are here to learn the latest and greatest science, technology, engineering, and math skills available. Some of them we even pay to study at our schools. They graduate with all kinds of valuable advanced degrees in the STEM fields.
When these young people take off their mortar boards, we ship the overwhelming number of them back to their home countries. There they join and start companies that compete with America in developing and selling the most advanced products available in the world. American-trained holders of masters and Ph.D.s are successfully going after the remaining competitive bulwarks where we have always been privileged to be the leading suppliers to the world.
The only marginal program we have to take advantage of these highly trained workers is the H1-B visa program. But that is an old and decrepit law, helping at most 85,000 graduates and advanced degree holders annually to stay in the U.S. Congress has tried for years to expand our ability to hang on to such talent by introducing legislation such as the “Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy Act” and the “Advanced Degree Visa Bill.” But they never become law because Democrats overwhelmingly vote them down for reasons difficult to explain in polite company.
Half the hard science advanced degrees and a majority of the doctorates are awarded to foreign students every year. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have said we should simply staple a green card to every such degree American universities award, with the understanding that the recipients are welcome to stay, work, and eventually apply for citizenship. Instead we give an H1-B visa to a small fraction of those who apply. The visa is good for only three to six years, after that it is sayonara.
I don’t know, maybe there is some sense to making it hard for foreign STEM majors to work here and become Americans. After all, their work will probably lead to methods, software, and devices that will increase the productivity of our workers, thereby requiring fewer of them to maintain any level of GDP. And that would contribute to higher unemployment; how?
It’s not hard to understand that if you have a growing workforce, and technology-driven productivity increases, then the only way to keep unemployment down is to make the economy grow even faster so it can absorb the 3 million-plus net new workers who start looking for jobs every year. But we tax and regulate the bejeezus out of job creators, which has never boosted any economy, and that seems to be the only thing that our progressive politicians know how to do.
Exhibit A is the economic basket case formerly known as the Golden State.
Progressives call for more government spending and printing — the presses are now running at 40 billion new dollars a month — but that also has never worked. Government is primarily good at “solyndrizing” companies — picking and funding losers to bankruptcy. Even “saving the auto industry” is a sham. Give me $25 billion, and I can “save” any buggy whip or solar chip maker that you can dredge up.
The only solution to our financial ills is an economy that is released from a Byzantine tax code, topped by unfathomable regulatory burdens, so that it can spread its wings and soar again — an economy in which free people with ideas have the opportunity to work hard, attract investment, take risks, and have the dream to become filthy rich beyond bound.
Instead, we are voting into office the dolts that will do exactly the opposite to increase the ranks of the structurally (aka eternally) unemployed and unemployables who become reliable voting wards of the state.
By the way, did you know Microsoft is proposing that businesses should be able to bribe Washington to the tune of $10,000 to $15,000 per foreign employee that they will be permitted to import and hire?
George Rebane is an entrepreneur and a retired systems scientist in Nevada County.
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