H-1B

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There's a program called the H-1B visa. It’s a complete fraud, that I support. Sorta. Look the H-1B program was part of the Immigration Act of 1990 by George H.W. Bush, as a loosening of the Democrat passed Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (which was of a long line of more restrictive democrat immigration laws that went before it). The 1990 law not only loosened quotas for immigration (most had been put there by democrats), but it put in loopholes like H-1B, which said that if a company couldn’t find talent locally, they could hire from just about anywhere in the world, and get them Visas to get the work done. But that’s not how it’s been used at all.

Context:Reagan/Bush had granted amnesty to the millions of illegal immigrants here, and loosened the immigration quotas (to make it easier to come over legally), under the promise that congress (especially democrats) would help secure the borders and make it harder for folks to abuse the law and come over illegally. The Republicans did their part, the democrats did not, and demagogued the Republicans ever since, for trying to get Dems to fulfill their promise (of the wall, and deportations, etc). That hardly makes the Republicans innocent: they controlled all houses at times, and didn’t fix things either, but partly because whenever they even thought about it, the Democrats/Media lied and called them racists and attacked them. But that doesn't make them innocent -- sometimes the right path is hard.

I’ve never met an H-1B recipient that had such unique talent or skills that there wasn’t someone else that could do what they were doing. But that applies to everyone, in any job: when it comes to work, there are plenty of people that could do what you do -- maybe not as well, but likely better in a few areas, worse in others, but still good enough. Get over yourselves. That’s not to say that most I know aren’t smart, useful, or very good at what they do. Most are excellent employees and people that add value to our culture, and I want them in our country. But the premise of the loophole is that you can’t fill the job by any American, and thus you have to hire a foreigner, and that’s just about always, complete and utter bullshit.

So H-1B's take jobs that Americans could do. Because they’re on a restricted visa, and their often more Jr., they have to do the job for less money (thus it suppresses high tech wages). They have to be more subservient employees (they’re more at the whim of their employers, so have less negotiating leverage), and so on. It's a coercive system. So the H-1B program is a fraud, to get around Democrats artificially low quotas, in the first place. But still I support it. Why?

The Choice

Look at the bigger picture. It’s not whether they’re taking American jobs or putting some minor downward pressure on high tech salaries: that’s a given. But the bigger picture is immigration and global competition.

Most H1’s are folks that came here, went to school, got good degrees, and stay here to work. The choice is now that we subsidized their education we can either:

  • (a) send them home, collect no taxes from them, and have them earning salaries in their own countries and competing with us/our companies abroad
  • (b) let them stay here, earn good salaries here (pay higher than already high taxes, as they get fewer write-offs), and help us compete with the rest of the world.

Given the real-world choice, (b) is a no-brainer.

On top of that. Assume you’re letting in about 1M people per year legally. (And another 150-300K illegally) — which are loose numbers. How many of those do you want to be high educated and high earners? For me, it’s as many as possible. This is also my problem with illegal immigration.

While I have no problem with loosening our quotas of legal immigrants, and allowing plenty of people from the bottom tiers to come here and do labor that many of our welfare and faux disability recipients are too good for, there are ratios that need to be managed. If you allow only the bottom rungs, then you suffocate our social programs. So it’s not that immigration is bad. Uncontrolled immigration could crush our economy. This is not hyperbole, there are 3B people in the world that make less than $2/day, open borders would CRUSH us in a heartbeat. So you need to try to keep the ratios in some balance. At least enough high earners and taxpayers to make up for the low earners and tax-suckers. (Those that take more out of the system than they put in it — and in our tax code, that’s actually around the bottom 45-50% of earners, thanks to Democrats generous with other people's money).

Conclusion

So I have a problem with both the Democrats and Republicans (and Libertarians) on immigration policy.

  • Libertarians open borders stuff is just stupid. We need more open borders and higher immigration than we have — but in a controlled manner. Just saying "everyone should have a chance at the American dream" would make it an immigration nightmare.
  • The Democrats have consistently been on the wrong side of every immigration issue: for more illegal immigration, and for creating a huge/complex/annoying bureaucracy with low quotas against legal immigration in general, and of high earners especially. Then they flip and support illegal and criminal immigration as much as possible (because they vote Democrat), blame the Republicans for the quotas they put in place, and undermine the immigration laws that they demanded.
  • And the Republicans are the ones that generally want to raise the costs of coming here illegally, while opening the borders more for legal immigration (the law and order position). But as soon as the Democrats/media start drawing attention to that, or they start reacting to some particularly poorly formed/argued thing from the Democrats (like Obama's unilateral refugees from terrorists sponsoring countries), they become reactionary and go isolationist -- and the media/democrats misrepresent everything and play them as racist / xenophobic (and they fall into the trap with their rhetoric).

So I’m tired of soundbites, and want someone to say something intelligent on immigration and H-1B’s... so far no side has been intelligent or honest on them.




It's completely right that H-1B's are a way to get cheap labor, exploit foreign workers (indenture servitude), encourage age discrimination, and drive out some more qualified American workers for displacing foreigners. (The program is bullshit that's not doing what it claims to be doing). It's refreshing to see it expressed. But it's HuffPo, so it's unlikely to be balanced and give you the whole story. It only touches one key benefit, among of sea of more of them, like: (1)We're skimming the best and brightest from the world, getting great educated workers at a discount. Making our markets more competitive (by cherry picking their markets, driving up their costs for talent, and lowering our own). (2) These are great people that have lives and ambitions too, and saying "no" takes away opportunities for them (they're people too, not just American-born). (3) They shouldn't be here on H-1B's based on the H-1B's purpose -- but anyone with their level of education and motivation should be able to come on a regular immigration process, that's way to restrictive for educated and motivate people (so it's a fraudulent work-around, for a failed immigration system in the first place, but that means it's probably better than nothing, and letting those people start businesses in foreign countries and compete with us there). (4) Econ 101, there are more consumers than producers. Even if it sucks and puts undue pressure on tech workers (and it does). There are fewer tech workers than there are tech consumers. So what sucks for tech workers, benefits all the consumers that get better tech, for less money. Sucks to be them (including someone like me), but rocks to be a consumer that benefits from this market pressure. (5) We have a poorly designed Social Security system (thanks FDR for fucking that up), and an age bubble. It's sort of a Ponzi scheme. We need young people feeding money in. Importing young educated people is far better than letting in young migrant workers can be net burdens on the social systems. (And there's a ratio of uneducated and educated immigrants you should keep as well). So blocking these people, screws up poor/rich, educated/uneducated, young/old immigration ratios, in ways that have broader ramifications. This is why I'm more free trade than protectionist. But there are balances -- you can only take people at some rate, or they do displace too many workers, and you get harm. Too little, and you're not taking advantage of as many as you could. So the truth is this is hairy as hell. If you change the policy, you hurt really good people. You might stop one injustice, but at the cost of a fewothers, is that a win? Yes, you'll help more American workers than you hurt... but you'll also have fewer American workers with those skills than you would have otherwise. (Less capacity). And in Tech, we still seem pretty supply constrained. It's not a fixed pie, it's a growing pie. So this article was good at laying out the bad. It was bad at laying out the good. And it was ugly at not even touching on how nuanced these balances are, and why we have a fucked up H-1B system (because we have a more fucked up general immigration system). You turn these kids away, and they're not going to go back to India, China or East Europe and become farmers. They're going to start tech firms and create price and margin pressures on our tech companies from abroad anyways. That many cost America more than it helps. So I'd rather have them here (even if it has potential to hurt me), where we gain the benefits of their taxes, and their knowledge and culture, than "over there", where we don't.

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