Dr. Norm Matloff: Biden and Obama DON'T EVEN KNOW How H-1Bs Are Displacing Americans

Dr. Norm Matloff writes to his email list:

In a recent radio interview, Vice President Joe Biden was asked about the H-1B program, with the tone of the question being one of suggesting that the program is too big. Biden then responded with industry-standard misinformation (or disinformation, for you skeptics out there). He stated that (a) H-1B has an American recruitment requirement, and (b) there is a shortage of "computer engineers," thus a need for H-1Bs.

As the enclosed blog by Computerworld's Pat Thibodeau explains, Biden is demonstrably wrong on (a) (the H-1B-dependent category is an exception, but it's minuscule), and a number of statistics familiar to readers of my e-newsletter show Biden's wrong on (b) as well.

As Thibodeau points out, Biden's blithe, unqualified defense of H-1B is odd given the embarrassing incident his boss had with Jennifer Wedel a couple of months ago. But Biden's statements are even odder in light of the fact that his own former Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser, Jared Bernstein, has spoken negatively about H-1B on various occasions. Bernstein has said, for instance, "[The tech industry wants] all the engineers they can get at the lowest price. They say they can’t find enough talent, but what they really mean is that they can’t find enough people at the rate they want to pay.” (Washington Post,  The Fact Checker, February 6, 2012.) This quote is especially apropos, as it applies to Biden's claim (b) above.

Indeed, one might wonder whether one of the reasons Bernstein left the Obama administration is that his bosses simply didn't want to hear statements like the one above. Or worse, they understand what he said only too well, and don't want such statements coming out under their imprimatur.

The blog appears below (printed with the permission of the author).

Norm

 

March 30, 2012 - 12:28 P.M.

Clueless in the White House

Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t know a thing about the H-1B visa.

There is one basic fact about this temporary work visa that everyone in political office, or running for political office, ought to understand and it is this: There’s almost nothing to stop an employer from replacing a U.S. worker with an H-1B visa holder.

U.S. IT workers understand this, especially those who have had to train their visa-holding replacement.

The idea that a visa holder can’t replace a U.S. worker is a widely held fiction with many in elected office, including Biden.

Biden was asked about the H-1B visa by a reporter at KWQC News in Iowa.

The reporter’s question: Are too many H-1B visas given out each year? Are too many highly skilled jobs going to people outside the United States?

Biden’s response: No H-1B visa can be granted to an employee to come to a company unless they can prove there is no American to fill the job. What we have had is a real vacuum in the number of computer engineers and high tech personnel to work in particularly Silicon Valley that's where most of those H-1B visas are going that's why we have made it so attractive and I don't understand why Republicans have opposed us. Three million more kids are able to get to college because of Pell grants we provide for 2500 tax credit off …. (See KWQC transcript for the rest of the answer).

The reporter interviewing Biden, Joe St. George, asked a great question. It tied the H-1B visa to the offshoring of jobs. Even if Biden didn’t know anything about the H-1B visa, he could have discussed the second part of the question, which asked if too many highly skilled jobs were going offshore. Instead, Biden went on about a labor shortage of highly skilled jobs.[More]