Dr. Norm Matloff: Jennifer Wedel, “Xenophobia”, and Tech Unemployment

Dr. Norm Matloff writes to his email list:

Superb letter from Sen. Grassley to Pres. Obama:

Grassley: High-Skilled American Workers Struggling to Find Jobs, February 7, 2012

Note in particular that in spite of the Wedel case, the president recently went ahead with USCIS plans to take executive action to liberalize regs on tech immigration. (As with past such actions, many of us view these changes as actually being end runs around Congress, rather than simply adjustments to regulations.)

In the same vein, when a question about Wedel was asked during a recent White House press conference, Obama`s spokesperson Jay Carney did not back down at all, insisting that we need the foreign tech workers. See Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 1/31/12

Video: Carney Cornered On Obama’s ‘Send Me Your Resume’ Offer

Nevertheless, Carney hemmed and hawed through that statement (clear in the video, not in the transcript), clearly nervous that he was, in effect, denying Wedel`s claims (even though he did deny denying it).

I must say that I`m even more concerned about the young reporter, David (surname not given), who suggested that Mrs. Wedel`s points about H-1B in her exchange with Obama were “xenophobic.” The reporter looked pretty young, possibly Asian-American, and there is an ethos common in younger educated professionals today, especially among minorities, that any concern of any kind that even some aspects of immigration might be too liberal is xenophobic, if not downright racist. The reporter`s phrasing, “xenophobia going on when the economy is tight,” is right out of standard Asian-American Studies courses, Jennifer Wedel portrayed as the new Dennis Kearney.

(For the record: I strongly support the notion of ethnic studies curricula, but as academic disciplines, not as ideology masquerading as scholarship.)

Gimme a break, David! The poor woman`s husband has not had steady employment for three years now. It`s a safe bet that David hasn`t ever gone three years without a job, so what does he know? Given that many H-1Bs in fact ARE engineers, and given that many American engineers ARE being laid off, is Mrs. Wedel`s reasoning so preposterous, David? In fact, there`s plenty of evidence of various kinds to support her.

Presumably the White House press corps is the elite among journalists. If so, how can this reporter be so simplistic, indeed so dogmatic, in his reasoning?

Recently Beryl Benderly, a writer for the prestigious Science magazine Web site, published a fine piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, taking the press to task for blindly swallowing the “tech labor shortage” claims put out by the industry`s PR machine. See What Scientist Shortage? | The Johnny-can’t-do-science myth damages US research, January / February 2012.

Excellent account, but unfortunately Benderly did not address a fundamental question: WHY is the press so ignorant? There are exceptions of course (see a link to a nice USAToday article in the reader comments section in the above link), but generally the level of sophistication has been disappointing. Is it due to bias? Laziness? “Physics envy” (thus making them view the industry as heroic)? Norm