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H-1b and Innovation
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August 12, 2006, 02:16 PM
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Phyllis Schafly wrote earlier this year:

It`s bad news for America`s future if the corporations learn to rely on foreigners for all their computer work. Americans, not foreigners, are the source of the technical innovations we need to stay ahead in the fast-moving computer industry. Of the 56 awards given by the Association for Computing Machinery for software and hardware innovation, only one recipient is an immigrant.

I agree with this assessment. I have been extremely unimpressed by the tendency toward technical innovation I have seen among recent immigrants using the H-1b/L-1 program. However, I have been extremely impressed by the business acumen I have seen there-particularly among recent immigrants from India.

When you look at the list of IIT graduates, you will not see rivals of folks like Kary Mullis(inventor of the most valuable patent of the 20th century)—you will see quite an impressive list of very wealthy businessmen though.

What I think Ms. Schafly was missing, the reason that the H-1b program has been so popular among corporate America, is that as pointed out in the film "Tucker a man and his Dream" much of corporate America fears innovation and will actively resist innovation unless it is forced upon them by competitors.

Programs like H-1b let fat, dumb happy corporations stay that way. Now, it may be a disaster from a social welfare perspective and a national security perspective—but that isn`t the worry of corporate leadership in the game as it is now structured.

Perhaps the US should consider controls on executive compensation of the say the Fortune 1000 that would in fact assure that the long term financial health of those individuals really was clearly tied to the long term economic health of the US as a whole. A large portion of their compensation might be required by law to be placed into a pension fund, the long term returns of which would be geared towards the long term changed in value of the companies they have managed and the long term purchasing power of the poorest Americans. That would, I expect, make the sociopathic practices we saw at companies like Enron( boosting short term share prices, heavy use of H-1b visa holders to conduct fundamentally illegal technical projects ) more difficult because the managers couldn`tjust leave someone else holding the bag so easily.