Bill Gates: Let more smart people into the USA

Microsoft founder Bill Gates testified before a Senate committee today about education. He did digress, however, into a topic that has perked my interest for some time:

Gates said the nation’s economy depends on keeping the country’s borders open to highly skilled workers, especially those with a science or engineering background. Federal law provides 65,000 H1-B visas for scientists, engineers, computer programmers and other professionals every budget year. High-tech and other employers say that’s not enough.

“Even though it may not be realistic, I don’t think there should be any limit,” Gates said, adding that Microsoft hasn’t been able to fill approximately 3,000 technical jobs in the United States because of a shortage of skilled workers.

In short, Democrats have been cool to the idea of lifting the H1-B cap on basic labor grounds. Letting in foreign workers drivers down wages and take jobs from high-skilled Americans, or at least that’s the common refrain.

While I understand the concept of protectionism, and why it’s good for some sectors of the US economy, I don’t see why it’s a good idea to train thousands of foreign students for our technology economy only to kick them out when they graduate. What are these students going to do? Instead of working at Microsoft or Apple, they’re going to start their own companies in Asia (or wherever they’re from) to compete with American companies. Not so great.

It would be as if the Seattle Mariners first round draft picks were allowed to go as high as AAA, only to be cut loose to sign with another team. Dumb.

Comments

  1. 1

    spews:

    The REASON that Gates says this is not because the foreigners are cheaper than Americans. The reason is that our own kids are not going into the sciences. Over 50% of the students at Columbia are Business! majors. I doubt very much that MS is hiring Indian MBAs!

    The situation at the UDub is as bad or worse. In sme fields, American born kids are a rarity. Why undertake a 10 year educational challenge when we pay good money to folks who manage money?

  2. 2

    Dan Connelly spews:

    You really need to understand that the issue is on the nature of the visa Gates wants, not the exclusion of smart people. H-1B is a specialized visa that legalizes human traffiking. Greencards, on the other hand, permit the talented immigrant to retain his personal freedoms. Did Gates say anything about greencards?

    An H-1B is not a free worker. Mostly, he is an indentured servant. Due to onerous legal restrictions, he is, for practical purposes, tied to a single sponsoring employer, which is typically the Body Shop that traffiks him. If he dares to bargain over the conditions of his employment (hours, compensation, safety, etc.) he is as good as on the plane back home, smart or not.

    An H-1B may not actually be cheaper to employ (given all the middle men involved) but he is definitely more supine than an equally talented native worker. For this reason, the native worker will get no consideration and is driven out of the job market (unless he acutely under-bids the H-1B labor rate).

  3. 3

    Libertarian spews:

    We have an immigration mess in this country. I’d like to see a 20-year moritorium on allowing any people to migrate to America. We need that time to round up the illegal aliens and get them back to where they came from. Also, we’ll need time to develop a sound immigration policy. 20 years without any new immigration won’t hurt the country: the gene pool is big enough. Once we get our act together, maybe we could let 500 or so immigrants come to this country each year.

    As for those with visas, I hope they have a nice visit and have a safe trip home once their visas have expired. Thanks for visiting! Good-bye!

  4. 4

    janet s spews:

    Liberterian -your comments are just as foolish here as they are on SP. Why do you want to destroy this country?

    A true libertarian would welcome those who want to work hard and make life better for themselves. You are hiding behind a facade that really doesn’t represent what you truly believe.

  5. 5

    spews:

    Libertarian?

    Last time I checked, protectionism is one of those things that libertarians strongly oppose.

    I understand the objection Will has to the H1-B visas, and unless some changes are made to that system, I cannot support expanding it.

    But seriously. 20 years with no immigration, then 500 per year? While we’re at it, let’s just end all international travel and trade, and put up a big wall around the country.

    Of course, if you’re a full-blooded member of one of the Native American nations, I could understand this very un-libertarian opinion.

    Libertarian Party on Immigration

    Eliminate all restrictions on immigration

    We welcome all refugees to our country. Furthermore, immigration must not be restricted for reasons of race, religion, political creed, age, or sexual preference. We therefore call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for all people who have entered the country illegally.”

    Source: National Platform of the Libertarian Party Jul 2, 2000

    So, who are you, and what have you done with Libertarian?

  6. 6

    spews:

    (Caught in the filter again. I’m really not sure what that thing is looking for.)

    Watch this space for an upcoming witty, insightful and all-around dazzling response to Libertarian!

    Coming soon to a blog near you!

  7. 7

    Libertarian spews:

    Janet S @ 4,

    I really, really mean it: we’ve got enough people to keep the line going. We need to sort out our immigration problems, and a 20-year halt to immigration is just what we need to start getting our house in order.

  8. 8

    spews:

    I propose “solving” the immigration “problem” by welcoming anyone and everyone who wants to come to the United States. No limits whatsoever. It’s the humane, and the human, thing to do.

    The United States is underpopulated. Our resources are immense. We have more than enough to share with everyone who wants to participate in, and contribute to, our experiment. Doing so will elevate both the newcomers and those of us already enjoying the blessings of this nation.

    Self-righteous scum like “Libertarian” think it’s a zero-sum game, that improving the status of someone else somehow detracts from his/her own status. It’s arrant nonsense like that that fuels the Reaganite fallacies that have ruined our world for the past several decades. Their “I got mine, so fuck the rest of you” attitude infests our society.

  9. 9

    Spineless spews:

    H1-B Visas are a bane to the US economy and workforce. As one informed commenter noted, people working with an H1-B visa are indentured servants. While they have the right to complain an negotiate higher wages, the fact is that if they rock the boat, they will find themselves in the water on their way home.

    There are so many problems with H1-B visas, there should be a moratorium on H1-B visas.

    H1-B visas do depress the salaries of those who are “legitimately” part of the work force. Companies can get H1-B workers for much cheaper, than a green card or a citizen worker.

    There is the matter of income taxes. Some H1-B workers do not pay any income tax. There are a number of schemes setup with Indian companies, where shell games are played that allow Indian H1-B workers to work long-term in the US, without paying a penny in income tax.

    An H1-B does not necessarily expire. While only a specific amount of H1-B visas may be issued per year, they do not expire on an annual basis. H1-B recipients can work in the US on an H1-B for 5+ years. Cumulatively, this adds up to a large workforce that lacks appropriate checks and balances, and responsibilities.

    I can understand why Bill Gates would love for more H1-B workers, a large percentage of the local Microsoft workforce is Indian. Honestly, it is disproportionately Indian. I have worked at Microsoft on a number of occasions, and seen firsthand this massive workforce. To be an American working for Microsoft, you have to either accept less money than the industry average to be competitive with an Indian employee, or you have to be so unrealistically exceptional than they can justify that you are a better investment than an Indian employee.

    But the real issue is how we fix the problem. I think H1-B should have a firm expiration date that is not renewable. Honestly, if you have been in the US two, three, or more years and not sought out either resident status or nationalization, you need to pack your bags and go home and make room for someone new who will completely contribute to this society.

    Secondly, the Indian marketplace needs to be able to sustain the workforce it develops. If there are too many engineers for the current jobs in India, they should make more jobs there so that workers there don’t have to leave that country to find gainful employment.

  10. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    That may work fine for Gates, but it doesn’t answer the question of how our economy will provide a living to the 99.9% of the population who aren’t genuises.

  11. 11

    Spineless spews:

    RE: N in Seattle @ #8

    In a Utopian society, your words could hold true. But alas, they do not. It is not a humane thing to do. To claim it as such, would indicate that they are attempting to escape some sort of oppression that threatens their well being and their ability to provide for themselves and/or their family.

    By opening the doors wide open, you are advocating the depression of the American workforce, which includes citizens and legitimate resident aliens. It is difficult enough already to provide for a family without an unfettered flow of H1-B workers.

    How would you feel if your profession, and your specific job was constantly at risk of being outsourced because of cheaper labor? You might rethink your argument.

  12. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    When Gates figures out a way to create jobs for ordinary Americans, I’ll have more respect for him. If he ever figures out how to design software so it actually works, I’ll REALLY respect him.

  13. 13

    ArtFart spews:

    BFD. Every time the tech sector picks up, managers screaming about how we’re going to be doomed by an acute shortage of engineers. Happens every few years.

    At least Chairman Bill seems to have the idea that development is more productive when everyone on the “team” is in the same hemisphere. So instead of outsourcing everything they’re hiring contractors to work here.

  14. 14

    Libertarian spews:

    Roger said,

    “If he [Bill Gates] ever figures out how to design software so it actually works, I’ll REALLY respect him”
    ===
    Alert the media! I agree with Roger on Mr. Gates and his immigration complaints!

  15. 15

    spews:

    N in Seattle:

    In a perfect world, I could find myself agreeing with your position.

    Of course, a perfect world includes truly open borders, open markets for goods and services in every country, workers that were free to use collective bargaining in every country, strong environmental protections in every country…

    You get the picture. No, it is not the fault of the individual workers that are just looking for a better life for themselves and their families, but it is still a problem.

    Yes, our current system is an unfair kludge of contradictory laws, regulations, policies and procedures that nobody really understands, including the folks running it.

    But other than some minor tinkering, it will have to do for the foreseeable future.

  16. 16

    Aaron spews:

    The workers who come as guests to work for MSFT not only work for less, they couple themselves to the corporation in a way that no self respecting permanent worker ever would. Twelve plus hour days (with only eight hours reported for hourly workers) and over crowded residents very close the the factory are the norm. Lots of these visitors regard the time they put in as a kind of apprenticeship, a paying of dues before returning to the economy they came from.

    They have no long term investment in the local economy, no kids to raise, no roots. Competing against them for a position in the economy is not a balanced position to accept. If you ask, most will freely admit to looking forward to the day they get to take the savings and experience they have accrued home.

    Works out good for MSFT though.

  17. 17

    ZA spews:

    How about increasing our investment in education in this country so that we turn out more qualified scientists and engineers. In the long run, our failure to invest in education (and infrasructure, etc.) is going to resign this country to second-tier status as we are surpassed by the likes of China and India. In modern times innovation and competativeness of business relies on well educated people. It is an example of just how dangerous the republican agenda is for the long term position of the country. The constant mantra of tax cuts and decreases to the size of government, the increase in private wealth over public wealth to the degree that conservatives will take it is a far bigger threat than immigrants.

  18. 18

    Libertarian spews:

    ZA,

    Throwing money at the problem of lousy education won’t help improve our schools and produce smarter kids. Educators have to come to the conclusion that their new methods of educating don’t work. In a math problem in business, the correct answer is the correct answer, and nobody cares how the you “feel” about the problem.

    The other day I had a guy tell me how amazed he was with my math abilities when I calculated 70% of 50 in my head. The poor guy couldn’t see how anyone could do such a “complex” calculation in his head.

    The way to obtain math skills, at the day-to-day level, is through multiplication and division tables, utilizing flash cards, and all those other “outdated” methods.

    But they work!

    As for reading skills, I suggest educators re-discover phonics. Again, an old-fashioned teaching technique that works!

    Tossing money, willy-nilly, ain’t gonna solve the problem. Getting back to methods that work is what we need to do.

  19. 19

    ArtFart spews:

    16 Aaron, you got it! I walk along 148th between NE 24th and NE 40th to ride the bus, and basically it’s lined with Microsoft sweatboxes on the east side and Microsoft flophouses on the west.

  20. 20

    spews:

    Re: Barelli at #15…

    I appreciate your understanding of, and sympathy for, my Emma Lazerus (“Give me your tired, your poor, …”) viewpoint on this matter. To some large degree, I concur that a less idealistic policy makes for a more manageable nation, and perhaps even a tidier world.

    On the other hand, if we don’t strive to really, truly, actually live up to our self-anointed role as The Greatest Country The Universe Has Ever Seen by demonstrating the depth and breadth of our magnanimity, what’s the point of being TGCTUHES?

    We have so many advantages in resources and opportunity here in the USofA. I really do believe we could invest some portion of those gifts in an effort to elevate the entire globe by displaying the essential goodness that we profess.

    It’s more than just the christian thing to do. It’s the human family thing to do.

  21. 21

    pbj spews:

    What are these students going to do? Instead of working at Microsoft or Apple, they’re going to start their own companies in Asia (or wherever they’re from) to compete with American companies. Not so great.

    What they are going to do is work at Microsoft or Apple and then leave to go back home and start a company to compete with American companies using the suitcase of sourcecode and knowledge they have gained. We have plenty of very smart people here that are being passed up for cheap H1B labor.

  22. 22

    ZA spews:

    Libertarian:
    You misunderstood me. I was mostly talking about opportunity for higher education and encouraging science and engineering educations for Americans. I wasn’t necessarily talking about quality of education. Higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many Americans.

    The lack of American students going into science and engineering has been well talked about. Part of the reason for that hasn’t been- working hard for a science and engineering degree provides less financial opportunity than working relatively easier for, say, a business degree. In India a science or engineering degree is a way out.

    And I do think “throwing money” at education would help fix the quality of education. Like paying public teachers more, and offering a differential pay scale (even more money) for math and science teachers.

  23. 23

    ZA spews:

    Libertarian:
    You misunderstood me. I was mostly talking about opportunity for higher education and encouraging science and engineering educations for Americans. I wasn’t necessarily talking about quality of education. Higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many Americans.

    The lack of American students going into science and engineering has been well talked about. Part of the reason for that hasn’t been- working hard for a science and engineering degree provides less financial opportunity than working relatively easier for, say, a business degree. In India a science or engineering degree is a way out.

    And I do think “throwing money” at education would help fix the quality of education. Like paying public teachers more, and offering a differential pay scale (even more money) for math and science teachers.

    And I believe the conservative dogma that results in a lack of public funding is dangerous for the future of the country. I’m not talking about funding for “liberal” social programs, but basic funding for good education and infrastructure.

  24. 24

    SeaBos84 spews:

    H1-B is about serfdom for Gates and friends.

    I’ve worked with many h1-bs in the ’97 to ’02 timeframe, and gates has them by the short hairs – it takes 3 years for some mess to work its way through the idiots at immigration, then some more years for some more nitwit vogons to stamp more forms of bullshit …

    meanwhile, if they breath the wrong way, they are gone.

    while the people I’ve worked with are a few light years ahead of most of most of the americans I’ve worked with,

    the critical issue for gates is that he has people who shut the fuck up – otherwise, he’d let them in on green cards so that after 3 months in redmond, they can go to NYC or DC or San FRan or LA or Boston for 2 or 4 times as much money, well, unless richy rich wants to pay national market for top talent …

    WRONG!

    at this point in the game, the u.s. is still getting a LOT of the best from china and india, AND, a lot of them stay here and start companies and trade with home …

    we should let them in with green cards, AND

    americans gotta learn how to fucking compete.

    too many college grads or college bound or college inhabitants think about the global economy in ways suitable to 1957, NOT 2007

    I got this degree so I DESERVE that office and that chair and that gold watch for being loyal and hard working … ha ha ha !

    rmm.

  25. 25

    Goldie's pick senate '06 spews:

    Guess who said it…

    “But here’s a dumb government policy: you know what we’re doing right now? You can come from anywhere in this world if you can qualify. So you’re one of the best and brightest in the world. You qualify for our higher education system, right? And we’ll give you a student visa, and you come here we’ll give you the finest education in the land and say you learn all about the computer science, and what will we do the day after you graduate? We’ll send you home. How dumb is that?”

    That’s right. Mike Goddamn McGavick.

  26. 26

    Puddybud spews:

    Hello Stupidos:

    Why would Mr. Gates say this? Could it be the Moonbat led school system of the last 45 years IS NOT PRODUCING USEFUL AMERICANS?

    You know what else? Bill Gates railed on the US school system not producing last year!

    Guess who else said this? Dr William Cosby!

    Waaaaaaa haaaaaa haaaaaa HAR HAR HAR HAR HAR!

    Nuff Said!

  27. 27

    spews:

    hi…

    bill gates know…exactly…that people who are coming to USA is usually less paid in terms of wages. there is no doubt abt this…?