Friday, February 8, 2013

A mix of good and bad in this one on STEM shortages from Bernstein


He's right that there's no STEM shortages.
He's right about price signals.
He's right to highlight Eisenbrey on the indentured servitude nature of current guest worker programs.
But he's wrong to act like a globalized labor market is somehow distorting the market process.

The problem with H1-Bs, "staple acts", etc. is not that they pit native workers against non-native workers. The problem with them is that they are the government picking and choosing which workers get a leg up in the immigration process. They're wrong becasue they're unfair and there's no reason we should privilege STEM trained immigrants over other sorts of immigrants that ought to be here, and we certainly shouldn't give their employers the sort of exploitative power over them like the H1-B does.

1 comment:

  1. We need H1-B employees desperately. Engineers are one of the largest employment blocs in the nation -- there are over a a million and a half of them, roughly as many as security guards, and almost as many as K-12 teachers -- and they are significantly well paid. Not like business execs or lawyers or doctors, of course, but better than guards and teachers, about as well as big city cops.

    The American economy will be absolutely destroyed if engineering wages continue to climb without immediate abatement. We will all go broke, we will all die! if engineers recieve wages on the order of MBAs and lawyers and lower grade politicians. We need to stop this terror immediately! And H1-HB is the way to do it!

    Ask any honest MBA or lawyer or low grade pol.


    Somewhat more soberly, I'll point out that in 1950 or so, engineers were part of the American elite -- they were among the 10% or so of the population which earned college degrees; their salaries and social status reflected the fact. Teachers were somewhat comparable -- not as well paid, as a rule, but having moderately high social status.

    So 50-60 years has passed. I'll note that teachers are now the occupational group most thoroughly despised and punished whenever possible by Republican legislators. Their social status and relative income has shrunk. 40% of American young people now attend college, and teachers are no longer unique in their extensive education, and their status is determined now by income -- and by taxpayer resentments.

    If I were more knowledgable, I might be able to say similar things about small town preachers. Might your brother have something to say?

    As with teachers, so with engineers. Their status as autonomous employees has diminished. (Crudely put, they've mostly become wage slaves. Remember the Thiokol executive at the time of the Challenger launch in '86 who told his unhappy subordinates to "Take off your engineering hats and put on your management hats!"? That wouldn't have been conceivable in the days of Werner von Braun. It would have been an intolerable insult.)

    So. The H1-B business is part of a historican process. A portion of the upper middle class is being levered downward in wages and status, further increasing the distance between the middle and upper classes in American society.

    Too bad economists will never notice. Sociologists and anthropologists might. But I notice politicians and a good half of the folks in the economics trade are busy these days undermining the status of social scientists. Always some competition that's got to be put down, right?

    Fascinating to watch history at work!


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