The Shortage Myth
The Lies at the End of the American Dream
By Paul Craig Roberts
12/04/07 "ICH" -- -- Last June a revealing marketing video from
the law firm, Cohen & Grigsby appeared on the Internet. The
video demonstrated the law firm's techniques for getting around
US law governing work visas in order to enable corporate clients
to replace their American employees with foreigners who work for
less. The law firm's marketing manager, Lawrence Lebowitz, is
upfront with interested clients: "our goal is clearly not to
find a qualified and interested US worker."
If an American somehow survives the weeding out process, "have
the manager of that specific position step in and go through the
whole process to find a legal basis to disqualify them for this
position--in most cases there doesn't seem to be a problem."
No problem for the employer he means, only for the expensively
educated American university graduate who is displaced by a
foreigner imported on a work visa justified by a nonexistent
shortage of trained and qualified Americans.
University of California computer science professor Norm Matloff,
who watches this issue closely, said that Cohen & Grigsby's
practices are the standard ones used by hordes of attorneys, who
are cleaning up by putting Americans out of work.
The Cohen & Grigsby video was a short-term sensation as it
undermined the business propaganda that no American employee was
being displaced by foreigners on H-1b or L-1 work visas. Soon,
however, business organizations and their shills were back in
gear lying to Congress and the public about the amazing shortage
of qualified Americans for literally every technical and
professional occupation, especially IT and software engineering.
Everywhere we hear the same droning lie from business interests
that there are not enough American engineers and scientists. For
mysterious reasons Americans prefer to be waitresses and
bartenders, hospital orderlies, and retail clerks.
As one of the few who writes about this short-sighted policy of
American managers endeavoring to maximize their "performance
bonuses," I receive much feedback from affected Americans. Many
responses come from recent university graduates such as the one
who "graduated nearly at the top of my class in 2002" with
degrees in both electrical and computer engineering and who
"hasn't been able to find a job."
A college roommate of a family member graduated from a good
engineering school last year with a degree in software
engineering. He had one job interview. Jobless, he is back at
home living with his parents and burdened with student loans
that bought an education that offshoring and work visas have
made useless to Americans.
The hundreds of individual cases that have been brought to my
attention are dismissed as "anecdotal" by my fellow economists.
So little do they know. I also receive numerous responses from
American engineers and IT workers who have managed to hold on to
jobs or to find new ones after long intervals when they have
been displaced by foreign hires. Their descriptions of their
work environments are fascinating.
For example, Dayton, Ohio, was once home to numerous American
engineers. Today, writes one surviving American, "I feel like an
alien in my own country--as if Dayton had been colonized by
India. NCR and other local employers have either offshored most
of their IT work or rely heavily on Indian guest workers. The IT
department of National City Bank across the street from
LexisNexis is entirely Indian. The nearby apartment complexes
house large numbers of Indian guest workers filling the
engineering needs of many area businesses."
I have learned that Reed Elsevier, which owns LexisNexis, has
hired a new Indian vice president for offshoring and that now
the jobs of the Indian guest workers may be on the verge of
being offshored to another country. The relentless drive for
cheap labor now threatens the foreign guest workers who
displaced America's own engineers.
One software engineer wrote to me protesting the ignorance of
Thomas Friedman for creating a false picture of American
engineers being outdated and for "denouncing American engineers
and other workers as 'xenophobes' for opposing their
displacement by foreign guest workers." The engineer also took
exception to the "willful ignorance or cynicism of Bruce
Bartlett and George Will" who he described as "bootlicks for
On November 6, 2006, Michael S. Teitelbaum, vice president of
the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, explained to a subcommittee of
the House Committee on Science and Technology the difference
between the conventional or false portrait that there is a
shortage of US scientists and engineers and the reality on the
ground, which is that offshoring, foreign guest workers, and
educational subsidies have produced a surplus of US engineers
and scientists that leaves many facing unstable and failed
As two examples of the false portrait, Teitelbaum cited the 2005
report, Tapping America's Potential, led by the Business
Roundtable and signed onto by 14 other business associations,
and the 2006 National Academies report, Rising Above the
Gathering Storm, "which was the basis for substantial parts of
what eventually evolved into the American COMPETES Act."
Teitelbaum posed the question to the US Representatives: "Why do
you continue to hear energetic re-assertions of the Conventional
Portrait of 'shortages,' shortfalls, failures of K-12 science
and math teaching, declining interest among US students, and the
necessity of importing more foreign scientists and engineers?"
Teitelbaum's answer: "In my judgment, what you are hearing is
simply the expressions of interests by interest groups and their
lobbyists. This phenomenon is, of course, very familiar to
everyone on the Hill. Interest groups that are well organized
and funded have the capacity to make their claims heard by you,
either directly or via echoes in the mass press. Meanwhile those
who are not well-organized and funded can express their views,
but only as individuals."
Among the interest groups that benefit from the false portrait
are universities, which gain graduate student enrollments and
inexpensive postdocs to conduct funded lab research. Employers
gain larger profits from lower paid scientists and engineers,
and immigration lawyers gain fees by leading employers around
the work visa rules.
Using the biomedical research sector as an example, Teitelbaum
explained to the congressmen how research funding creates an
oversupply of scientists that requires ever larger funding to
keep employed. Teitelbaum made it clear that it is nonsensical
to simultaneously increase the supply of American scientists
while forestalling their employment with a shortage myth that is
used to import foreigners on work visas.
Teitelbaum recommends that American students considering majors
in science and engineering first investigate the career
prospects of recent graduates.
Integrity is so lacking in America that the shortage myth serves
the interests of universities, funding agencies, employers, and
immigration attorneys at the expense of American students who
naively pursue professions in which their prospects are dim.
Initially it was blue-collar factory workers who were abandoned
by US corporations and politicians. Now it is white-collar
employees and Americans trained in science and technology.
Princeton University economist Alan Blinder estimates that there
are 30 to 40 million American high end service jobs that
ultimately face offshoring.
As I predict, and as BLS payroll jobs data indicate, in 20 years
the US will have a third world work force engaged in domestic
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in
the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall
Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of
National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good
Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com
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