Sunday, March 11, 2007

Programmers Guild Rebuttal To Bill Gates Senate Testimony

Bill Gates’ testimony was published by ComputerWorld. Our analysis follows.


GATES: Another area where America is falling behind is in math and science education. We cannot possibly sustain an economy founded on technology pre-eminence without a citizenry educated in core technology disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, engineering and the physical sciences. The economy's need for workers trained in these fields is massive and growing. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that, in the decade ending in 2014, there will be over 2 million job openings in the United States in these fields. Yet in 2004, just 11% of all higher education degrees awarded in the U.S. were in engineering, mathematics and the physical sciences -- a decline of about a third since 1960.

PG ANALYSIS: DOL long-term projections have notoriously been flawed, failing to consider the impacts of offshoring, etc. Gates’ “yet” is a non sequitur – the percentage of degrees that are engineering provides zero level of proof that any of these “job openings” will remain unfilled. On the contrary, in 2004 American colleges and universities awarded a record 233,492 undergraduate Science and Engineering degrees - more than enough to fill 2 million slots over a decade, writes Robert J. Samuelson in "A Phony Science Gap" in the Washington Post. (During questioning Bill Gates suggested that 300,000 H-1b per year would be a "good start" for an H-1b quota. But this would supply 3 million H-1b workers plus 2 million American workers to fill 2 million slots over the next decade - Does Gates plan to make Soylent Green out of the surplus 3 million U.S. engineers?)

GATES: To expand enrollment in post-secondary math and science programs, we should provide 25,000 new four-year, competitive undergraduate scholarships each year to U.S. citizens attending U.S. institutions and fund 5,000 new graduate fellowships each year. America's young people must come to see STEM degrees as opening a window to opportunity.

PG ANALYSIS: And what should be the source of these funds? The Programmers Guild presents a similar proposal based on solid economics: Increase the H-1b visa fee to $5000 per year, which would provide $20,000 per year to up to 125,000 U.S. citizens studying undergraduate engineering and computer science.

GATES: Over the next several years, six out of every 10 new jobs will be in professional and service-related occupations. Given the state of our educational system, it is not surprising that U.S. companies are reporting serious shortages of skilled workers. According to a 2005 U.S. Department of Education study, only 13% of American adults are proficient in the knowledge and skills needed to search, comprehend and use information, or to perform computational tasks. This yawning gap between America's economic needs and the skills of its workforce indicates that as a nation we are not doing nearly enough to equip and continuously improve the capabilities of American workers.

PG ANALYSIS: Why does Gates lump “professional” and “service” together? What if 95% of those new jobs are low-skill service jobs, while very few “professional jobs” are created? The DOE 13% finding seems absurd on its face, since – unlike Bill Gates - approximately 27% of Americans age 25 or older have a college degree. The Senate panel should have asked Gates how 50% of Americans got through college without those skills. While there is room for improvement in education, a key factor in the decline in American education was to overcrowd classrooms with a flood of non-English speaking students – in part engineered by Senator Kennedy in the 1960s.


GATES: As a nation, our goal should be to ensure that, by 2010, every job seeker, every displaced worker and every individual in the U.S. workforce has access to the education and training they need to succeed in the knowledge economy. This means embracing the concept of "lifelong learning" as part of the normal career path of American workers, so that they can use new technologies and meet new challenges. Neither industry nor government can achieve these goals if we act alone. Federal, state and local governments must help to prepare all of our workers for the jobs required in a knowledge economy. Workforce enhancement should be treated as a matter of national competitive survival. It is a down payment on our future, an extremely vital step to secure American competitiveness for future generations and to honor the American ideal that every single one of us deserves the opportunity to participate in America's success.

PG ANALYSIS: Into the 1990s many companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, considered their employees “lifetime investments” and would provide training opportunities to keep them current. The floodgate of H-1b workers reduced Americans to replaceable commodities. The first step to assuring a lifetime career path for Americans would be to abolish, not expand, the H-1b program.


GATES: I personally witness the ill effects of these policies on an almost daily basis at Microsoft. Under the current system, the number of H-1B visas available runs out faster and faster each year. The current base cap of 65,000 is arbitrarily set and bears no relation to U.S. industry's demand for skilled professionals. For fiscal year 2007, the supply did not last even eight weeks into the filing period, and ran out more than four months before that fiscal year even began.

PG ANALYSIS: Bill Gates has a narrow view of reality. Microsoft only accepts about 1% of job applicants, and indeed, EVERY computer programmer that Gates encounters at Microsoft has a job – he has no contact with programmers, with many years of experience and degrees up to PhD that are returning to school to learn nursing since they cannot find a job. Gates fails to cite the root cause why H-1b visas are being used up: They allow employers to sponsor H-1b in spite available qualified Americans, and pay these H-1b workers at the 17th percentile of prevailing wage.

GATES: For fiscal year 2008, H-1Bs are expected to run out next month, the first month that it is possible to apply for them. This means that no new H-1B visas -- often the only visa category available to recruit critically needed professional workers -- will be available for a nearly 18-month period. Moreover, this year, for the first time in the history of the program, the supply will run out before the year's graduating students get their degrees. This means that U.S. employers will not be able to get H-1B visas for an entire crop of U.S. graduates. We are essentially asking top talent to leave the U.S.

PG ANALYSIS: There is more than one solution: The Programmers Guild proposes that the best way to assure adequate H-1b for top talent is to stop giving them to bottom talent (or even to average talent).

GATES: As with H-1B visas, the demand for green cards far exceeds the supply. Today, only 140,000 permanent employment-based visas are available each year, which must cover both key employees and their family members. There is a massive backlog in many of the employment-based green card categories, and wait times routinely reach five years. Ironically, waiting periods are even longer for nationals of India and China -- the very countries that are key recruiting grounds for the professionals desperately needed in many innovative fields.

PG ANALYSIS: If DOL complied with the law and only issued green card in cases where “there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available” pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1182(5)(A) Labor certification. Far less than 140,000 would be issued. The DOL has instituted the PERM program that uses sham job ads to make this determination.

Additionally the top three users of H-1b in the U.S. are foreign corporations run by foreigners. Since the average American has no power to grant citizenship to foreigners, why are we granting our foreign competition the power to determine who becomes U.S. citizens?

GATES: In the past, we have succeeded in attracting the world's best and brightest to study and work in the United States, and we can and must do it again. We must move beyond the debate about numbers, quotas and caps. Rather, I urge Congress to ask, "How do we create a system that supports and sustains the innovation that drives American growth, economic opportunity and prosperity?" Congress can answer that question by acting immediately in two significant ways.

PG ANALYSIS: What year “in the past” is Gates referring to? During the dot-com boom of the 1990s we were admitting fewer H-1b workers annually than we do today.

GATES: First, we need to encourage the best students from abroad to enroll in our colleges and universities, and to remain in the United States when their studies are completed. Today, we take exactly the opposite approach. Foreign students who apply for a student visa to the United States today must prove that they do not intend to remain here once they receive their degrees. This makes no sense. If we are going to invest in educating foreign students -- which we should and must continue to do -- why drive them away just when this investment starts to pay off for the American economy?

PG ANALYSIS: What criteria would be used to determine who are “top students” from abroad? If any of the nearly three billion people in India or China could be assured of U.S. citizenship by simply enrolling in and completing an engineering or computer science program at a U.S. university, U.S. students would be squeezed out of these programs by literally millions of applicants. Many programs, such as UC San Diego, are already impacted. Then who is going to hire these graduates? Microsoft does not recruit at any of the 22 CSU campuses in California, for example.

GATES: Barring high-skilled immigrants from entry to the U.S., and forcing the ones that are here to leave because they cannot obtain a visa, ultimately forces U.S. employers to shift development work and other critical projects offshore. This can also force U.S. companies to fill related management, design and business positions with foreign workers, thereby causing further lost U.S. job opportunities even in areas where America is strong, allowing other countries to "bootstrap" themselves into these areas, and further weakening our global competitive strength. If we can retain these research projects in the United States, by contrast, we can stimulate domestic job and economic growth. In short, where innovation and innovators go, jobs are soon to follow.

PG ANALYSIS: Gates lost us on his point about how filling U.S. "management, design and business positions with foreign workers" will cause further U.S. job losses, but filling software jobs with foreign workers stimulates U.S. job growth.

Furthermore, the H-1b program is providing the conduit to offshoring, as reported by Business Week. Microsoft is using the H-1b in the same way, as reported in East Side Journal explained on October 10, 2002:

The road to Microsoft's future travels through the ancient lands of India. That future is a $10 billion initiative called Microsoft .NET ... Key pieces of the new system have and will come from India… Microsoft's offices at [Hyderabad's] Hi-Tec City not only recreate the look but also the feel of Microsoft's headquarters. In an e-mail from Hyderabad, Srini Koppolu, the IDC's general manager, said each programmer is free to take an idea to top managers at any time -- an open-door policy not common at Indian companies. ``The replication of Microsoft's culture has been possible because many people who worked in Redmond for many years have moved back to be part of the India Development Center,'' Koppolu wrote.

GATES: Second, Congress should expedite the path to permanent resident status for highly skilled workers. The reality for Microsoft and many other U.S. employers is that the H-1B visa program is temporary only in the sense that it is the visa we use while working assiduously to make our H-1B hires -- whether educated in the U.S. or abroad -- permanent U.S. residents. Rather than pretend that we want these highly skilled, well-trained innovators to remain for only a temporary period, we should accept and indeed embrace the fact that we want them to become permanent U.S. residents so that they can drive innovation and economic growth alongside America's native born talent.

PG ANALYSIS: Gates talks about "U.S. employers," but the top three H-1b users are Indian consulting firms that directly compete against U.S. firms, and gain market share by transferring these jobs and technologies back to India. These firms blantly discriminate against American workers and have no allegiance to the U.S. Gates advocates that we allow foreigners be given the power to petition each other for U.S. citizenship. The Programmers Guild disagrees that this is good national policy.

GATES: These reforms do not pit U.S. workers against those foreign born. They do not seek to make or perpetuate distinctions among the best and brightest on the basis of national origin. They simply recognize the fact that America's need for highly skilled workers has never been greater, and that broad-based prosperity in America depends on having enough such workers to satisfy our demand. Far from displacing U.S. workers, highly skilled, foreign-born workers will continue to function as they always have: as net job creators.

PG ANALYSIS: On this point Gates is clearly wrong. Americans are harmed each week when they apply to the PERM fake job ads and are denied the position in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1182(5)(A), They are harmed when a contract is given to an Indian consulting company and thus are laid off from their U.S. consulting company.


Bill Gates lacks sufficient understanding of the H-1b program and why U.S. workers are outraged by it. During questioning he said "there should be no limits on jobs that pay over $100,000 a year." Gates ignored that only about one percent of H-1b workers earn $100,000 per year, while many masses earn around $40,000 per year.

If Gates does not believe that H-1b is displaying U.S. workers, then would he champion legislation to prohibit such displacement? The U.S. Department of Labor Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2006 - 2011, Under Performance Goal 2H, "Address worker shortages through the Foreign Labor Certification Program", states:

"H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker."


Chris V said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris V said...

You can attack Gates by picking apart his assumptions. Saying that Americans do not measure up in math and science education compared to the rest of the world is incorrect.

First off, our high school system is not as bad as reported in the media. In short, our high school statistics are based on our setup which places all students in one system and is compulsory. South Korea, for example, appears to dominate US students on paper. However, only the top 60% of South Korean students attend high school, making the comparison of their statistics against our statistics invalid.

Secondly, our university system is the best in the world. Look at a list of the top 20 universities in the world and they are dominated by US schools - 17/20. Noticeably, IIT is not be on there, although it is regarded as better than US schools by people from India.

Thirdly, a recent Duke study shows that both India and China overcount the number of graduating engineers in their countries. The US actually produces more engineers annually than India, and roughly half of China. That makes the US the per-capita leader in producing technology specialists.

Finally, a report by consultant McKinsey and Indian IT body Nasscom shows that "25 percent of [Indian] technical graduates and 10 to 15 percent of general [Indian] college graduates are suitable for employment". So, not only does India produce less engineers than the US, they are of lower quality.

Further, no mention was made of the quality of Chinese engineers. But, given the high quality of US universities, the Chinese engineers are likely to also be of lower quality.

In conclusion, Gates was dead wrong starting with the first thing that came out of his mouth. Things are not as bad as he would want us to believe.

Anonymous said...

Why are American taxpayers investing in foreign students when they cannot afford to send their own children to college!

GATES: "If we are going to invest in educating foreign students -- which we should and must continue to do --"

Anonymous said...

Bill Gates statement is false. He's off by 30%. The current base cap is 85,000 H-1B visas.

GATES: "The current base cap of 65,000 ..."

Anonymous said...

Why don't you search Microsoft's H1b info? There're tons of 70-120k workers, but, please, don't tell us they're underpaid.

Anonymous said...

The reason Microsoft hires so many contractors from India is they are willing to work at tables 3-feet wide and 3-feet apart like sweatshop workers in the garment district while the admins who design the office space have private offices. And with the full time staff, some people are asked to work 12 hrs/day 7 days per week, so any normal human being who wants to have a personal life may have to look elsewhere.