Careful readers of RealityChek may have noticed that I’ve just added a new blog to my recommended list: Norman Matloff’s “Upon Closer Inspection.”
For more than 20 years, Norm has established himself as one of the sanest and best-informed American voices on the always vexing, emotional subject of immigration policy. He comes at the issue from a somewhat unusual position — a professorship of computer science at the University of California at Davis. His first-hand observation and later rigorous study of the rapidly evolving job market in U.S. high tech industries turned him into a trenchant critic of the H1B visa program. This aspect of U.S. immigration policy has ensured American technology firms an ever-growing supply of skilled but bargain basement labor from countries like India at the expense of native-born workers and domestic wages.
As a result, Norm first gained reknown for his thorough debunking of self-serving claims by U.S. tech firms and their paid lackeys that the nation faced a potentially crippling shortage of science and technology workers that could only be filled from overseas. His research has also been crucial in exploding the myth that most of the H1B immigrants were tech geniuses whose arrival would ensure that America continued to lead the world in the competition for premium talent.
Norm’s work originally came to my attention when I was working on my own book, The Race to the Bottom. His findings made clear to me that high tech immigration policy was in many ways the flip side of high wage and high tech job offshoring. In addition to sending many of America’s best-paying and most productive jobs to low-wage developing countries, many multinationals were also bringing this third world labor to the United States. And these practices stemmed from the same shortsighted cost-cutting rationale that’s wound up inflicting such long-term damage on the domestic economy, and especially its genuinely productive sectors.
Thanks to Norm’s research, I was also introduced to a huge body of evidence challenging the long-standing and widely swallowed proposition (even by liberal Democrats like Bill Clinton) that all America needed to do to maintain its international economic competitiveness was fix its lagging schools. His H1B studies helped document the reality that the United States was far from the only country recognizing the imperative of training its workers for “jobs of the future.” Governments all over the world had also been aiming at re-skilling and re-educating their own workers, including many in the labor-rich developing world, where wages would long remain orders of magnitude below America’s even in these advanced industries.
Norm is also maintaining his long-running immigration e-newsletter, which archives his previous work. It’s well worth visiting regularly, too. Welcome to the blogosphere, friend!