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Dr. Norman Matloff is a professor of computer science at UC-Davis,
and is one of the leaders in the fight to keep technical jobs in this
country - and employ _Americans_ in those jobs...
His opinion (based on much analysis of salary trends in our
business over the last 7 years) is that companies use H-1B workers
primarily for cheap labor.
In this debate, Ravi Aron confirms this fact. During the debate,
globalist Ravi says (see full text in story below):
Aron: If you're willing to pay enough, supply will meet demand.
Let me add:
You should not pay that much.
The idea that there exists an exalted class of
[computer] aristocracy that should be pampered with the salaries
of their desired level is baloney. We did not do this with
agricultural or steel workers or bank tellers.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Norm Matloff" <matloff@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "Norm Matloff" <matloff@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, November 08, 2007 12:42 AM
Subject: H-1B/offshoring debate at UCLA
To: H-1B/L-1/offshoring e-newsletter
On October 23, IS Associates, an industry affiliates program in the
UCLA Anderson School of Management, held a panel discussion on the
future of U.S. IT professionals, given the rise of H-1B and offshoring.
This is one of the few panel discussions I've ever participated in that
gave everyone a chance to speak in full. Instead of the usual one hour,
we actually had three hours (including a break and a Q&A period) in
which to thoroughly debate the issues. That sounds like hardship for
both speakers and audience alike, but but the debate was quite lively
and the audience seemed quite engaged.
Enclosed below is a blog report on the event by Don Tennant, who is
editor of Computerworld and served as the moderator of the event. He
posed some excellent questions, and included a couple of small excerpts
of the ensuing discussion in his blog.
Though Don is correct in stating that much of the debate consisted of
exchanges between Prof. Ravi Aron and me, it's important to point out
that there were two other panelists, Jesus Arriaga, Interim CIO of
Bosley Medical, Inc. and Mitch Stern, Director Human Capital, Deloitte
Consulting. Mr. Stern, an HR expert, did have quite a bit to say, and
Mr. Arriaga made some interesting comments as well.
As you will see in his remarks below, Prof. Aron takes the libertarian
point of view. He admits that the H-1B program is used for cheap labor
rather than for remedying a labor shortage, and over lunch before the
event he also admitted that the H-1Bs are mainly brought in so that
employers can avoid hiring older, i.e. 40+, Americans; indeed, he
brought this up before I did. (He also mentioned that to prep for the
debate, he talked to his former colleague at Wharton, Peter Cappelli,
whose writings on the non-shortage of labor I've often quoted.) He put
forth the usual argument, spoken with religious fervor and mathematical
certainty, that purely laissez faire economic policies make the world
For my part, I stated that I respect the libertarians because at least
they are honest about issues like this. However, I also stated that I
believe most people (including those in the audience) aren't
libertarians. My willingness to participate in forums such as this is
motivated mainly by a desire to get the facts out in the open; then each
listener can apply his own political/economic philosophy to forming his
stance on the issues.
The nature of the audience, consisting of CIOs, IT managers, IT
entrepreneurs and the like, made for quite a different type of
discussion than one usually finds in these forums. They KNOW these
issues. This is the first such forum I've seen in which NO ONE (if I
remember correctly) challenged my point that H-1B is about cheap labor
and replacement of older workers. Even Stern and Arriaga, both of whom
strongly asserted a tech labor shortage, did not dispute these points,
and as mentioned, Aron did not dispute them either.
One thing that got a big laugh and repeated references in the subsequent
discussion was that I said, "Paraphrasing Shakepeare, I say `First thing
we do is kill all the HR people.'" :-) After the event, several people
told me some of their own favorite horror HR stories. HR people tend to
be zealous gatekeepers, a major obstacle to good hiring. Stern, a very
personable guy, took it good naturedly.
Aron was personable too. Though the discussion got a bit heated at
times (even with plenty of time to get my points across, I am irritated
when offered false choices such as "Who would you rather believe on
H-1B, Paul Krugman or Charless Grassley?"), I look forward to another
pleasant chat with him when we bump into each other again.
Yet it's clear that Ravi and I are poles apart in, literally, our views
of the world. It's not just ideology, but also a sense of
nationality--or lack of one, as the case may be. I get the impression
that Ravi is a member of a growing class of immigrants to the U.S. who
consider themselves transnationals, not tied to any particular country.
Just as many big firms view themselves as multinational (and, according
to Harvard economist Richard Freeman, even his university thinks of
itself as multinational), there are now many individuals who have a
multinational mentality too. The trend has been noticeable enough for
UC Berkeley anthropologist Aihwa Ong to write a book on it, titled
Before coming to the U.S. for study and later work, Ravi was a
consultant in Malaysia, and for a while ran a software firm in his
native India. It wouldn't surprise me if Ravi's next job were to be in
the UK or China, say. This has to color his views of offshoring and
His stance on those issues is also presumably impacted by his outside
consulting work on offshoring, which I'm told has been quite lucrative
for him. (Speaking of which, one of the people writing comments on Don
Tennant's blog asserted that I have a "vested interest" against H-1B;
but it ought to be clear that the status of the H-1B program has no
substantial impact on me one way or the other.)
By the way, I posited three points that I thought everyone could agree
on as to the desirability/necessity of keeping a major fraction of this
profession American. Two are in Don's excerpt below--military work and
the need for innovation. The third one was the point that whether we
think the importation of foreign programmers and engineers is good or
not, they're not going to keep coming here in the future. Tech careers
in the U.S. are becoming less attractive, due to stagnant wages and a
roller coaster job market, while jobs in India and China are on the
upswing. Even Mitch Stern, the HR expert, seemed very concerned when I
mentioned this. Yet Ravi dismissed it, saying that we (he may have said
"you") can grow this labor force internally if things come to that.
Mitch replied, no, this is not a feasible solution, as it an economy
takes many years to make such adjustments.
In a somewhat comic twist (whether deliberate or unwitting), all of us
speakers were presented with special clocks, with a map of the world and
24 time zones, perfect for the globalist future. :-) I did notice,
though, that in order to see the U.S. one needs to hold the clock upside
Matloff vs. Aron on the loss of U.S. IT jobs to non-U.S. workers
By Don Tennant on Mon, 11/05/2007 - 11:39am
A couple of weeks ago I moderated a panel discussion at the fall meeting
the UCLA Anderson School of Management IS Associates. The topic ofby
discussion was the future of U.S. IT professionals in a global market, and
we focused on offshore outsourcing and the H-1B visa controversy.
Much of the discussion took the form of a debate between Professor Norman
Matloff of the University of California at Davis, a long-time vocal critic
of the H-1B visa program; and Professor Ravi Aron of the University of
Southern California Marshall School of Business, an authority on offshore
The following is an exchange between Matloff and Aron, edited for clarity
and brevity. It began with Matloff's response to my first question:
Is the premise that there is a shortage of IT workers in the U.S. fact or
Matloff: You can look at it in terms of salaries - they're not going up.
There was a Business Week study that found that starting salaries for
computer science and electrical engineering graduates, adjusting for
inflation, are on the downswing. There is no study, other than those made
the industry, that has established a shortage, even during the dot-comboom.
The problem is that people are not willing to hire who's out there, andyou
largely it's a matter of money. That, in turn, becomes a matter of age -
older people cost more. They cost more in salary, they cost more in
benefits. The whole thing about [there being a shortage because of] baby
boomers retiring is kind of ludicrous, because almost nobody gets to
retirement age in this business. After you reach age 40 or even age 35,
find yourself becoming less employable. I'm talking about my specialty,HR
which is software development, so everything I said holds to that group.
doesn't know what to do with that mountain of applications. They vetpeople
out, and the age issue is central - it's a way to filter out the olderadd:
people. Eminently qualified people can't even get an interview. It amounts
to legalized age discrimination.
Aron: If you're willing to pay enough, supply will meet demand. Let me
You should not pay that much. The idea that there exists an exalted classof
[computer] aristocracy that should be pampered with the salaries of theirChina
desired level is baloney. We did not do this with agricultural or steel
workers or bank tellers. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for
someone coming into this occupation to feel entitled to an $85,000 salary
and a bonus. If I can't get it, I find another occupation. The road to
winds through entitlement. No IT worker, now or in the future, can have anthose
entitlement that says, "I have the right to bypass the salary level set by
the market because in some way I'm critical to the future of the United
States." Let the market decide that number. If you find that number
unacceptable, there are plenty of other things to do.
How important is it to change the perception among young people that an IT
job isn't worth pursuing because offshoring and H-1B visas are making
jobs too difficult to attain?nation,
Matloff: You have to ask if this profession is important to us as a
as an economy, as a society. There are some real issues there. There's anthat
obvious one: the military, which is very dependent on technology. We don't
want to offshore that. Regardless of what you think of the war, you
obviously don't offshore that kind of stuff. On the other hand, you can't
say, "We're going to produce just enough [IT talent] for the military." It
doesn't work that way. You have to have a critical mass. Innovation is
supposed to be our forte in the United States. There's a lot of stuff that
we don't do well as a society, but we are creative. And if we offshore
to a place where, on average, people are less creative, we're going tohave
less innovation and we've lost our comparative advantage. So it's anegative
for us as a country, and it's a negative for the business community.go
Aron: Is the concern that these people might go be a lawyer or an MBA? So
be a lawyer or an MBA. What's the big deal? If you can find a good MBAneeds
program that will take you, go and be an MBA. You will do useful work; you
will add to the wealth and efficiency of the corporation. The military
steel. They need mechanical engineers, metallurgical scientists, all ofbetween
which can be offshored. Have we lost our innovation? Today, the gap
the United States and the rest of the world in terms of value-bearingdecreasing.
patents - patents that actually make money - is increasing, not
Who are America's chief competitors? Germany and Japan, not the low-costAmerica;
manufacturing economies of China and India. Design and innovate in
develop and deliver in the CPI countries [China, the Philippines andIndia].
That is the formula for making money and staying innovative. Not protectedthe
by America, for Americans. If people want to leave [the IT profession] and
go become lawyers, let them become lawyers. Nothing will stop them from
being innovative, creative, and adding to the wealth of this country.
Why not recognize a good thing when you see it? Why do people have to go
through these [H-1B] procedures? Why have procedures that [cause people to
look for] painful ways of skirting them? Why don't they simply say, "If
you've got a Masters degree and Goldman Sachs wants to employ you, come on
over?" If they're good enough for Goldman Sachs, they're good enough for
Matloff: The implicit theme of your argument is that these engineers and
programmers are smart people, and we need more smart people. Well first
of all, they're not necessarily all that smart - anybody here who's been
an IT manager knows that. They've been burned many times. No. 2, and
much more importantly, is the issue that that influx is causing an
internal brain drain. Innovative people are leaving the field, and I
know many, many cases of that. I don't think anyone, including Ravi , is
going to say it's a good thing when you have bright people not going
into something where they really have talent. They're going into
something that they don't like and where maybe they don't have talent.
Let them become a lawyer? Well, maybe they're not going to be as good a
lawyer as they would have been a software engineer.
Aron: I'm not at all saying that you should bring these people in because
they're smart. I couldn't care less whether they're smart or not. If they
are pumpkin farmers, and it turns out there's an economic viability and
can find a market for it and they can make money, I say bring them in. Iam
completely agnostic about their intellectual prowess. And if people becomeI
lawyers and they find they're not very good at it, fine - find something
else to do. As I discovered when I was 18 years old that it was not likely
was going to make it in a career as a rock guitarist, you will discoverthat
there are other things to do.That
Will it mean that some people will not go into IT as a career? Absolutely.
So what? Will it mean that some talented, bright folks will move from IT
into financial services as they're now doing? Yeah, of course. So what?
is the strength of the U.S.: Constantly reallocate people and talent wherebe
it is most rewarded. We do not want to be North Korea.
Can we do without the H1-B program? If you're willing to pay enough,
certainly. I don't think that's a good idea. Can America's driving needs
met without Japanese cars? Of course. Can our photographic needs be metwithout
without Japanese cameras? Without doubt. But the consequences would be
catastrophic. For sure, we can do without H1-B. For sure, we can do
Japanese cars.11/8/2007 9:29 AM
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