Bill Gates has become a bit of a perennial, one-man, dog and pony show in Washington. Politicians kiss his ass in the hopes of landing Microsoft campaign dollars and he is given the attention usually reserved for people who have something interesting to say. The mind-numbing redundancy of his perennial self-serving platitude makes my eyes water. Only listening to Joe Lieberman drone on makes my eyes water more.
"As a nation, we should start with this goal: Every child in the United States graduating from high school," he said.That's commendable at face value but this country has a severe illegal immigration problem. One would think that Gates would couple this platitude with, "and, by the way, another goal is that every able-bodied citizen have a job and pays taxes before I ask you to lift the limit on H-1B visa workers."
No such luck.
"We simply cannot sustain an economy based on innovation unless our citizens are educated in math, science and engineering," Gates said.
Legislation moving through the Senate, backed by Democratic and Republican leaders, seeks to get more people to become math and science teachers and would improve training for them. The bill also seeks to get more highly trained teachers in poor schools and would offer grants to states to better align their teaching with what kids should know to succeed at a job or in college.
Gates said the nation's economy depends on keeping the country's borders open to highly skilled workers, especially those with a science or engineering background. Federal law provides 65,000 H1-B visas for scientists, engineers, computer programmers and other professionals every budget year. High-tech and other employers say that's not enough.
"Even though it may not be realistic, I don't think there should be any limit," Gates said, adding that Microsoft hasn't been able to fill approximately 3,000 technical jobs in the United States because of a shortage of skilled workers.
What Gates fails to mention is that he dropped out of Harvard with very little math, science and engineering to get where he is today. And he is no futurist because he fails to mention that many things learned in high school and college are obsolete every three years. But he's not there to reform education but to whine.
His real issue is the latter, cheap and unlimited floods of technical labor. You see I've been unemployed for about six weeks already and I've got 25+ years of technical expertise. And I'm not alone. High-tech professionals are unemployed more often and for longer periods than unskilled labor these days according to unemployment studies. But Bill Gates can't find us because he would like us to go away somewhere and drop dead.
In the past two weeks, I've applied for a half dozen jobs that I fit to a very close fit. All are local. But in a number of interviews, outrageous claims of mismatches occur. And at least two agencies have confided in private that the effect occurs with many of their clients. "It's reverse discrimination. You're a white, middle-aged guy who knows what he's doing and the industry is driven by the profits of prolonged, over-staffed, other-sourced projects - many in one stage of failure or another all over Hartford."
The issue that Gates and his disciples skirt is that the people like myself who evangelized his products to begin with are being ruthlessly thrown under the bus. He won't lose a wink of sleep over that but I do.
But his replacement workers are not cheaper or more desirable. In a recent Courant article, families of these workers often have no health insurance and leave behind expensive health care bills for tax-payers to assume. And educating children of fluid populations taxes the ability of school boards to plan expenses, enrollments, and staffing.
I wish Gates would hire unemployed Americans long before importing legions of "highly-skilled" workers. While these workers may be cost-effectively skilled they often lack the cultural sensitivity and ethical fortitude to understand American values and freedoms. When American workers are discriminated against in their own country as a new American underclass caste then I think we need to wake up.
The cost of American education no matter how you slice and dice the numbers means that a college graduate needs to make a professional salary to pay that cost back. H-1B visa workers bear no such burden. Bill Gates might want to run the numbers through his spread sheet again before trying to starve off what's left of us. We don't deserve being kicked while we're down.
This country has a rich technical workforce and Bill Gates should put it to work instead of knee haul it.