The Lies at the End of the American Dream
By Paul Craig Roberts
-- -- 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
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
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
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 pro-outsourcing lobbies."
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 careers.
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
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 nontradable services.
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