Poor Dave

by on March 11, 2007 · 8 comments

Matt does a sensible post on the merit of more liberal immigration policies for high-skilled workers, and receives a barrage of criticism from his readers. Some of them are just economic illiterates who believe that importing too many brown people will destroy America’s middle class. But the really galling comments are those from self-serving engineers like “Dave” who can’t stomach the thought of having to compete on a level playing field with people swarthier than themselves:

Because if you can’t trust business to only use H-1B visas only when there are no other qualified workers and not as a weapon to drive down salaries who can you trust.

As an engineer, I can tell you that when many more visas started to be issued in the late 90′s, engineering salaries stagnated. Even as were told that there was a labor shortage for skilled workers, I knew many engineers who were laid off and could not find jobs. At the same time, the company I worked for more or less stopped hiring American engineers in favor of H-1B applicants.

I’m really tired of someone who has zero chance of losing his job in favor of a cheaper labor lecturing those who are on what a wonderful world it would then be.

Poor baby.


I’m sure the guy who bags Dave’s groceries for a third of his salary has a great deal of sympathy for Dave and his stagnating wages. And I bet the janitor who cleans Dave’s hotel room when he’s traveling wouldn’t mind paying higher prices for a variety of goods and services so that engineers like Dave can once again enjoy robust wage growth. And I’m sure the security guard at the front desk of Dave’s company (who probably makes half of what Dave does) has no interest in the better and cheaper high-tech products those additional H1-B workers might develop.

High salaries aren’t manna from heaven; they’re ultimately paid for by consumers in the form of high prices. And if Dave makes more than $60,000/year, chances are the average consumer buying the products his company makes make less than he does. The focus on foreigners is just a way to play on peoples’ xenophobia; the real issue is whether the government should enact policies that ensure that low-income Americans continue to pay high prices to ensure that Dave’s salary doesn’t stagnate. I’m sure Dave’s a very nice person, but I’m afraid I just don’t have much sympathy for the guy.

  • dimitris

    As an engineer, I can tell you that when many more visas started to be issued in the late 90’s, engineering salaries stagnated.

    As an engineer on H-1B throughout the late 90s, may I please be the first to congratulate “Dave” on the quality of whatever it is that he has scored and is obviously enjoying?

    My salary and the salary of several engineers I know went up in the 80-100% range through the mid-to-late 90s, and that’s in some quite H-1B heavy shops too. I bet a lot of it was due to the tech bubble, but I don’t see why bubble money would favor H-1Bs disproportionately. If you had a pulse and could code decent Java, approaching and even topping six figures wasn’t fiction.

    Do keep in mind that this was even before the portability changes which made it much easier to switch jobs, removing the “indentured servitude” stigma many associated with H-1B.

  • dimitris

    As an engineer, I can tell you that when many more visas started to be issued in the late 90’s, engineering salaries stagnated.

    As an engineer on H-1B throughout the late 90s, may I please be the first to congratulate “Dave” on the quality of whatever it is that he has scored and is obviously enjoying?

    My salary and the salary of several engineers I know went up in the 80-100% range through the mid-to-late 90s, and that’s in some quite H-1B heavy shops too. I bet a lot of it was due to the tech bubble, but I don’t see why bubble money would favor H-1Bs disproportionately. If you had a pulse and could code decent Java, approaching and even topping six figures wasn’t fiction.

    Do keep in mind that this was even before the portability changes which made it much easier to switch jobs, removing the “indentured servitude” stigma many associated with H-1B.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    If you wonder why immigration is an issue that pisses many people off it is because of the elitism of the open borders advocates. Many are sick and tired of having some snarky liberal or libertarian who sits in a comfortable law office, think tank or writes for periodicals tell them how they are a cross-burning, slack-jawed yokel who hates all brown-skinned people because they have a major issue with the flood of illegal immigrants. There is something revolting to many people about having such people pooh pooh their concerns and so haughtily dismiss them as provincial fools. Can you blame them?

    The resistance you see in many people outside of engineering to increasing visas is that there is an accurate perception that the powers that be want to water down the native population through immigration. The more watered down, the easier it is to control. Both major parties have courted illegal immigrants as part of a new voter base, so please, their intentions are quite transparent.

    The H1B is good and should be expanded to include more fields. I’m thinking in particular it should include all professions that come out of schools business and especially highly qualified lawyers. That is one profession where even the remote possibility of watered down salaries would be an unqualified good for America. Be it as it may, until my fellow libertarians start to wake up and realize that most people in every nation don’t like their borders being flooded by masses of foreigners, they’ll get no traction on the H1B and will continue to be pariahs in politics.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    If you wonder why immigration is an issue that pisses many people off it is because of the elitism of the open borders advocates. Many are sick and tired of having some snarky liberal or libertarian who sits in a comfortable law office, think tank or writes for periodicals tell them how they are a cross-burning, slack-jawed yokel who hates all brown-skinned people because they have a major issue with the flood of illegal immigrants. There is something revolting to many people about having such people pooh pooh their concerns and so haughtily dismiss them as provincial fools. Can you blame them?

    The resistance you see in many people outside of engineering to increasing visas is that there is an accurate perception that the powers that be want to water down the native population through immigration. The more watered down, the easier it is to control. Both major parties have courted illegal immigrants as part of a new voter base, so please, their intentions are quite transparent.

    The H1B is good and should be expanded to include more fields. I’m thinking in particular it should include all professions that come out of schools business and especially highly qualified lawyers. That is one profession where even the remote possibility of watered down salaries would be an unqualified good for America. Be it as it may, until my fellow libertarians start to wake up and realize that most people in every nation don’t like their borders being flooded by masses of foreigners, they’ll get no traction on the H1B and will continue to be pariahs in politics.

  • http://www.wizardprang.com Wizard Prang

    I find it strange that while we are worrying about skilled workers who come here legally and pay their taxes, while doing nothing about the thousands of unskilled illegal aliens who enter this country every day.

    Whether the system is abused or not, these H-1B folks add to our skill base and our tax base. They pay their way; many have the dubious status of taxation without representation without representation.

    Priorities, people?

  • http://www.wizardprang.com Wizard Prang

    I find it strange that while we are worrying about skilled workers who come here legally and pay their taxes, while doing nothing about the thousands of unskilled illegal aliens who enter this country every day.

    Whether the system is abused or not, these H-1B folks add to our skill base and our tax base. They pay their way; many have the dubious status of taxation without representation without representation.

    Priorities, people?

  • Anonymous

    The resistance you see in many people outside of engineering to increasing visas is that there is an accurate perception that the powers that be want to water down the native population through immigration.

    The natives have a consistent track record of their own in allowing – no, DEMANDING – watering down of a lot of things, as long as some short-term feel-good is obtained in return.

    For example who, but the native voters, can be called responsible for Greenspan’s easy money which enabled the housing bubble which set up the mortgage blow-ups you’re witnessing in the news which will deliver some financial fun in the coming months?

    But hey, we got us some easier American Dream, so screw the loan terms, the lenders, and the US Dollar. Just blame the immigrants for the deficits.

    Despite the negativity, I think things are still likely to work out longer term. I sure hope so, as I sent in my naturalization application today.

  • Anonymous

    The resistance you see in many people outside of engineering to increasing visas is that there is an accurate perception that the powers that be want to water down the native population through immigration.

    The natives have a consistent track record of their own in allowing – no, DEMANDING – watering down of a lot of things, as long as some short-term feel-good is obtained in return.

    For example who, but the native voters, can be called responsible for Greenspan’s easy money which enabled the housing bubble which set up the mortgage blow-ups you’re witnessing in the news which will deliver some financial fun in the coming months?

    But hey, we got us some easier American Dream, so screw the loan terms, the lenders, and the US Dollar. Just blame the immigrants for the deficits.

    Despite the negativity, I think things are still likely to work out longer term. I sure hope so, as I sent in my naturalization application today.

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