Nothing Wrong With American Programmers… But Does That Mean No Foreigners?

from the missing-the-point dept

There’s been a lot of hype lately about the supposed decline of American programmers. With that in mind, it’s interesting to read Norm Matloff’s defense of American computer science education, pointing out that the aggregate numbers hide that there are still plenty of good American programmers coming out of universities. However, as Matloff has been known to do, he then turns the whole story into a slam on foreign workers and offshoring. Matloff has been a leading critic of the H1-B program for years, so it’s no surprise that he’s still focusing on that issue. However, just as he accuses the press of doing concerning the state of American programming education, he’s carefully shades his explanation to insinuate things that aren’t true. His biggest assertion, of course, is that H1-B programmers are “cut-rate” programmers who are paid “far less” than others, saying that it’s impossible for American workers to compete with “cheap, imported labor.” Of course, that’s a totally misguided attack on the H1-B program. The H1-B program is clear that programmers hired under it must be paid the competing wage rate. Plus, dealing with the H1-B paper work is a costly procedure on its own. Do some companies scam the system? Yes. Is that a reason to scrap it entirely? No. Can the H1-B system be improved? Absolutely. The fact that it often forces employees to stay with one company is a problem. Matloff then goes on, like so many protectionists these days, to claim that the H1-B program and offshoring go hand in hand — which isn’t true. If there weren’t so many limitations on bringing the smartest workers to the US, then there would be less incentive to move the work to them. Are there plenty of competent American programmers? Absolutely. However, the more we can do to make sure that the best programmers, no matter what their nationality, can work for American companies, the stronger those companies will be. Building up artificial protectionist walls never helps an industry when there’s global competition.

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Comments on “Nothing Wrong With American Programmers… But Does That Mean No Foreigners?”

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dorpus says:

Inverse Reality

What about cheap American programmers who flood the job market in Asian cities? Tokyo and some other wealthier Asian cities are already saturated with such people; job ads for programmers typically specify that they will only consider people who already live there. It is more trouble to hire Indian programmers who speak funny English, than to hire white guys who already live there. The same can be said of European cities, who hire American guys as cheap, disposable labor; European workers are protected by extensive anti-layoff laws.

Soon enough, will Bangalore suffer from hordes of white ponytailed programmers who flood the job market? India already has lots of white hippies who teach English and smoke dope for a living, especially in the Goa region.

Roy Lawson says:


Don’t try to scam people into thinking H-1Bs are paid prevailing wage. Where I work we have Infosys contractors. Infosys pays them three times their salary in India. For example, one of them who is a logistics analyst is paid his base Indian salary (roughly $7k a year) multiplied by three. So his effective salary is $21K a year. Americans in the same job make over $55K a year.

Just because the law says they must be paid prevailing wage doesn’t mean they are. And the sad part is that the DOL or INS won’t do anything about it. It is a law with no teeth…nobody is enforcing it.

Infosys is the largest company with H1Bs in America…up there with Tata. If they are doing it, everyone else is. Let’s get real and stop the flood of H-1Bs in our nation.

mrt (profile) says:

Re: H-1Bs

Can anyone point me and others like me to any laws, actual or pending, or lawmakers, who are plugged into this issue?

I see this as impacting a huge number of middle class Americans who are at the height of their earning powers AND who are also at the height of their consuming, especially if they have kids going into or about to go into college.

This snuck up on the steel industry and all protectionist laws occurred a day late and a dollar short after the horse was out of the barn.

If we (aging baby boomers who have earned a reasonable living doing data processing) can make the world fear a global catastrophe and spend trillions of dollars with Y2K, then we can certainly not follow, like lemmings, the steel employees into the aisles of Wal Mart.

Dave Reeves (profile) says:

Hire the best programmers

I agree that we should hire the best programmers regardless of nationality, as long as they are American. For you third-world types who don’t comprehend English – yes that was sarcasm.

My point is that engineering groups consist of human beings, not calculating machines. You can’t interchange humans the way you can machines. There is such a thing as a human system that works and one that doesn’t. India, for example, doesn’t work. Japan does. America used to but it’s crumbling fast. It all comes down to the human system.

Here is America we need engineers such as those who designed the hardware and software systems that ran the Apollo moon landings, to take just one example. There was no ‘diversity’ among the engineers, they were all patriotic white American males who belonged to the same culture.

Do you wonder why America is crumbling? It is because a mishmash of many different national and ethnic groups can never work together as well as a group that had essentially the same upbringing and education and can work together for a common goal.

Wake up, all those who think a group from Bangalore could ever function the way the Apollo team did.

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