Let the “brainy Indians” come in?

On Wednesday’s NYTimes op-ed page Tom Friedman forwarded on a novel solution to our financial mess and housing crisis:

Leave it to a brainy Indian to come up with the cheapest and surest way to stimulate our economy: immigration.

All you need to do is grant visas to two million Indians, Chinese and Koreans,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. “We will buy up all the subprime homes. We will work 18 hours a day to pay for them. We will immediately improve your savings rate — no Indian bank today has more than 2 percent nonperforming loans because not paying your mortgage is considered shameful here. And we will start new companies to create our own jobs and jobs for more Americans.” [Link]

Once you get past the model minority stereotyping in the first paragraph, he does have a good point. In all the talk of bailouts, stimulus, bad banks, etc., the one thing nobody is talking about (not even the Obama administration) is immigration policy. Now may be the best time to swing the doors open so highly skilled immigrants can enter the U.S. and help stimulate the economy:

… the U.S. Senate unfortunately voted on Feb. 6 to restrict banks and other financial institutions that receive taxpayer bailout money from hiring high-skilled immigrants on temporary work permits known as H-1B visas.

Bad signal. In an age when attracting the first-round intellectual draft choices from around the world is the most important competitive advantage a knowledge economy can have, why would we add barriers against such brainpower — anywhere? That’s called “Old Europe.” That’s spelled: S-T-U-P-I-D…

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p>If there is one thing we know for absolute certain, it’s this: Protectionism did not cause the Great Depression, but it sure helped to make it “Great.” From 1929 to 1934, world trade plunged by more than 60 percent — and we were all worse off.

We live in a technological age where every study shows that the more knowledge you have as a worker and the more knowledge workers you have as an economy, the faster your incomes will rise. Therefore, the centerpiece of our stimulus, the core driving principle, should be to stimulate everything that makes us smarter and attracts more smart people to our shores. That is the best way to create good jobs. [Link]

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p>Vinod quoted Greenspan in an earlier post where he offered the same advice. I know it may not be a good idea to quote Greenspan since he had a large hand it getting us in to this mess in the first place, but the logic here makes sense to me.

[Greenspan] estimates the number of new households in the U.S. currently is increasing at an annual rate of about 800,000, of whom about one third are immigrants. “Perhaps 150,000 of those are loosely classified as skilled,” he said. “A double or tripling of this number would markedly accelerate the absorption of unsold housing inventory for sale — and hence help stabilize prices.” [Link]

The counter argument to this strategy however, is that if every wealthy country followed it, it might result in an exodus of talent from the developing countries that most need to keep that talent. One commenter in Friedman’s op-ed even pointed out that this strategy would be terrible for India since it might lose some of it best upper-middle class to the U.S. (a trend that has slowed greatly in recent years due to India’s economic boom). As much as we want our economic problems solved, encouraging a bipolar world of talented and depleted populations will have a destabilizing effect which will ultimately end up hurting as well, argue the critics of Friedman and Gupta.

79 thoughts on “Let the “brainy Indians” come in?

  1. Once you get past the model minority stereotyping in the first paragraph, he does have a good point.

    your earnestness is sublime old chapati, but the optics of the matter are about as pleasant as with a dog slurping bloody stool here’s the canadian discussion

    The minister told MPs at a Parliamentary committee on Tuesday that most other developed countries have made significant cuts to their intake levels for 2009 because of the economic situation… “In an economic downturn, the minister should curb the temporary foreign workers program instead. The Conservatives fast tracked 200,000 temporary foreign workers into Canada last year. Many of them are exploited and drove down wages of ordinary working families.”
  2. I’m actually writing a portion of my Master’s thesis on this topic. Thanks for the inspiration Vinod, et al! The question I get all the time is how this is supposed to realistically occur. The goal is to raise effective demand for an over-capacity in the housing market, no? There seems like there are quite a few constraints to this idea, i.e. the H1-B seekers must come in with a lot of capital already… That said, I’m still in the early stages of the thesis let alone this portion of it, and since it’s a MA thesis, I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel… just get it by my thesis committee (I’ve realized I’m not cut-out for academia, just give me a decent paying job dammit)But I’m eager to here the SM community’s take on this!

    Question asked a dozen times in bar conversations w/ people who find out I’m an Econ. grad student and writing a portion of my thesis on this: Doesn’t this hurt native borns’ economic welfare?

  3. That

    India might lose some of its best middle-class

    is not really true. As you’ve alluded to:

    a trend that has slowed greatly in recent years due to India’s economic boom

    .

    The evidence I have is anecdotal of course but one would no longer get the ‘elite’ out of the country as easily. The percentage of the class, say at the IITs, even applying for higher studies has gone down from something like 70-80% to less than 30%. And of those that still come – a lot many more come with a clear plan to go back which was rarely so earlier. Another piece of equally unscientific evidence comes from the marriage market. The craze in the upper-middle class atleast for a green-card holder is at its all time low. But the cults of Visa Balaji and airplane offerings also very much still exist. So maybe one would just attract a different demographic now.

  4. Doesn’t this hurt native borns’ economic welfare?

    Shehan, can you share your research and conclusions please? very keen to hear your thoughts.

  5. Neo Liberalism RIP WW2-2008.

    I can understand the wisdom of Friedman when the employment levels are healthy and there is surplus capital in the economy. With capital markets locked, unemployment at double digits, the lag between the initial pain of a huge influx and eventual benefits will bear too high a social cost for Friedman’s policy prescription to be enacted.

    I understand the benfits of free trade/free movement of labor but free trade is not an end unto itself. Free trade is good because there is empirical evidence that free trade leads to more prosperity, but the goal of course is prosperity and not free trade per se. The right/neoliberals have become so dogmatic on free trade/markets that free trade/markets have become the end goal and not means to an end aka prosperity.

  6. 4 · as said

    That India might lose some of its best middle-class is not really true. As you’ve alluded to: a trend that has slowed greatly in recent years due to India’s economic boom

    OK the plural of anecdote is anecdotes, so throw this one too on the grill…

    The eixt of the “so-called” middle class actually creates a vacuum that is filled up v.quickly by people from the economic stratum immediately below. Contrary to what is bandied about, India is a dynamic society, and economic upgrades have been happening in a single generation for over 50 years now. Everywhere, the civil services, the armed forces, professions, even the much vaunted IITs are seeing folks from the boondocks breakthrough and emerge with flying colours. In the armed forces for instance (forget that fake noise you hear about “officer shortage”) there has always been an embarrassment of riches to choose from for the enlisted ranks. But for over 20 years now, the officer ranks too have changed considerably in their class composition. As the traditional middle-class children broke from the family tradition to enter the corporate sector (Vinod Khosla’s dad is a veteran of the Army), farmers’ and blacksmiths’ children have now replaced them. Likewise with the IITs, accounting, medicine etc.,

  7. I am relaying a message from Eric Cantor/Boehner’s office: We dont need Indians, Chinese or other colored people to get us out of this hole. We need more tax cuts. We need the Boston Tea Party. We need to cut by 2/3rd our city tax, tolls on roads, parking meter charges, library charges, government form charges, public parking fees, federal/state income tax, corporate tax, FICA, capital gains tax, estate tax, unemployment tax, state sales tax. There is no law of diminishing returns on tax cuts. If you reduce taxes to 000000.1% that will spur productivity and increase our revenues.

  8. I’ve seen enough highly skilled Americans (including Indian citizens) being displaced en masse by hordes of H1-B visa holders not to feel thrilled about the prospect of unfettered influx of highly skilled workers. Back in the 70′s and 80′s and maybe even the early 90′s there was a genuine shortage of software professionals in the US so the H1-b people were supplementing, since then it has always been supplanting.

    GMAC in Winston Salem outsourced most of its IT to Wipro and fired its own staff- there was no shortage of highly skilled workers in GMAC, Wipro was just cheaper and the folks that come in remit most of their dollars to India. Bank Am fired most of its IT staff and turned it over to Infosys, the majority of whose employees live in apartment complexes in charlotte and don’t buy houses or boost the economy as much as the erstwhile IT staff would have done.

  9. I suspect Tom Friedman is on the payrolls of Indian software companies. No one else is talking about supporting H1Bs these days. PAFD, those articles about Friedman are very funny.

  10. pagal aadmi – why blame the republicans when the, union backed, democrats are baying for protectionist laws.

  11. I still don’t think the numbers justify the panic, it is only 65,000 visas a year for all foreign workers with another 20,000 for applicants with masters degrees. The L1 on the other hand have no annual cap.

  12. Once you get past the model minority stereotyping in the first paragraph, he does have a good point.

    I don’t really see any ‘stereotypes’ at work here (let’s be honest with each other here, these are truisms), and anyways Thomas Friedman does right to point this out. The real trouble with the economy right is that we don’t have enough people looking for jobs, and that political correctness is preventing us from importing a cheap workforce from abroad.

    Never mind the recent unemployment figures, and put aside the absurd notions of this economic crisis as something that was ‘created and perpetuated by the irresponsible lending practices of unregulated financial institutions and compounded by the overnight collapse of the 46 trillion dollar derivatives market based on these practices’. Abhi and Thomas Friedman have it right. Sure, unemployment may be rising at a preposterous rate, and the utter collapse of the economy might make the job market a tad more difficult to navigate than usual, but there’s laziness at work here too. Let’s be evenhanded. Mr. Friedman’s proposal is novel, ingenious and timely, despite what naysayers might…say. To rapidly deploy an immigrant workforce that will be able to drive Americans around and mind America’s corner stores would be a breath of fresh air indeed. It’s exactly the sort of innovation capitalism produces when it is free of annoying restrictions. Some of these restrictions are regulatory, and some, like those of the politically correct brigade that will no doubt descend on Mr. Friedman’s column, are cultural. And I think this restraining knee-jerk impulse is the only reason this idea hasn’t come about sooner. It seems quite obvious that the way to solve the problem of job availability is to flood the marketplace with workers.

    But this proposal needs to be implemented as fast as possible, with little room for rumination on the failings of supposed ‘anti-racists’. If we can quickly toss aside regulation, and create a dedicated underclass of imported and highly skilled workers to perform labor instead of Americans, the path to economic recovery will be a comfortable one indeed. We can import them very rapidly by sea, especially given the spaciousness of cargo containers, and the relatively small amount of space the human body actually requires. And besides, when they emerge from their efficiently sized compartments, whether or not they entered voluntarily, there will be a tremendous amount of opportunity for them in the New World that they will most certainly be grateful for.

    Perhaps the only failing of this proposal is that it doesn’t go far enough. Conscripting immigrants to enlist their overwhelming habits of productivity and over-achievement will only mitigate this crisis. To be truly successful, it needs to tap into those genetic features of Indians where they exist, immigrant and citizen alike. There’s no doubt that both Abhi and I will proudly step forward to meet Friedman Sahib’s challenge. And as we shoulder his luggage and that of his memsahib, and place it in our taxi, holding open his door and running forth when he snaps his masterful and gentle fingers to have us brush the ungainliness from his mustache, Abhi and I can sneak a glance at each other and say “Truly 1857 never did end. We have come far and we are still rebels in that cause. We are truly Mutineers.”

  13. “Truly 1857 never did end. We have come far and we are still rebels in that cause. We are truly Mutineers.”

    Um, that was Indians — nativists, you might say — in India. Context is everything.

    However, Capital X, Gerald Celente (I think it was he), the trend studier and economic progosticator, noted that there’s really never been any such thing as “free trade” even in the most high-profile, capitalist system. There has always been regulated economy in any nation state or organized society. There were always competing interests at work trying to tax this, regulate that, embargo that over there, glut the market here, etc. It just depends on how much the government gets involved. Trade and economy regulations have always been in place to protect whatever wheel squeeked the lowedest.

  14. I still don’t think the numbers justify the panic, it is only 65,000 visas a year for all foreign workers with another 20,000 for applicants with masters degrees. The L1 on the other hand have no annual cap.

    Put a cap on L1′s too. The American worker or better the worker in America is getting hosed. Wages in real terms have actually come down since 01. Health care costs are through the roof and the 401(k)s have collapsed. There is no demostrable evidence that a huge influx of skiled foreign workers will alleviate the economic suffering of the skilled workers in America. Yes, in time, the influx of foreign skilled workers might create the next Silicon boom, but in the meantime the unemployment for the skilled workers in America will go into double digits.

  15. pagal aadmi – why blame the republicans when the, union backed, democrats are baying for protectionist laws.

    As I said earlier, maybe we need to look into protectionism. Nobody is calling for the wholesale abandonment of the WTO structure. However, some strategic protectionism might be be advantageous to the American worker.

  16. 3 · Shehan said

    Question asked a dozen times in bar conversations w/ people who find out I’m an Econ. grad student and writing a portion of my thesis on this: Doesn’t this hurt native borns’ economic welfare?

    I wrote my undergraduate senior thesis on the affects of H1-Bs in the computer sector on American workers. The metrics I used were pretty basic, but there was a significant, but minor negative effect on wages (about equal to a three-month hold), and, at the 10% level, a significant but relatively minor negative effect on employment. The recession in 2001 seemed to increase the effect on both wages & employment, but that was the only recessionary period in my data set, so I wouldn’t draw any firm conclusions.

    Overall, I think letting in more foreign workers will be a long-term benefit to the US, and likely to developing countries as well. The plan Friedman was proposing – which I don’t think is entirely clear from Abhi’s quotes – is that you let in high-skilled workers who have the capital to purchase a house. People like my husband’s brother, basically, who had already created & sold a start-up in India. He came to Silicon Valley, bought a house, created another start-up, sold it for a lot of money to one of the main players in the Valley, and is now working on a third. He’s also maintaining connections to India, and plans to move back there eventually.

    The reverse brain drain effect is pretty well documented, so I suspect many of the foreign nationals who come to the US would eventually go back. They bring back a lot of wealth (outside of what is sent home while living in the US), and, more importantly, the knowledge they’ve gained while working in the US. My husband and I (I’m not Indian) will also probably move to India in the next ten years. He’s been in the States since college, but doesn’t want to move until his age will no longer be a handicap in India.

  17. 10 · worried said

    Bank Am fired most of its IT staff and turned it over to Infosys, the majority of whose employees live in apartment complexes in charlotte and don’t buy houses or boost the economy as much as the erstwhile IT staff would have done.

    You are right, thats why the sub prime fiasco did not happen. People who save money before buying are idiots. I agree.

  18. 6 · Pagal_Aadmi_for_debauchery said

    I understand the benfits of free trade/free movement of labor but free trade is not an end unto itself. Free trade is good because there is empirical evidence that free trade leads to more prosperity, but the goal of course is prosperity and not free trade per se. The right/neoliberals have become so dogmatic on free trade/markets that free trade/markets have become the end goal and not means to an end aka prosperity.

    I don’t think you quite understand the perspective of many free traders – the goal is to increase freedoms overall, and free trade is one of those freedoms. Prosperity doesn’t really enter into the first consideration. Free trade is good because, ceteris paribus, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to enter into a mutually beneficial & agreed upon trade with other people, whether they’re my next door neighbors or people two oceans away. Of course, everything isn’t ceteris paribus, but the basic mindset of many free-traders, including myself, is that you need to give a good reason why it’s okay to restrict my ability to trade freely with others. Bad outcomes from free trade, such as lowered prosperity (which has historically been argued, and continues to be argued), could provide a reason why free trade needs to be restricted, but the burden of proof lies with those wishing to restrict liberty. Most of the “overall lowered prosperity” arguments have been empirically proven to be untrue, as you point out, but new arguments like increased inequality, etc, have replaced them.

  19. Tom Friedman is as out of touch with reality as Wall Street crooks. He ought to get out of New York more.

  20. “All you need to do is grant visas to two million Indians, Chinese and Koreans,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. “We will buy up all the subprime homes. We will work 18 hours a day to pay for them. We will immediately improve your savings rate — no Indian bank today has more than 2 percent nonperforming loans because not paying your mortgage is considered shameful here. And we will start new companies to create our own jobs and jobs for more Americans.”

    … and federal government will give them jobs? We don’t have enough jobs to give the people in here, let alone getting a new 2 million people who would not find a job most likely and rely on the public resources. Outsourcing is probably a better strategy as it reduces the cost to build even further and help companies deal with falling prices, but bringing in more people, i think, is a ridiculous idea. The success ratio in startups are so low and it would be even lower if the government is the VC.

    and this is plain duh;

    “periods when H-1B visa numbers went down, so did patent applications filed by immigrants [in the U.S.]. And when H-1B visa numbers went up, patent applications followed suit.”

  21. Why not do away with H1-B totally ? If there is a “skilled” job which the Americans want to give the foreigners then why not permanent residency directly ? Why the concept of temporary skilled workers ? Is this for acting as a filter for preventing massive influx or is it because the American companies want to keep the tap flowing ?

  22. “Why the concept of temporary skilled workers ?”

    It gives them the ability to kick them out any time so that they don’t drain the resources when they are not working. same concept as hiring contract workers.

  23. worried @ 10. I understand what you are saying. I’ve been to the desi addas in the University area, where everyone is counting thier savings in lakhs. Do you think getting rid of the H1-B and moving these people to a green card track would change thier mindset and they would invest in the community more.

  24. It gives them the ability to kick them out any time so that they don’t drain the resources when they are not >working

    The companies can fire even “permanent resident” and citizen workers if they are not up to the mark. I don’t understand the concept of H1-B. Is it that the fired/unemployed permanent resident wrokers are a social burden to the society which the govt. wants to minimize by the H1-B ?

  25. Do you think getting rid of the H1-B and moving these people to a green card track would change thier mindset and >they would invest in the community more.

    Actually there is a scientific angle to this statement which probably explains the two camps of anti and pro immigration. The pro-immigration look only at the benefits and the positive aspects whereas the anti highlight the negative. But the reality is that there is a distribution to the kind of people, abilities and interests which means that there is a price America has to pay for the negative aspects as it enjoys the benefits. Ultimately it is a cost-benefit analysis and all rules seems to be maximizing the benefits and minimizing the cost.

  26. Indians need to clean their own house. First, start recongnizing that the majority of the population is living under apocalytic conditions and in the bigger cities there is not an iota of sincerity anywhere, this is especially true in the healthcare situation. I wouldn’t be surprised be this is true in China too. Whatever else this world needs, it absolutely does not need the indians and chinese to solve anything

  27. “Is it that the fired/unemployed permanent resident wrokers are a social burden to the society which the govt. wants to minimize by the H1-B ?”

    yes.

  28. 21 · Gori Girl said

    but new arguments like increased inequality, etc, have replaced them.

    and thes arguments seem to have enough empirical footing that even leading economists are concerned about the implications.

  29. “Why the concept of temporary skilled workers ?”

    Why do we have temporary contracts of all kinds? Why do we have skim milk AND 1% AND 2% AND whole, AND whatever that fortified stuff is that I see at the grocery? Because one-size doesn’t fit all, and sometimes a temporary contract is better for both parties than a long-term contract. Different strokes for different folks/situations.

    (That being said, I would be in favor of much higher levels of immigration.)

    brin, I never said otherwise. But I think it’s safe to say that most economists are still in favor of free trade, overall. At least, that’s what the professor of my econ ph.d course in International Trade said last semester. :-)

  30. 33 · Gori Girl said

    But I think it’s safe to say that most economists are still in favor of free trade, overall.

    yes, but the question is what that means. it is just like most economists being in favor of capitalism overall, but having very different opinions on the role of government in the economy.

    terms like “free trade” and “capitalism” (or more to the context, “protectionism” and “socialism”) are thrown around far too much in the interest of demagoguery as to render them meaningless in reasonable discourse, unless amplified and articulated.

  31. 20 · saa said

    10 · worried said
    Bank Am fired most of its IT staff and turned it over to Infosys, the majority of whose employees live in apartment complexes in charlotte and don’t buy houses or boost the economy as much as the erstwhile IT staff would have done.
    You are right, thats why the sub prime fiasco did not happen. People who save money before buying are idiots. I agree.

    you lost me- the point I was trying to make was that contrary to Sekhar’s assertion that an influx of skilled immigrants would lead to a boost in the economy, a large number of H1B workers who displace existing employees don’t do much for the economy. i doubt if the subprime fiasco can be laid at the doors of the (albeit smallish number) of IT professionals who lost their jobs to H1B workers.

    I’d also like to state at this point there isn’t as much of a shortage of highly skilled workers, at least in IT, as people would have one believe. the responses to friedman’s article in the NYTimes bear this out.

  32. I think more than economics there may a subtle social factor in play for those who are against immigration -

    The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal

    Krikorian argues that although mass immigration once served our national interests, in today’s America it weakens our common national identity, limits opportunities for upward mobility, threatens our security and sovereignty, strains resources for social programs, and disrupts middle-class norms of behavior
  33. you lost me- the point I was trying to make was that contrary to Sekhar’s assertion that an influx of skilled immigrants would lead to a boost in the economy, a large number of H1B workers who displace existing employees don’t do much for the economy. i doubt if the subprime fiasco can be laid at the doors of the (albeit smallish number) of IT professionals who lost their jobs to H1B workers. I’d also like to state at this point there isn’t as much of a shortage of highly skilled workers, at least in IT, as people would have one believe. the responses to friedman’s article in the NYTimes bear this out.

    But you were the one giving example of (American)IT workers who buy houses are good for the economy while the (H1Bs)IT worker don’t do much for the economy, but now you are going back to they dont do much for the economy since overall they are small in number.

    If there isnt a shortage it should be very easy for an American to get a job than a H1B, since no more than 65,000 visas are given. You mean to say millions of Americans are not able to compete with just 65,000(and not all 65000 are given in IT alone)/year H1Bs. Are you talking about the 65,000 jobs that go to H1Bs? 65,000 jobs sounds like too small to make a dent on the economy, according to you.

    And I really dont advocate giving millions in H1Bs. I dont really care either way. I would rather have smart guys stay back in India and improve India.

  34. I don’t think you quite understand the perspective of many free traders – the goal is to increase freedoms overall, and free trade is one of those freedoms. Prosperity doesn’t really enter into the first consideration. Free trade is good because, ceteris paribus, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to enter into a mutually beneficial & agreed upon trade with other people, whether they’re my next door neighbors or people two oceans away. Of course, everything isn’t ceteris paribus, but the basic mindset of many free-traders, including myself, is that you need to give a good reason why it’s okay to restrict my ability to trade freely with others. Bad outcomes from free trade, such as lowered prosperity (which has historically been argued, and continues to be argued), could provide a reason why free trade needs to be restricted, but the burden of proof lies with those wishing to restrict liberty. Most of the “overall lowered prosperity” arguments have been empirically proven to be untrue, as you point out, but new arguments like increased inequality, etc, have replaced them.

    I agree that not putting tariffs on free trade or restricting free movement of labor does infringe upon the basic freedom of free people to enter into a contract on their own terms. However, at a macro-level, the burden we have to meet to justify these restrictions is minimal. Its akin to imposing a sales tax on the freedom to trade within your country. As long as the tariffs enhance a public good, the justification for them need not be any more detailed than the justification for imposing sales tax though the international tariffs discriminate on the type of trading partner in addition to the type of good while in sales tax the discrimination in only on the type of good and not the trading partner.

  35. Additionally, the problem I have with free traders is that they put the liberty interest of entering into a contract with their international trading partner over all other concerns. I grant that there is empirical evidence about the benefits of free trade, but refusing to even reconsider the results of free trade/movement of labor/services makes the liberty interest unimpeachable and that I disagree with. I mean we put all kinds of restrictions on the freedom to contract like collective bargaining, minimum wage, OSHA, COBRA etc. The liberty interest in conducting trade with your international partners has for some reason been elevated to the highest form of liberty.

  36. Gori@18

    My husband and I (I’m not Indian) will also probably move to India in the next ten years. He’s been in the States >since college, but doesn’t want to move until his age will no longer be a handicap in India.

    This will be another issue for future Non-European immigration. Gone are the days where you could bring your stay-at-home spouses from your country. Nowadays many urban/middle class immigrants ( as filtered by embassies abroad ) families have females who are equally ambitious ; so this means that for marriage/family reasons these folks will have to go back. Equally applicable the other way around for males. The exceptions to this can happen if the folks who immigrate decide to marry outside their community ; one of the spouse compromises on career etc. etc.

    On the same lines there will arise another dyanmic with global economic equality and competition becoming the norm, Americans may have to move out of the country for employment in future.

    ‘Project Match’ lets employees take new jobs in India, other countries — but at local pay rates
  37. 40 · Priya said

    will also probably move to India in the next ten years.

    Every Indian in the US wants to return to India “next year”.

  38. It is easy to mock but you don’t have the faintest idea why the Indians you speak of haven’t been able to move back.

  39. 42 · umber desi said

    It is easy to mock but you don’t have the faintest idea why the Indians you speak of haven’t been able to move back.

    i am sure there are individual sad stories, but a large swath of them dont move back primarily due to inertia and getting accustomed to a certain way of life. in any case, i dont doubt the sincerity of their statement when they make it, just saying that i dont usually buy it unless it actually happens. in most cases, i am still more surprised when it happens than when it doesnt.

    i speak as one of these indians, btw.

  40. 41 · brin said

    40 · Priya said
    will also probably move to India in the next ten years.
    Every Indian in the US wants to return to India “next year”.

    Well, we certainly don’t have plans to move to India next year, or even in the next five years. The reason being, of course, that neither one of us wants to compromise our career, as Priya discussed above. For me that means building up my industry knowledge until I can transfer to my company’s India branch as a senior employee. For my husband, Aditya, that means, basically, waiting until he hits thirty or starts his own company; since he’s worked in a couple of start-ups he’s been able to climb up the ranks quicker than normal, to the point where he’s the youngest at his level in his current company (not a start-up) by about a decade. As I understand India’s workplace culture, he would not be able to be hired at his current level given his age and lack of academic qualifications.

  41. Friedman has an interesting idea but it isn’t politically feasible at all. With unemployment going up no politician is going to support bringing larger numbers of foreign workers.

    I do like another one of Friedman’s ideas, which is to offer any and all international students who earn a masters or PhD in science/engineering (in a US school) a green card, free and clear, upon completion of their degree.

    Speedy

  42. Btw in all these debates I would really like to know the statistics as how many foreigners are employed in areas other than academics, IT/software and finance industries. Most National labs, defense and aerospace companies have citizenship requirements. Many hard industries (ece/ee) don’t have system of employing foreigners since they deal a lot with govt. contracts. What hard engineering industries are not open to foreigners is the first question before crying wolf ?

  43. Just a few clarifications about the new restrictions – a friend at a NYC bank checked with her HR department, and they sent on the following clarifications about the new restrictions:

    “There our some slight, but important nuances around it: 1) will only affect new hires needing a new H1 2) does not affect anyone with a masters or higher degree 3) doesnt affect anyone making more than 60K.”

    So, it’s not quite as drastic as Friedman makes it out to be – but he does love those broad strokes. But of course this still a very important conversation for us all to be having and and area of real concern.

  44. In all the talk of bailouts, stimulus, bad banks, etc., the one thing nobody is talking about (not even the Obama administration) is immigration policy

    Actually, this is being discussed, but mainly in populist settings (“Buy America” hire American, etc.). Just take a look at David Sirota’s posts on Openleft and mainly in the context of making immigration rules harsher. That is why, politically, this is the worst possible time to promote “high skill” labor immigration – because it alienates the American working and middle classes on race,nationality, and class grounds. it fractures a progressive coalition along nationalist lines and undermines worker rights and induces xenophobia, racism, etc (think Dotbusters and Vincent Chin). What would be more useful would be legalization for all the workers in the United States (i.e. let H1-Bs be free from their employment bondage, give amnesty to undocumented people AND H-1B AND the people who have “followed the rules and are waited in line.” That would allow greater worker organizing and generally push up wages. Then you will have less Lou Dobbs and more Cesar Chavez (with national health care, to boot).

    Economically, underlying all else, what the basic problem is that there is a mass consumption economy but there are no consumers left who can afford or now would be willing to take on the risk of spending money. Right now, the government is doing that, but ultimately, if there is going to continue to be a global consumption based economy, in the short to medium term, you need to find a mass base of consumers – and Indian and Chinese or EU consumers are not as able or (in the case of the EU or other wealthy countries) good at bearing the weight of the global economy from a consumption perspective as Americans – the consumers of last resort.

    On an aside, Shekhar Gupta needs to read about how the RBI’s interventions and regulations on the Indian banking sector is what spared India, not some alleged (and probably analytically useless even if true) cultural propensity to save.

  45. Certain countries dont need international trade (immigration being trade in services) – they have enough resources (physical and material) to live a decent life. Eg China / India / USA. Countries like Australia / Sweden/ Singapore absolutely need international trade to have a decent standard of living. Totally agree that Australia and Canada need more immigrants – am sceptical that USA needs more immigrants. I think that the best thing that USA can do is to shut the borders for all trade ( goods and services).
    It has been a long time since an economics class but one of the key assumptions is that the whole theory of free trade was based on the concept of both trading partners being at full capacity. Hardly the case in the current scenario – Econ grads may correct me if I am wrong.

    Was life in general much better in the USA when there were 140 million people – circa 1960 or now with 300 million people. I would aver that less is more.

  46. I suspect Tom Friedman is on the payrolls of Indian software companies. No one else is talking about supporting H1Bs these days. PAFD, those articles about Friedman are very funny.

    Ponniyin – you are right. Tom Friedman is as corrupt as they come. He does not disclose that his first class flight tickets / accommodation / expenses are paid for by desi firms. With friends like Friedman the Indian IT firms dont need enemies.

  47. Every Indian in the US wants to return to India “next year”.

    rofl. Not just USA – pretty much everywhere. Quite the Jews of old (today?) – next Passover in Jerusalem :)