How H1-B visa cap arguments are like discussing how abolition would affect cotton prices

How H1-B visa cap arguments are like discussing how abolition would affect cotton prices

In the midst of debate over immigration reform, Jordan Weissmann posted The Myth of America’s Tech-Talent Shortage: And what it should mean for immigration reform yesterday at the Atlantic.

So it turns out the United States is not, in fact, the educational wasteland tech industry lobbyists would have you think.

Companies like Microsoft often claim that America is suffering from an economically hobbling shortage of science, math, and computer talent. The solution, they argue, is to let employers fill their hiring gaps by importing tens of thousands of educated guest workers beyond what the law currently allows. Much as farmers want to bring in field workers from Mexico on short-term visas, software developers desperately want to bring in more coders from India.

Weissmann throws out numbers to support his case, ultimately arguing against a proposal to raise the cap on H1-B visas from 65,000 (with another 20,000 set aside for foreign students who earn an advanced degree at U.S. universities) to 110,000 or possibly 180,000.

This is too much, too fast for program that’s such a mixed bag in its present state. Instead of rushing to bulk it up, Congress should just make the system more flexible by leaving the cap at 65,000 and carefully indexing it to health of the job market (the current formula could probably use some tweaking). That would give it room to grow without creating a sudden surge of new guest workers into an economy that may not be primed to handle them.

But to me, this line of argument more than resembles arguing that abolishing slavery would make cotton more expensive. It may be right, it may be wrong, but it really doesn’t matter compared to what is really at stake here.

The Enlightenment helped people to think and learn enough about self-ownership to come to the conclusion that people should not be bought and sold by others without their consent. How long until we realize that human dignity and self-ownership means that no one should be able to come between a willing worker and employer, especially based on something as arbitrary as where they both were born?

One last point. Weissmann finishes off the piece with this:

Our immigration system should be designed to adjust to the needs of the market, but for the time being, we seem to have as many brains as the market needs. Let’s not act like we don’t.

Design is planning, control. It is fundamentally incompatible with flexibility for market adjustments. And yes, let’s not justify expanding caps with arguments over “need.” What an economy needs is something which cannot be accurately measured and even if it could, changes by the minute. Let’s justify eliminating caps based on two things more fundamental and unchanging: the fact that immigration caps skew supply and demand for labor, and the fact that they violate the basic tenet of human dignity that people should be free to move and work where they choose.

I guess freedom and unintended consequences don’t apply to contraception?

I guess freedom and unintended consequences don’t apply to contraception?

A federal judge ruled yesterday that women of all ages can purchase emergency contraception without a prescription. This ends the ban that kept young women under 17 from being legally allowed to buy the morning after pill.

If you’re surprised this ban existed, that makes sense, as the morning after pill has been proven safe for young women. Not only that, but the drug does not cause abortions, as some have claimed, but instead works by preventing fertilization.

Sadly, counterintuitively, the contraception backwardness that led to the ban affects both the left and right. Obama-appointed U.S. secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius denied the last challenge to the age restriction, despite having no evidence to offer regarding any potential adverse effects of lifting the ban.

The right has also supported using government force to keep girls under 17 from purchasing emergency birth control.

Right-wing writer Katie Pavlich has called the ruling an “exploitation of girls.” She recently wrote, puzzlingly, that making more contraception choices available to young women disempowers them. Her claim that it causes “negative psychological and physical consequences,” is supported by only one Daily Mail article profiling a total of two women who “regularly use Plan B as their Plan A when it comes to sex.”

What strikes me about right-wing opposition to the ruling is its willful disregard of the law of unintended consequences. You can find article after article about the unintended consequences of, say, Obamacare on the site Katie writes for. But won’t artificially limiting the availability of emergency contraception also have consequences conservatives might not intend?

I have a fundamental question to ask Katie and other supporters of reproductive interventionism: what do you think the ban accomplished? Surely you don’t think teen girls chose not to have sex because they needed their parents’ permission for the morning after pill? No, the most likely result of making emergency contraception harder to find was more unplanned pregnancies, which undoubtedly led to more abortions.

We will never probably never know the actual results of the ban. We can only surmise. But conservatives, if you understand how the law of unintended consequences applies to the health insurance market, gun control, energy and other pet issues, can you not take a second to do young women the service of trying to understand how it applies to them as well?

Because as crappy as it is that small business owners will be dissuaded from expanding by Obamacare, is it not as crappy that a 16-year-old girl had to choose abortion when she could have avoided pregnancy because she couldn’t get in to see a doctor in 72 hours?

Is her freedom to be able to choose the medicine she needs not as vital as your choice in firearms? Seriously, I’m asking.

Obama Subsidizing Mortgages Screws the Poor Worst

If you enjoyed the first mortgage lending financial meltdown, you’ll love part 2! Today the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration wants to assure banks that he’ll bail them out (again!) when risky borrowers default on their home loans.

Obama is sadsies that many young people and deadbeats still can’t get mortgages. Though it might seem like making homes loans available to all borrowers would help low-income families, it’s actually going to screw them big time for three main reasons.

First, Obama’s only gonna bail out banks, not individual borrowers. The loans are by definition going to people who not super likely to be able to make their payments. When these people default, they’ll have bills in the tens of thousands of dollars, plus damaged credit. All while the bank executives will receive bailout checks and bonuses.

Second, when you subsidize something, you make it more expensive. Making anything, homes, food, gas, more expensive obviously hurts poor people the most. Home loan guarantees are guaranteed to lead low-income individuals to take out bigger loans for the same amount of house. Then, when they in turn default, it’ll be even more ruinous than they would have been in an unsubsidized market!

Third, owning a home makes it harder to move when you need a new job. Research shows that labor mobility is especially essential to low-income, low-skill individuals. It’s hard to work your factory job remotely. Plus, low-income people are least likely to have months of financial cushion built up to pay their mortgages while they look for a new job.

It’s great that President Obama cares about the ability of poor people to buy homes. But more expensive, risky, mobility-decreasing mortgages are actually the last thing that poor people need. The only people who actually, consistently benefit from making mortgages available to poor people are bankers, who get all the reward in interest payments and the mortgage-backed security market, and none of the risk through bailouts and government assurances. While poor people will be paying back banks for years to come, bankers will float away in golden parachutes financed by taxpayer dollars.