Sunday, February 01, 2009

Banks sought foreign workers as Americans were laid off

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Major U.S. banks sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers into the country for high-paying jobs even as the system was melting down last year and Americans were getting laid off, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.

The dozen banks now receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for positions that included senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists. The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.

As the economic collapse worsened last year — with huge numbers of bank employees laid off — the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP's analysis increased by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in the 2007 budget year to 4,163 in fiscal 2008.


Foreigners are attractive hires because companies have found ways to pay them less than American workers.

Companies are required to pay foreign workers a prevailing wage based on the job's description. But they can use the lower end of government wage scales even for highly skilled workers; hire younger foreigners with lower salary demands; and hire foreigners with higher levels of education or advanced degrees for jobs for which similarly educated American workers would be considered overqualified.

More here.

Well of course, this is outrageous.

It's outrageous that big corporations, without genuine need, would game these rules for their own benefit at the expense of American taxpayers and workers. Really, it's outrageous even when there is a genuine need: if the workers they want don't exist in the US, these companies should fucking train them here at home, create them from the ground up if necessary. Why should we as a nation allow private corporate entities to purposely depress domestic wages and living standards without giving something back in return?

But then, that's the point, isn't it? The prevailing wisdom, even today, is that business are beholden only to their stockholders. Not to the citizens whose lives they affect. Not to any sense of "corporate citizenship," despite the fact that Supreme Court precedent long ago legally established corporations as citizens. Importing cheap labor makes good sense from an individual business' narrow point of view, but it's rotten to the core from a national perspective.

And I think it's safe to say at this point that stronger business performance, through use of cheap foreign labor, avoidance of taxes, etc., in no way necessarily translates into better economic circumstances for rank and file citizens. That is, one can no longer dismiss corporate ravaging of the nation as being okay because it improves "the economy," whatever that means these days. I mean, these guys have become fucking wizards at keeping the wealth.

On an up note, I really like the "spread the wealth around" rhetoric I've been hearing from President Obama. But is he really committed to establishing clear standards for "corporate citizenship," and to creating harsh consequences for their violation? One thing is clear. If the nation doesn't change its economic paradigm to one insisting that businesses owe the nation a great deal simply because it creates the circumstances under which business can flourish, we're doomed to continuing the slow transition from democracy to corporate rule.