The most significant design flaw is the absence of a labor market test. The U.S. Department of Labor recently expressed the practical implications of this fact in a straightforward manner when it stated that "H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker." Simply put, an employer does not have to test the labor market before hiring a foreign worker on an H-1B.
Now, these points have been made before. What is important news here is these things are being said on the web site of the Economic Policy Institute—a major Democratic think tank.
I think it is starting to dawn on the Democratic leadership that they may soon control both houses of congress, and the presidency for quite a while-unless they make some big mistakes. What the conservatives in the GOP missed is that there are fundamentally different expectations from folks that are firmly in control. They have to actually deliver something meaningful to the folks that labored long and hard to get them into power.
The last national election, the GOP lost the votes of college educated white males-their traditional core constituency. It looks to me that the GOP now has a choice: to future loose that constituency for a longer time-or to get real on the issue of skilled worker immigration.
Now, the uber rich in the US are largely money seeking robots-with neither the aptitude or inclination to sustainably run an actual government. Their voices in congress like McCain are but minions that ultimately do what they are told. That means the chance of the GOP adapting on this issue rapidly enough is very, very small. That means that 2008 is likely to be more than just a GOP defeat-but an embarrassment as large as Watergate that fundamentally changes the balance of power in the GOP—because the GOP will have to reform to remain a viable party.
That means it is time for the Democrats to stand and deliver. Imagine for a moment if the Carter presidency had been a truly serious, long term embarrassment(as the Nixon resignation was-and George W Bush's rule is shaping up to be). Reagan got elected with a scant 51%(though his victory was assured by the 7% John Anderson got). Carter, whatever his flaws, managed to run degree of affection from Democrats as a good ex-president.
The US government is resilient—but after the presidencies of Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter which all failed to complete two terms, there really was a need for a truly popular, stable presidency. Nostalgia for the Clinton years may assure a Democratic victory in 2008—but the conditions for the kind of leadership Clinton managed are fundamentally different.
A Democratic president elected in 2008 will have a much more free hand-and will also be facing a country with far greater concentration of wealth and disposable income than his last predecessor. Economic issues will become more important-and for Democrats that means they have to deliver good jobs to a lot of voters.
Hira's article shows me that major elements of the Democratic leadership are prepared to back down on H-1b—or at least lack the will to maintain that assault much longer. What I think they are missing is just how deep a wound the policies of the last 9 years have created—and just how difficult it will be to undo this massive damage to the American government and society.