A Healthy High-Tech Industry Benefits American Workers

As published in the Washington Times, 08/25/1998

Our friend Pat Buchanan’s column ridiculing the high-tech industry for attempting to sustain the growth that has powered this economy is seriously short-sighted (“Sellout of high-tech jobs,” August 19, 1998).

The legislation he mentions would simply increase the number of foreign engineers allowed to enter the U.S. so that high-tech companies could begin filling some of the industry’s 350,000 vacant jobs. Millions of Americans have gone to work in this sector or have started their own technology-related companies, but Mr. Buchanan seems to resent several thousand highly trained and talented foreign workers seeking opportunities in the United States. He opposes this much-needed pro-growth legislation.

Mr. Buchanan is right about one thing only: “the U.S. free market will solve any labor shortage Silicon Valley has.” I believe that. But does he? Mr. Buchanan supports new and intrusive Labor Department regulations as a solution. Hardly the free market. Indeed, the free market will eventually solve the problem; Americans recognize opportunities and are good at capitalizing on them. But right now there are simply not enough American workers with the specific skills that high-tech companies need. So why should we let an arbitrary barrier—the 65,000-visa immigration quota—deflate economic growth in our most dynamic industry?

Continued growth in this sector, where compensation and benefits are high, only can help American workers in the long run. A healthy high-tech industry is far more important to the job prospects of U.S. citizens than any Labor Department program will ever be. It’s estimated that this sector has contributed between 25% and 33% of America’s economic growth in the 1990’s. How many times can it be said that ours is not a zero-sum world. Magnanimity, economic growth, open trade, and the competitiveness of American workers will win over protectionism, isolationism, and paranoia any day.

Come on, Pat. Stop blaming the global economy, and put the blame where it ultimately rests. . . with the tax, spending, and regulatory policies in Washington.

Jack Kemp
Empower America