We have a lot more to discuss on the downgrade of America - and the escalating battle between the white house and S&P. But I want to turn for a moment to the subject of jobs.
Friday night here, I hosted a special one-hour report on the jobs crisis in this country - I've investigated a lot of reasons for this and have asked the question if we've entered a new phase where high, high unemployment is the new norm, where companies are squeezing more out of fewer employees. I'm not talking about ATMs replacing tellers as the reason for high unemployment - like President Obama has suggested. One of the things I focused on was the alphabet soup of worker visas U.S. corporations use to hire foreign workers over American workers. One of the examples I used was Microsoft. It has lobbied lawmakers for years for more H1-B visas, a type of high-tech visa that allows people from overseas to come and work here. It's no secret people on these visas are paid less than their American counterparts. Listen to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates lobbying congress on March 7, 2007: "Now we face a critical shortage of scientific talent and there's only one way to solve that crisis today - open our doors to highly talented scientists and engineers who want to live, work and pay taxes here. I can't overstate the importance of overhauling our high skilled immigration system," he said. That was more than four years ago. Flash forward to today and Microsoft is still lobbying Congress for more visas. On Friday I read a quote from Brad Smith, a senior vice president at Microsoft.
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He testified before a Senate Immigration Sub-committee a few weeks ago. He said this: "the unemployment problem in the United States is also a skills problem."
On Friday I said, "I get the impression American executives think Americans are just too stupid." Look, I don't think Mr. Smith thinks Americans are stupid - and he didn't say that - but I have a hard time believing that the reason we have a jobs crisis in this country is because Americans just don't have the right skills.
Between Bill Gates' testimony in 2007 and Mr. Smith's testimony last month, Microsoft announced one of the biggest layoffs in its history 5,000 job cuts. Now it says it wants to hire about around 4,600 people... and says there aren't enough Americans to fill those positions. That's some turnover. We asked Microsoft for its current 'offer acceptance rate' here in the United States - they say it's 93%. So if more than 90% of people are accepting job offers at Microsoft it's hard to believe it has a tough time filling all those positions. Especially when, according to the Labor Department, there are nearly 200,000 unemployed computer professionals in this country including 100,000 software engineers and computer scientists -- that's the highest in over a decade.
I agree with Microsoft's Mr. Smith, we have big problems in our educational system and I've reported extensively on that here too. But I'm just tired of hearing executives saying Americans aren't educated enough - when we have hundreds of thousands of highly educated people looking for work... and U.S. companies sitting on record amounts of cash who just aren't hiring.