By September 28, 2012

Microsoft’s Hypocrisy: Calling For A $5B Investment In U.S. Education

According to Microsoft, Congress should invest $5 billion in the country’s education system — particularly in math, science and technology education.

“The U.S. needs to push more resources into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education because technology companies are running into huge shortages of workers”, said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president.

Fundamentally, I agree. The US needs to devote more resources to education. And especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

But Mircosoft calling on the government to spend more on education is, to my mind, the height of hypocrisy.

Tax Evasion, Microsoft Style

Just how is the government supposed to fund efforts such as this one… when Microsoft deliberately sets up shell corporations in other countries to avoid paying federal income tax, and even goes to the extreme of setting up shell corporations in other states to avoid paying state and local income taxes.

All of this when Washington state is currently trying to figure out how to cover a $1.5 billion budget shortfall.

Over the past few years the state legislature has been cutting education budgets to the bone, firing teachers and closing schools.

So much for funding education.

The H1-B Tap Dance

Now, to be “fair”, Microsoft did submit a plan for funding this initiative through a tax on H1-B visas. In the process, the government would presumably let Microsoft buy a unlimited number of H1-B visas (and now even permanent green cards), with the tax money going to “help the kids”.

Now the light begins to dawn over the septic tank.

The idea of H1-B visas started out as a reasonable sounding idea. When we have critical shortages, we can give special visa exemptions for foreign workers.

But, in practice in recent years, it’s become nothing more than a way for corporations to skirt the free labor market and artificially suppress wages for skilled labor. You advertise a job at a ridiculously low wage, or with ridiculous requirements, and when no American worker responds or qualifies, you run crying to Congress and the Labor Department and tell them that you need more H1-B visas to fill the “critical shortages of qualified workers.”

And when your application is approved, you import more foreigners willing to work for next to nothing, instead of raising wages to get American workers.

Worse, even if we did raise education levels and train more Americans in math and science and engineering, Microsoft would still in all probability favor the much cheaper H1-B workers.

Oh, those hypocritical bastards!

The H1-B Solution

We’ve got two problems here, H1-B’s, and education. Let’s tackle H1-B’s first.

Any employer hiring them must pay them no less than 20% above the median income for that job.

If the scope is set so narrow that it can not be defined, the pay is set at, say, $400,000 per year.

If a company really needs skilled labor and can’t find it here, they should have no trouble paying more for an overseas person to come here to fill the void, not less.

The Education Solution

First, instead of calling on the government to solve the problem, and instead of importing more foreign nationals, and if the situation is that critical, why doesn’t Microsoft and the Gates Foundation setup full-ride scholarships in math and science and engineering?

That alone would encourage more high school graduates and working adults to pursue academic study in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Or, at the very least, Microsoft could simply pay their taxes.

I fully realize that there are plenty of problems with education in the US, but don’t call on someone else to solve the problem for them on one hand, and then make it impossible for them to do so on the other.

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