Can We Please Send Lou Dobbs to Space or Anywhere But the Airwaves Will Do

Sometimes, I long for the days when Lou Dobbs was busily occupied with, the “premiere space multimedia company” that he cofounded in 1999 and left in 2001, after the tech bubble burst.

I’m not often bothered by Dobbs, mostly because I don’t watch his show or read his books. But I did happen to catch a segment of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” this afternoon and was reminded once again of what I find so odious about Dobbs: he’s full of crap.

Here’s what I mean: When I stumbled onto the show, Dobbs was taking on the “abuses” of the H-1B visa program.

Dobbs isn’t alone in lambasting the program, even if he’s one of its highest-profile detractors. The program’s merits or lack thereof always become more vigorously debated during economic downturns. The tech industry, of course, believes high-skilled workers are integral to the future growth of the U.S. and Silicon Valley in particular, where roughly half the companies founded between the mid ‘90s and mid-2000s were brought to life by foreign-born entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, critics of the program believe it’s a disservice to American-born workers, particularly engineers. (About half the engineers in the Valley were born overseas.)

Though I’m supportive of the program, I can appreciate both perspectives. Dobbs, on the other hand, is not only actively intolerant of H-1B visas (and foreigners generally, it often seems), but in tonight’s show, he wholly distorted the perspective of two academic researchers who last week published a study about the impact of H-1B visas on some wages.

The pair — Prasanna Tambe, an assistant professor of information, operations and management sciences at the New York University’s Stern School, and Lorin Hitt, a professor of operations and information management at Wharton —  found that wages are falling for software programmers and engineers, after accessing tens of thousand of resumes from an unnamed online job search site, along with government and other public data.

Yet Tambe and Hitt also had this to say in their research report: “Although our findings suggest that the negative effects of globalization may be substantial for some workers, it is critical that policy-makers weigh these effects carefully against the macro-level economic effects. Offshoring will most likely remain a necessary and important part of the global economy, and there is substantial evidence that H-1B admissions appear to directly improve levels of innovation and entrepreneurship, which in the long term should create new jobs and raise demand for technology workers in other areas. “

Not that Dobbs’ viewers will ever hear that paragraph. Instead, when the researchers declined requests to be interviewed by the show’s correspondent, Bill Tucker, Dobbs managed to turn their silence into a “reaction” to “immense pressure” from NYU and the University of Pennsylvania.

Said Dobbs (as I choked on my diet soda): “This looks like absolute censorship by two universities supported by corporate money. What are the universities saying about the appearance of absolutely stripping two authors of their academic freedom?…I am very sorry for these two professors. I am very sorry for the academy for having to confront these kinds of forces. This is absolutely an embarrassment for these two institutions.”

I think it’s an embarrassment for Dobbs, another in a long line. But read the transcript yourself and let me know what you think.

The full transcript is here:

DOBBS: This broadcast has reported literally for years on the problems and the abuses with the H-1B visa program, that’s the federal government program that allows tens of thousands of foreign workers into this country each year. The H-1B program benefits corporate America at — without question at the expense of middle class jobs. Tonight a new study from two respected universities confirms what we have been reporting here, that the H-1B visa program not only cost American jobs, but it depresses American wages as well. Bill Tucker joins me now and has the story for us — Bill.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, there’s a hitch to this report tonight. That report is no longer available online. All that is left is the abstract. The researchers declined our interview request, but a copy of the draft report obtained by
LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, the researchers found that the use of H-1B visa workers decreases the wages of computer programmers, system analysts and software engineers by up to six percent.

Offshore outsourcing decreases the wages of IT workers and managers by two to three percent. The study is a joint project between New York University Stern School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. A spokesman for the Stern School says the report was taken down after being posted for five days because they were not prepared for the media attention.

And a decision was made to instead put the paper up for peer review, not public scrutiny. The researchers say the research was undertaken because the policymakers need to understand the importance and the impact of the H-1B visa program. And Lou, we should point out that one of the researchers, Tom Bay (ph), from the Stern School of Business has in fact done a meeting interview and appeared in “Computer World”, so I don’t know why…


TUCKER: … not quite ready for it today.

DOBBS: Well this is fascinating. Let’s back up here a bit.

TUCKER: Right.

DOBBS: One: Who were the two professors who did the study?

TUCKER: Professor Hit (ph) at Wharton and Tom Bay (ph) at the Stern.

DOBBS: And Tom Bay (ph) did an interview with “Computer World” and revealed what?

TUCKER: A very straightforward interview. Five to six percent depression in the wages, two to three percent depression in the — all the off-sourcing side of this business and talked about why they felt it needed to be done because there’s a lack of empirical evidence.

DOBBS: A lack of empirical evidence. We have been reporting here…

TUCKER: Right.

DOBBS: … for years on it, I wrote a book as a matter of fact in 2004…


DOBBS: … called “Exporting America” in which we dealt in part with H-1B visas. This looks like absolute censorship by two universities supported by corporate money. What are the universities saying about the appearance of absolutely stripping two authors of their academic freedom? TUCKER: Well, we put that question to them this afternoon and they insist this is independent research, not funded by any corporate money, no technology industry money involved in this study, and it’s the insistence of the spokesperson at the Stern School today.

DOBBS: And Wharton School, at the University of Penn — their response.

TUCKER: The same and then their professor just straight up declined any request for an interview as well.

DOBBS: So two universities on the same day making a decision to take down this research after five days on the Web. This looks straightforwardly, straightforwardly like two institutions succumbing to immense pressure. I am very sorry for these two professors. I am very sorry for the academy for having to confront these kinds of forces. This is absolutely an embarrassment for these two institutions.

It’s inexcusable on their part in my judgment. We would be delighted, by the way, to have the heads of both of these business schools join us here at any time. If you don’t feel comfortable enough to provide academic freedom to your professors, we would be delighted to have you with us to further discuss it. Extraordinary, but our commendation to the professors for doing the research and let’s see where we go and over what period of time. Bill Tucker, thank you very much.