Silicon Valley to Feds on Job Creation: Do as We Say, not as We Do

Last Updated Aug 3, 2011 6:22 PM EDT

High tech has tough advice for Barack Obama for job creation. Focus on education. Make visas for tech workers easier to get. And use lots of technology to fix things.

This wasn't a reasoned analysis so much as a Silicon Valley wish list. But then, what else would you expect? Although the industry is regularly associated with innovation and, as a result, job growth, it has actually been the opposite. Tech has been one driving force in undermining job creation and retention in the U.S. To follow the preaching of industry leaders is like asking the fox to mind the hen house for you.

We're from the Valley and we're here to help you
Here are the suggestions that the high tech posse comprising such figures as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, venture capitalist John Doerr, Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings, and AOL founder Steve Case:

  • Improve education.
  • Give girls more time with computers, including computer games, when they are younger.
  • Make getting a work visa easier for high tech workers.
  • Provide incentives for high tech workers to come to the U.S.
  • Use more technology in education.
How predictable: technology provides answers and the country needs high tech workers from overseas. To create jobs.

No jobs, but lots of opportunities to look busy
The rationalization is clever enough. Sandberg wants to point to Facebook creating an ecosystem for developers all over the world and for the encouragement of social media consultants. How nice. And just how many of the developers actually make serious money from Facebook? Chances are that it's like Apple's (AAPL) iOS and Google's (GOOG) Android ecosystems. A tiny portion of developers make a lot of money. The vast majority make nothing, or even lose money if you factor in the cost of their time.

The fulltime jobs are for relatively few because the Valley likes leverage. The idea is to make more and more with fewer and fewer resources, including people. And there's nothing wrong with that. But don't wag a finger and lecture on job creation when your corporation's goal is just the opposite.

High tech has been one of the leaders in outsourcing work overseas because of cheaper labor costs. It keeps asking for more worker visas even as it's use of those visas has slowed incredibly, raising the question of whether they can't find the necessary workers or they want options to help negotiate down salaries over time.

It didn't work before so let's try it again
On the education front, pardon my complete disregard for some common assumptions, but I've yet to see hard evidence that increased use of computers makes kids more adept at learning. Again, yes, some will take to it and do amazing things. And most will chat with friends, watch videos, and not advance in their ability to reason and understand.

Maybe the high tech set could consider taking some of the multitude of billions that they collectively have in the bank and actually make some products in this country. Even if everyone could become an engineer or researcher, the economy can't sustain such lopsided employment.

Why are so many high tech people on the panel? Simple: Obama took a lot of their money to get elected and wants much more for a second term. No matter how high toned the words, the essence is cynical.


Image: Flicker Libarary of Congress photo stream, public domain.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.