STEM Versus Diversity

William H. Young

I am reminded of I’ve Heard That Song Before by Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn for two reasons. First, it opens:

It seems to me I’ve heard that song before

It’s from an old familiar score

I know it well, that melody

Second, it was first sung by Helen Forrest with the Harry James orchestra on July 31, 1942, early in World War II, which would last almost another three years.

On November 30, the House of Representatives passed the “STEM Jobs Act” “by a vote of 245 to 139—with just 27 Democrats voting for it. The bill “stands little chance of advancing in the Senate, where Democrats have control”; and “the White House has come out in opposition to the bill, calling it…incompatible with President Obama’s vision for more comprehensive reform.” (Jeremy W. Peters, “House Votes to Ease Visa Limits for Some Foreign Workers,” The New York Times, November 30, 2012)

On September 20, essentially the same bill (requiring a two-thirds vote under a fast-track procedure at the time) was defeated by a vote of 257‒158, with just 30 Democrats supporting it, as I reported in Jobs and Governance. This was a setback for several dozen technology companies that had strongly advocated for it because of the urgent need for more STEM graduates, which I previously explained in STEM, Growth, and Jobs.

The war between Republicans and Democrats continues and has become even uglier. Not only do Republicans continue to seek incremental reform and Democrats comprehensive reform, but the economy and jobs continues to collide with diversity and equality—with charges of racism now thrown in as well.

As before, Democrats assailed the bill’s replacement of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which issues visas for less-educated foreigners, about half from Africa. “This is not America,” said Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL); “there was no special line for PhD’s and master’s degree holders at Ellis Island.” Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) charged on the House floor that the Republican measure “is racist—if not in its intent, then certainly in its effect.”  Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) responded:

I am personally insulted that anyone would use even loosely the term of racism as part of a statement related to merit-based advanced degrees. The people graduating and walking across the aisle are extremely diverse, and I believe the gentleman needs to go to a few college graduations and see masters and Ph.D candidates if he is going to refer to this in any way as racist.

(Gregory Wallace and Deirdre Walsh, “House passes immigration bill to keep science and technology students in U. S.,” CNN, November 30, 2012) Diversity ideology continues to divide and deaden America, as Peter Wood demonstrated in Diversity (2003).

Republicans ( “House votes to give residency to advanced-degree foreign graduates, end visa lottery,” The Washington Post, November 30, 2012) had sought to:

attract Democratic votes for the bill by adding a provision that makes it easier for people with green cards to bring their spouses and children to this country. But this popular concept also ran into Democratic criticism because it stipulates that spouses waiting for their own green cards to be approved cannot work and family members in the country illegally are ineligible.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) argued for the bill in an op-ed before the vote:

The lessons taken from this month’s election may vary, but the one thing we can all agree on is that getting our economy moving again must be our top priority. We have an opportunity to come together to bring high-skilled immigrants into our workforce and boost economic growth, and to reunite families….

I hear from employers all the time who want to hire workers in the STEM fields, but can’t find enough qualified candidates in the United States. Worse, our immigration system prevents those employers from hiring qualified foreign graduates who were educated in America and want to stay here. As a result, companies are facing a dearth of talent. Highly skilled, highly educated workers will succeed wherever they go. We must act to keep these workers in America where they can drive innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation, and help build a stronger economy….

There is a lot of work to be done to reform our country’s immigration system, and not all of it will be easy. We can work together to enact the bipartisan STEM Jobs Act to ensure the world’s top talent can stay and work in America, and that families can stay together.

(“An innovative, thriving economy depends on diversity,” McClatchy Washington Bureau, November 29, 2012) Ironically, the headline chosen by McClatchy for the op-ed not only got in a plug for the ideology of diversity, but heralded its role in thwarting the needed advancement of our economy.

The White House position was issued by the Office of Management and Budget (Statement of Administration Policy, H. R. 6426 – STEM Jobs Act of 2012, November 28, 2012) and said:

The Administration is encouraged that the Congress appears to be ready to begin serious debate on the need to fix our broken immigration system and looks forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans to enact a common-sense approach that includes reforms to the legal immigration system. Such an approach must provide for attracting and retaining highly skilled immigrants and uniting Americans with their family members more quickly, as well as other important priorities such as establishing a pathway for undocumented individuals to earn their citizenship, holding employers accountable for breaking the law, and continuing efforts to strengthen the Nation’s robust enforcement system.

Marc Thiessen of the American Enterprise Institute (“Obama holding high-skilled immigrants hostage to comprehensive immigration reform,” AEIdeas, November 29, 2012) concludes that:

What’s really happening here is Obama is holding green cards for highly educated immigrants hostage to get Republicans to support green cards for illegal immigrants.

In my previous discussions of the need for STEM graduates, I have shown that the principal traditional source of new jobs and economic growth in America—new enterprises implementing technological innovations—has declined dramatically since 2000 and that our lack of STEM graduates and “moribund interest in science” is driving both manufacturing and research and development jobs overseas. Yet political and, especially, academic “diversiphiles” persist in placing diversity, within transnational progressivism, above the educational and immigration reform needed to provide the human capital required to recover our lost economic momentum. And the last thing the nation needs at this time—unlike a century ago at Ellis Island—is more low-skill immigrants to compete for scarce jobs with unemployed Americans.

It is time that jobs and the economy be given more than the lip service paid to them by transnational progressives while they lead the nation further down the garden path of equality coerced through politics. Unfortunately, that may take longer than President Obama's second term to happen, more time than it took to end World War II.

Next week’s article will discuss the potential effects on small business, economic growth, and jobs of tax changes being considered to avoid going over the year-end fiscal cliff.


This is one of a series of occasional articles applying the lessons of Western civilization to contemporary issues relevant to the academy.

The Honorable William H. Young was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to be Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy and served in that position from November 1989 to January 1993. He is the author of Ordering America: Fulfilling the Ideals of Western Civilization (2010) and Centering America: Resurrecting the Local Progressive Ideal (2002).

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