While everyone is expounding on the ills of Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women," I’ve been somewhat silently screaming “What about us?” on another matter brought up in the very same debate. As someone suffering with student loans and a dead-end degree, I was certainly interested in Mitt Romney’s assertion that he was going to focus on job creation. “Yes!" I thought - at last, someone that is going to give us a fighting chance. By that I mean all of us college students with thousands of dollars in student loan debt, no job, and no way to pay it off.
As the debate wore on, I was fully prepared to forgive Romney’s tax plan that sounds nice but won’t work, thinking we could probably all protest away a voucher plan for Medicare. The train to leaning towards Romney derailed, however, on the question of immigration. You see, he made a comment to the effect that we should just “staple green cards to the diplomas” of students from foreign countries so they can come over here and take jobs.
Uh... what? Whoa... like... where’s Candy when we need her to verify that? Just back up there a minute! Just at the beginning of the debate, Romney was practically bursting into tears over the fact that 50% of college students today can’t get a job after graduation. Now you are going to welcome immigrants with open arms to compete for the few jobs that are available? Mitt? Are you for real?
While most would say I’m not the sharpest or brightest crayon in the box, I could not help but shake my head over what wasn’t computing. Even though it is absolutely true the vast majority of us in this country are immigrants, we are also a nation in the middle of a severe economic crisis. Engineers and former managers are calling the space under bridges their home while thousands of perfectly good houses are rotting away or being bulldozed because even the banks can’t afford the taxes on foreclosed properties. The flaming exodus of both white and blue collar jobs from our economy continues on a daily basis. In fact, even your tax returns are being processed in India and your newspaper articles are most likely written by a freelance writer in the Philippines, Singapore, or Malaysia.
One would think Obama would have seized on this moment to take Romney to task. I mean after all, Obama wants to show he is going to be the greatest maven of job creating on Earth, right? And so, I eagerly smacked my liberal and vegan lips waiting for Obama to carve Romney into some sort of delicious morsel. I mean - the very idea that our colleges aren’t pumping out enough engineers, math majors, and science majors to rebuild our economy is insane at best. In fact, I was hoping Obama would say universities should no longer be able to accept money from foreign governments for TA wages so that our own American students have a legitimate and fair chance of grabbing master’s and Ph.D. slots.
To my utter amazement, Obama totally agreed with Romney, and basically said, “Oh yes indeedy, we need to bring in more immigrants to take what few jobs are here so that they can grow the economy and hire more people.” If that didn’t add insult to injury, Obama truly put the nail in the coffin of my hopes when he got that look you get when you are talking to a five-year old. You know - that point later on in the debate where he said it was obvious factory jobs weren’t going to come back. Then his face lit up to an astounding degree as he explained he was going to create good jobs in technology and so on!
Umm... ok... so, it’s kind of obvious that Tweedle dee Republican and Tweedle dee Democrat agree our high school and college graduates don’t deserve jobs as much as all those bright and eager graduates from overseas. And so, perhaps I don’t need to ask who either one of these rich jacka**es are going to create jobs for? Instead, I am compelled to ask: “What about us?”
Why didn’t they tell the truth about the fact that a significant percentage of Master’s and Ph.D. degree candidates in our country are filled by foreign students? You can tell because if you ask the TAs in the science, computer, and math departments, they will be very happy to tell you about their nation of origin as well as all the wonderful things they will do when they go home.
That is if they don’t decide to take jobs here first. If you happen to befriend these students (as I did more than 10 years ago), you will find out something even more interesting. Most M.A.and Ph.D. programs also come with a salary because the student either works on actual research projects at the university or performs support duties to the professor. This might include tutoring students, grading papers, and so on. Now, in case you missed it before, let me tell you who pays their salary. It isn’t your tax dollar (aren't you so proud?) - it is paid by the government of the foreign country that the student comes from!
In the meantime, our undergraduate math, biology, chemistry, physics, computer and IT students must greet the world with a bachelor’s degree at best. Small wonder they don’t seem to be as innovative as graduates from other countries. How are they going to compete for entrance to legitimate and high quality graduate-level programs when universities are cutting staff left and right because they can’t get enough tax dollars from our country? Where are the graduate-level certifications and degrees for our college students and citizens? Other than colleges, who will hire our graduates when foreign students with higher degrees are willing to work for less because they don’t have student loan debt on their neck?
To this day, I remain mystified at the utterly irrational expoundings about what politicians think will fix our economy and education system. So, before you head to the polls, let me spell it out for you. When you don’t have enough jobs, the worst thing you can do is increase the number of people competing for the same jobs. That’s just common sense. When universities are pumping out millions of graduates that can’t pay their student loans, you don’t “staple a green card” to the diploma of an immigrant while your own citizens rot under bridges.
In closing, let me say this. Our nation is still a land of opportunity, but in this election, we have to choose between two presidential train wreck candidates of epic proportion.
I will say I only slightly lean towards Obama because the student loan crisis is real, and it is going to hit in a very big and ugly way not long after the next presidential election. When the students go down, credit cards and car loans will also wind up in crisis, because most students also start taking those loans while in college. Once that bomb explodes, I’d rather have a president at the helm that will (I hope) have enough sense to allow students to enter government work programs to pay off student loan debt (hey I’ll stand on a bridge with a road worker flag to do that!), or something else to provide real, tangible and timely relief. And, God willing, I would certainly hope Obama would be more likely to encourage both universities and employers to hire our own citizens over immigrants via tax credits and so on. Of course, if immigrants want to come over here and start businesses - sure - let’s give them a tax credit once they start hiring us!
If you like writing about US politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.