I hit this today in my Obamateurism feature, but the GOP runs much farther with a new web ad hammering Barack Obama and his “interesting” response to a question on unemployment. To set this up once again, President Obama took a question from a woman during his Google+ “hangout” about why his administration hasn’t limited H1B visas in engineering, where her husband has been unemployed despite having 10 years of experience. Obama reacts with disbelief, because he says he’s been told by industry that they can’t fill jobs quickly enough in high-tech engineering slots. As it turns out, Obama didn’t know anything at all about this industry and its status over the last few years:
I pointed out earlier that the sector in which Jennifer Wedel’s husband works has lost jobs over the last few months, not gained them. The GOP follows up with harder and more specific data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows that semiconductor and electronic components manufacturers have lost 21,500 jobs over the last three years, or about 5% of the overall sector. That doesn’t square at all with the rosy picture Obama painted, and needless to say, Mrs. Wedel was less than impressed:
Later, Wedel told POLITICO that she and the president had a “pretty crazy interaction” that she hadn’t expected when she asked about the federal government granting H-1B visas to skilled foreign workers while U.S. citizens such as her husband are out of work.
“I don’t think he was trying to be condescending or anything,” said Wedel, who never completed college and was a stay-at-home mom before her husband was laid off, but now has a full-time job at State Farm to help make ends meet. “I just think I stumped him a little and he wanted me to hush about it.”
“I think he knows pretty well that the H-1B is an issue because — it’s kind of like the Occupy movement — big corporations are putting up the money to get the visas” and choosing lower-paid foreign workers over domestic ones, Wedel said. “I don’t think what he was telling me was true, and I think he knew it, and that’s why he offered to take my husband’s resume,” she said, adding that her husband has kept it updated.
Not only did Obama not understand the employment situation, he doesn’t understand H1B visas in one key aspect, either. Companies that hire through H1B visas don’t have to show that they can’t find an American worker to fill the position. That’s a sore point among progressives in Obama’s own party, with Obama’s former colleague in the Senate Dick Durbin proposing to change the law to force employers to demonstrate the need for the visa in the first place.
It would be difficult to look more out of touch in such a short time than in this episode (although David Axelrod certainly gave it his best shot earlier), and the GOP should keep returning to this incident as an explanation of the incompetence behind Obamanomics.