back to article Top CEOs agree: US is down the crapper

The leaders of Cisco, GE, and Xerox are worried that the US is losing its competitive edge, and that it's high time to stop grandstanding and do something about it. "I'm optimistic, but I think that's partly because that's in my DNA, but I think we're at an inflection point, unfortunately," warned Cisco chairman and CEO John …


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  1. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Say the poeple who

    out sourced everything to China to boost their stock options.

    1. Catroast

      A Symptom, Not The Problem

      Outsourcing is a symptom, unlike what a lot of Leftist people believe. This happens when a political environment makes a hostile business environment, especially when we have a bunch of non-working low-life college cronies seethingly spitting and hissing that corporations are the cause for all the ails of our society.

      The US has had education steadfastly in the hands of the Leftist Academia Machine and look where it's gotten us. We focus more on Pop Culture Lady Gag bullshit instead of important things like math and science. We dumb down our children and tell them that their answers are correct when they are not. On top of that we take power away from parents by telling them their children are property of the State when in school and then frustrate them with tons of homework and blame it on parents when their children don't perform well.

      If I was a big corporation in the US, I would definitely outsource and say F-U to all you whining miscreants who don't contribute anything useful to society.

      Let the down thumbs roll in.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hold on there...

        ...who exactly is 'seethingly spitting and hissing'?

        You seem like a typical Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman apologist who has to introduce the bullsh*t left / right paradigm in order to say anything?

        Central Banks, Corporations, Debt, Government... what is the connection? Answer this and I think you may just see the world anew little goyim!

      2. Magnus_Pym

        Free market in education?

        Any technology based country needs technologists and currently the US is not producing enough.

        The free market in education leads to universities offering courses that attract high fee paying students. This skews the system towards privileged but dumb over the poor but bright. It also pushes courses for the rich and rapacious over the gifted but disaffected. In other words it pumps out sports scientists and lawyers instead of pure science graduates and engineers. If you give people free choice they will choose the glamour or the easy option especially if the doting parents are paying.

        Throwing out trite 'sound bites' does not make you sound informed. Your feeble attempts at political argument only go to prove what the article is saying.

      3. CheesyTheClown

        I'd say well said, but...

        Frankly, I found myself challenged to follow your thought process. I had to read your statement 3 times before fully understanding the angle you attempted to take.

        I haven't lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years, instead I live in Norway where the educational level is among the top in the western countries. I feel that people here still have a long way to go before reaching acceptable levels of education.

        I grew up in New York during a time when we were competing with the Soviet Union. New York during that time was the spear head of the U.S. think tank. Our schools were competitive in nature with high incompletion rates because our standardized testing the the state was almost designed to separate the Newtons from the Burger Boys. I personally had the benefit of attending and participating in a high school which was focused on International competitions of science and engineering. We held our own (and often won) against the best of the best in other countries. The kids in the surrounding high schools looked at us nerds and (when they weren't kicking our asses) we took pride in the designation.

        During the cold war, we competed with the communists. We competed with our friends the Japanese. We tried to make the best of the best starting at the beginning. Once it was clear that certain students had higher aptitudes for math, science and technology, we moved them into a position where we catered to their needs and gave them the support that they needed to truly achieve.

        Times have changed. This is 2011. These days instead of cold wars which were won with greatness, we instead fight the current wars with soldiers and weapons. We send hundreds of thousands of young, hopefully disciplined minds into battles with guns. Instead we should be exploiting their discipline and forcing them to learn. We should be turning them into leaders. The U.S. military has a long tradition of hosting some of the finest higher education academies. It has been many many years since they have built another. The U.S. should actually exploit their standing, fix the G.I. bill, add new academic institutions populated by disciplined military men and women and make promotion, even within the lower ranks dependent on their achievements in these institutions.

        There is war worth fighting now. This is a time when we can fight a new battle against a much bigger and much more powerful opponent than the Soviets ever were. We're voluntarily letting China get stronger every day without doing anything about it. We're simply submitting to their superiority and letting them just take over. We don't need to hate this enemy. We need to respect them, learn from them and fight back. This isn't just for the U.S., China is a big enough opponent that the entire western world needs to address them. They're kicking our asses and we're diluting our currencies and markets by printing new money to pay them. It's as if we want to brag about the greatness we once had and not bother doing anything about it anymore.

        The government should sponsor grants to start small manufacturing facilities. Walmart should sponser startup companies that are willing to produce items IN America. The Big Box Marts should work hard to try and help establish suppliers of products within the country. If Americans are complaining about losing their jobs to other countries and complaining about letting Latin American immigrants stay and do things like pay taxes, we should make the jobs in the U.S. and we should make the two problems coincide. For the first time in a long time, we have legal workers in the U.S. willing to work hard for low pay. We should build factories and let more of them come in. They'll work hard to provide a better life for their children and help get manufacturing to happen in the U.S. again.

        The Chinese went from nearly 0% English literacy to close to 30% English literacy in 15 years. They literally hire American families to come live in China and speak English to make the language more natural to their citizens. In fact, English is quickly becoming a language within China that allows people who speak different Chinese languages (there is no such language as Chinese) to communicate more clearly instead of trying to use a common Chinese tongue. Because of this, within a few more years, they'll be able to start taking over jobs like call centers and such as they will probably be the largest English speaking population in the world.

        Yet, the majority of Americans, a group of people who rarely identify themselves as American but instead as English, Italian, Jewish (we don't like saying polish, russian etc.. for some reason), Irish, etc... are happy to sit back and talk about the greatness of American and all our former accomplishments while all the new accomplishments are being made by other countries.

        The biggest problem isn't the government. The problem is the people. The people sit on their asses and wait for the rewards they deserve. The government can only do so much. If you want to blame Obama for not fixing the job market, the financial market etc..., then you're an idiot. The president has so little to do with that, it's not worth mentioning. If you want to blame him for anything, blame him for not given tough love. He should have sacrificed his political career and stood up to American and said "We used to be great. Now we suck. It's time you stopped waiting for the White House to fix your problems for you. We can't. If another politician tells you otherwise, he's lying or doesn't understand how it works. We can help, we can try to motivate, but IT IS YOU that has to fix the problem. If you can't find a job doing what you do, find a job digging a ditch. If it's so far beneath you that you'd rather sit on a couch and wallow in your sorrow as opposed to earning your on living, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!". It's time America learns that there is no such thing as "beneath me". There's "I have money to eat" and there's "I don't have money to eat". If you think something is beneath you so you won't demean yourself to doing that and instead will live on unemployment, well then whatever it was that is beneath you might have been too good for you instead. Remember, ditch digger is A STEP UP FROM BUM!

        If you and the 5,000 people around you are being bums because "that job doesn't pay enough to feed my family", you need to work harder. Take two jobs. Start cooking your meals instead of buying boxes of them. If you're going to claim the greatness of America, you have to contribute to it, not burden it. The prices of food will eventually deflate in that area to a reasonable price since the market won't bare the higher prices. This is one place the government CAN help. They can offer temporary tax exemption or even support for anyone who "took a job that's beneath them" while trying to get back on their feet again.

        Unemployment in America is 9.4%. Assuming 60% of the country is eligible to work (right age, right health etc...) and that there's 350 million Americans, that means that there are 5.3 million people who apparently aren't working. They're burdening the system by leaving perfectly good menial labor jobs open while simply collecting money that is set aside for when jobs can't be found. So instead of producing and contributing to the system, they're burdening it and slowing the economical recovery. That's A LOT of burden.

        Blame the government for it, blame whoever you want for it. You can blame TV, the Internet, the Chinese, the Indians. You can blame everyone. But do it while you're fixing the problem. If I couldn't find work as a computer programmer, I'd look for work wherever else I could. Even if it meant digging ditches during the day and flipping burgers at a restaurant at night to make ends meet. If I couldn't find work here, I would pack my shit up and go somewhere I could and come home to see my wife and kids on weekends. Talk with them over skype etc...

        The only way I see of fixing this problem that is sure to work is another war of the nations. China vs. the rest of the world. The Chinese are kicking our asses. It's time we stole their best workers. It's time we educate our kids. It's time we compete. Instead of just sitting on our asses hoping that we'll recover from this someday. It has to be getting boring for the Chinese too, they're competing and instead of giving them a challenge, we're just watching in awe while they kick our asses.

        Lady Gaga, no matter how awful she is when you turn the volume on the TV on is not the problem. She in a way is what America is about. She reached for the sky and grabbed the stars while she was there. On top of that, she worked her ass off (probably literally at the gym) to do it.

      4. DrXym Silver badge


        What planet are you from? Science academics regardless of political persuasion would be absolutely delighted if the curriculum was more focused on scientific, technical and engineering skills.

        The rest of your rant ignores the simple economics that Chinese workers get paid peanuts, their companies steal intellectual property and palms are greased in government to turn a blind eye to the worst excesses of companies and their work conditions. Simply put, it's cheaper for corps to outsource than it is to stay put.

        How the US reverses this is to open to question, but it education would certainly help in the long term, as well as some kind of economic recognition for corps who don't offshore their production or accounts for tax avoidance.

        1. maclovinz



          I'm glad I am not the only one that realizes that a certain "side" has nothing to do with it!

          ...and now I get called ignorant! XD

        2. Ammaross Danan

          Honor and Self-Worth

          "He should have sacrificed his political career and stood up to American and said "We used to be great. Now we suck. It's time you stopped waiting for the White House to fix your problems for you. We can't. If another politician tells you otherwise, he's lying or doesn't understand how it works. We can help, we can try to motivate, but IT IS YOU that has to fix the problem. If you can't find a job doing what you do, find a job digging a ditch. If it's so far beneath you that you'd rather sit on a couch and wallow in your sorrow as opposed to earning your on living, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!"."

          Living in an area with lots of government-assisted housing, I see this all the time. There's plenty of people just lounging around milking money from "the system." Why? Because at a certain income level, one can make more money from the government than by flipping burgers at two jobs. All for doing nothing. Not only that, but if you do take that burger job or ditch digging job, you lose your government incentives and actually take a "pay cut" as it were. The government social system is encouraging "bottom-dwellers" to remain there. So, although I fully agree with the above quote, the current edu-work fail is very intricately linked with many other "problems." Most of it comes down to "if there's an easy way out, the majority will take it." This is the failure. A society where it's acceptible to "dishonor your family" by being lazy. Perhaps that is why the Chinese are winning: they have a strong self-worth and even that is moot against your family's honor.

          That is all.

        3. Charles Manning

          @DrXym: You misunderstand

          "Science academics regardless of political persuasion would be absolutely delighted if the curriculum was more focused on scientific, technical and engineering skills."

          The universities are not driven by the engineering departments. They are driven by beancounters and the touchy-feely brigade which make up the vast bulk of most university departments. The desires of engineering departments generally fall on deaf ears. Even places like MIT are overrun with social sciences, arts, etc.

          Running a history department is far cheaper and easier than an engineering department and thus providing soft courses is far more profitable and appealing. A history department does not have to compete with industry for good people (what else can a history PhD actually do) and does not need expensive equipment, lab space etc.

          This is a problem even in countries where universities are highly subsidised and the orhanisations are funded according to student numbers. Way easier to make the numbers add up by promoting arts, media studies etc over engineering.

          "Chinese workers get paid peanuts". Or alternatively, an American worker wants ridiculously high wages without providing the value.

          It is easy to go for the USA vs China case, but consider too Germany. German workers are not being paid USA level wages, but I bet they're providing high value.

        4. Yag


          A great post, applicable to many countries in the world - especially mine, where unemployed associations & syndicates are working their ass off... to get a state-paid bonus for Xmas on their unemployment benefits and income supports.

        5. Kevin Bailey

          Nice theory...

          ...about digging ditches etc.

          Pity it doesn't work in the real workplaces in US/UK.

          Yes - you can dig ditches - for a pittance. And no matter how hard you work and how much initiative you show you'll never progress. You'll dig ditches for a pittance for the rest of your days.

          I've never worked for a company yet which cares about it's staff - get as much out for as little pay as possible is the norm. Show any initiative and your manager will see you as a threat to *his* job.

          The only way to progress is to ass-lick, lie about your colleagues etc - i.e. the usual way up the corporate ladder. I've seen that, got the t-shirt etc in many different comapnies. Anyone who is any good (or has any integrity) will get frustrated and leave and try to set up on their own.

          BTW - not people on welfare are dumb - some are very smart. Smart enough to realise that it's better to claim as much welfare as possible and supplement this with cash only work such as drug dealing. Much easier life and you're not being taken for a mug by some t*** in a Merc.

          Or what we do is to work for ourselves - which is what you have in the UK. Hundreds of thousands of one-man-bands working all hours. All doing, admin, tax returns, VAT etc. Completely inefficient way of running an economy. The main winners are accountants.

          What to do?

          Well - double the minimum wage would be a start. But the CBI would pull out all the caught-with-ladyboy photos and put a stop to that.

          Encourage co-operative type businesses with grants, tax-breaks etc. Politicians would need to find some initiative and guts to stand up to the business lobby (also known as their mates from the club).

          In the meantime, the asian companies seem to have a holistic approach to business - i.e. they all work together towards a common goal (profit).

          The western way of thinking is stuck in the nineteen century - and it's looking very outdated these days.

      5. hitmouse


        Because the right-wing religious twits keep passing bills to force evolution and other scientific theories out of textbooks, or to halt research in stem-cells etc? Because they believe prayer is more important than knowledge or actually solving an issue?

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A Symptom, Not The Problem

        Firstly - "the problem". So there's just one problem, huh? And solving that one problem will sort everything out? Wow /that's/ convincing.

        > If I was a big corporation in the US, I would definitely outsource and say F-U to all you whining miscreants who don't contribute anything useful to society.

        But you're not a big corporation in the US, you're just another whining miscreant with an opinion. Welcome to El Reg Comments!

      7. JEDIDIAH

        Revenge of the Jocks

        > Outsourcing is a symptom, unlike what a lot of

        > Leftist people believe. This happens when a

        > political environment makes a hostile business

        > environment

        Yes. Because a country where Republicans have considerable influence is "hostile to business". This is such a load of bullsh*t. Republicans are the original party of big business. That is why they were originally founded in the 19th century. Any association with civil liberties of the common man is historical accident.

        With the American attitude towards intellectual persuits, especially "nerdy stuff" it is little wonder that the US falls behind other countries. We need immigrants from other countries (like Pakistan of all places) just to help balance things out. Outsourcing jobs that require University training certainly doesn't help.

        The creationists in middle America don't help either.

        Who can blame anyone for avoiding areas that have a social stigma attached to them as well as dim future prospects?

        1. Glenn Charles


          Just make those damned Americans study, and study the right things. If they don't put them in jail or kill them. It's a free country, after all!


  2. thecakeis(not)alie

    I've been saying this for a very long time.

    It's nice to see people so far above my pay grade finally agreeing in public. You screwed up America...and this Tea Party crap isn't helping you fix it at all. It’s time to invest in education, health care and social services whilst dramatically cutting back your military expenditures. It's time to diversify your economy and regulate high-risk industries such as the financial sector. It's time to actually have a manufacturing base again. It’s time to put in place stringent limits on lobbying and “political donations” and it is time to rationalise your immigration and foreign affairs policies.

    In short: it’s time to grow up America. I only hope you aren’t so far gone that it takes you another civil war to do so. As it stands, given the political polarisation and the amount of violent vitriol in your country, I fear that may well not be far off.

    1. Catroast


      Because pumping more money into our Education system and healthcare has worked so well in the past. It's time for a new direction. All my life I've heard teachers crying and striking over pay and still this goes on. Because these things have been subsidized, education and healthcare costs have steadily gone up, and quality has steadily gone down.

      Humor me one moment. What if pumping money into a problem doesn't make it get better, it just makes it more dependent? Come on. Imagine with me.

      If any of you have done this in real life with a needy relative and you found out that it didn't fix their problems, but only made them more needy, stand with me now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Catroast: I know you are just trolling, but hell, I'll bite....

        Your problem* seems to be that spending money on education is not the right way forward, however this whole article is effectively an opinion piece on how the US education system is lagging behind many other countries.

        A quick look shows the top 10 countries in reading and maths to be:

        S. Korea / Finland / Hong Kong / Canada / New Zealand / Ireland / Australia / Liechtenstein / Poland / Sweden / Taiwan / Netherlands / Switzerland / China / Japan (more than 10 listed as this is from individual tables for reading & maths with duplicates removed)

        Now, I don't know anything about the South Korean, Japanese & Taiwanese education systems, but all the others are most certainly left of centre heavily state subsidised systems.

        So, humour me one moment. What if one consistent factor in 85%+ of the world's top education systems is pumping money in and establishing a high degree of state control? See a pattern there?

        Some things do need money spending on them. I have a car which would suit me far worse if I stopped pumping money into things like fuel, servicing, insurances, repairs etc. Equally with all of those out there with "needy" children, they need things like clothes, food, books and so on.

        Damn you parents for making your children more needy rather than either making them fight with the stray dogs for scraps of food or simply dying of hypothermia and malnutrition.

        *By this I mean the thing you are primarily taking umbrage at, not your obvious deep seated psychological issues.

        1. DJUNIX

          So how far do we go?

          We need to spend money in our classrooms so that our children have the best tools and teachers available to them. I think everyone could agree on that. I think many times though we just spend money and not analyzing what works and what doesn't. I for one rather see some competition in the schools just like in the public sector. If you're not producing, you're gone, if you do produce, then you're rewarded.

          So for those teachers who can inspire their students and innovate new ways of teaching, I rather see them get paid much more than some teacher just getting a pay check. Also, just like the pubic sector, if you aren't producing why should you be protected by the teacher unions? Instead the teacher unions should get the teachers not producing and help them find ways to improve. Those teachers who still can't get their students pointed to the right direction, will maybe the best solution is to help them find another field of work since I rather have new blood than a teacher who just has tenure and can't teach.

          Also, I know its a hot button with many, but maybe school vouchers for children in school districts not performing is another solution. If its students scores are where they need to be, then I'm ok with it. Heck I'm ok with anything that gets results. If not school vouchers, then whatever works. I'm just tired of just spending to solve the problem since obviously it's not helping.

          But that's my 2 cents ... better go and be productive today!!

          1. thecakeis(not)alie


            How far do you go? All the way around the world!

            America needs to get over itself. Realise that some time in the past 100 years it stopped beign top dog. This bullshit "not invented here" syndrome that is so pervasive in that country needs to end. Do you want to know what you should do? Really?

            Send some government advisory teams to other countries (Canada, France, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Japan and South Korea are good starts.) Here they could learn about the different approaches taken by these countries to public education and public healthcare. They could learn how and why education and health care are both CHEAPER and MORE EFFECITVE in all of these countries per capita than anything the US has to offer. These advisory teams could bring this information home, compare notes and then the US could IMPLEMENT some of it.

            Basically, the US needs to admit that the rest of the world did what the US did, figured out pretty quickly it didn’t work and then MOVED ON. You aren’t the pinnacle of sociological and political advances and you haven’t been for a very long time But you know what? I’m wasting my keystrokes here. If you don’t understand why public health care, education and social services are important then you likely never will.

            It is like convincing a die-hard Christian that the Bible isn’t to be taken as the litteral word of God. You could point out parts where the Bible blatantly contradicts itself until you are blue in the face, they will never waver in their faith. Americans are the same. You have been indoctrinated for so long by the greatest shysters in all of human history. You actually believe with your heart and soul not only that America is “the greatest nation in the world” but also that your sociological, economic and political approaches to everything are superior to any others in the entire world.

            It’s bunkum. It’s a pack of horrible lies that you are so utterly dependant on you honestly can’t see the truth plain in front of your face. Do you understand what you look like to the rest of the world? An American trying to convince someone with a proper education and a little bit of worldliness that the US of A is the pinnacle of human achievement is like watching a Scientologist fervently and with great passion try to convince me that thetans are responsible for all my sins. It’s ridiculous. You want to help these people; educate them about the world beyond the cult they’ve joined…but you know it’s utterly, utterly hopeless.

            Most modern countries in this world have managed to do the things the US claims are impossible. They have managed to put in place stable health care systems, education systems and social services that cost less per capita to run that anything the US has. What’s more, even with the slightly (and honestly only really slightly) higher taxes these countries pay, the average citizen of these countries spends less on government services of all kinds in these countries than does a US citizen. The only difference is that we pay our fees in taxes and spread the load whereas you pay your fees on a per-incident basis that in many cases can and does result in utter destitution.

            But hey, why bother trying to convince you folks of anything. HAIL XENU, America. Hail Xenu.

      2. thecakeis(not)alie


        Spoken like a true American!

        I, on the other hand, am Canadian. Like any denizen of an actually civilised country, I am well aware of the benefits that a public education system and a public health system can bring to a country. I am sorry you are incapable of taking off the blinders and discarding your personal greed/fear of losing what precious little you have in order to see it. Ah well. It’s not my country, so I’ll just point and laugh. You brought it on yourself America! Raising people like Catroast to believe this kind of tripe is exactly what got you where you are.

        There is nobody to blame excepting yourselves.

      3. Veldan


        While on some levels i agree with you. I think pumping money is the answer, it's more a matter of pumping it to the right places.

        My mother is an assistant principle and has worked in and around public education systems. The biggest concern she has always stated with the system in our own country (Australia) and even what she sees of the American system is that the money being pumped in very rarely leads to the hands of the teachers.

        Teachers in the US and Australia in public schools are severely underpaid and overworked. This tends to scare skilled and talented people away into careers where they will make better money.

        I know this isn't the only issue but it is a rather key one, the lack of male teachers (not a good thing for young male students btw) has a lot to do with there not being enough money to properly support their families. This breeds gender inequality AND a lack of different skill sets into the education system, on top of the natural bias towards women to deal with children and teach.

        Unfortunately, like some are suggesting here, measuring definite "scores" for schools is not the way to go ahead. Some schools will perform worse no matter how good the teachers and no matter how much money you give them.

        At the end of the day the students are the people who make the choice to succeed or fail. I've seen students with all the best opportunities and teachers fail and those coming from country schools who have 1 teacher for 4 different grades (yrs8-12) and no enough money for most facilities get some of the highest scores around.

        Good teachers, good facilities and a good environment just help those who achieve by their nature, achieve more. Those who refuse to achieve, will continue to do so.

        (as a side note, this "will to achieve" is usually from the parents work ethic, which in lower socio-economic regions is usually lower, thus bad neighbourhoods usually equals bad school results, not technically bad schools)

    2. BioTube

      The financial industry doesn't need 'regulation'

      It needs to stopped being subsidized. One reason the bubble was so bad was because all Wall Street knew they'd get bailed out when things went south(ex, LTCM), so it was actually a low-risk industry to insiders. Knock off the corporatism, relax regulations to let smaller businesses compete(did you think Big Business pushed for those out of the goodness of its heart?) and cut unemployment benefits(get people interested in working, rather than mooching for eternity) and the economy will recover. Education also needs to be depoliticized, though what exactly that'll take is an exercise I leave to the reader.

  3. Darling Petunia

    U.S. CEO's might reflect on their decades of off-shoring jobs, as well as filling U.S. tech jobs with HB-1 Visa's so they boot them on a whim . Jobs, skills, and technology lost to inflate their earnings. How much hard technology have these CEO's sold-off to China? (such as specialized tools for building aircraft, processors etc.) Pleasing the major stockholders has a cost.

    1. hitmouse


      I interviewed for a US software firm for a couple of years. It was so difficult to find American college graduates with half a clue or indeed any interest in actually building a career. They might turn up to interviews and go through the motions, but their practical knowledge was very poor compared to overseas graduates _of the same age_.

      You'd have to invest five years or more completely retraining the locals.

      1. Saganhill


        Retraining? Whos fault is that? We have a generation('s) of kids in the USA who dont see education as a necessity. They see it as an anyoyance. They want the end results of an education without actually doing it. And whos fault is this? Media? Parents? Politicians?

        They want a 300K home with all the trimmings but only want to work at a 7-11 or less. I know one guy personally who has never made more than 9 bucks an hour because he doesnt want the responsibility of a job that pays more. Nothing wrong with that, but he is subsidised by me and other tax payers for his lack of ambition. He knows he can get a government handout when things are tough for him.

      2. maclovinz

        Practical Experience

        This is why I don't bother with most job descriptions that claim I HAVE to have a 4 year degree (mandatory).....

        If they want someone with 4 years of drinking on their parents' dime (NOT ALL DO IT, I KNOW!!!) then fine, they can have 'em.

    2. hitmouse


      Aren't HB-1s pencils?

  4. Stu 18

    trite and prob wrong, but open to different views

    When I think about modern tech - win 7, xbox 360, iphone, ipad - it is all about consumption.

    When I was at school I typed programs out of magazines I didn't understand on to computers as part of the learning process. Now days, there is no way to compete with games like Halo, so kids I've met can't think of anything more boring than programming.

    The machines and OS's of today aren't designed to learn how they work, win 7 is a mess of files jumbled all over the place and hidden from view by deafult. They are 'designed' for ease of use, but misstake hiding all complexity via even more complexity as a good thing. Why bother learning it at all.

    Add to that, many teachers it has been reported don't understand the technology beyond, put the disk in and click setup microsoft. It will all change next year anyway, so how can they 'keep up'.

    Where is the adventure, excitment, doing things better, achievement in engineering anyway - it will never compete with lady gaga, but now all we hear is, if you did work at it, figure out something amazing and stand to earn your fortune, some big company or troll is going to steal it from you legally in a patent war. Why would you encourage anyone into a job like that.

    Or think it out, then get made redundant because we'll find someone cheaper to do it instead, and the 'company' doesn't consider off shoring to cheaper economies is the modern version of the slave trade.

    I don't agree with the why bother mentality of today, but I certainly understand it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      express yourself no matter how stupidly

      Agreed. Before digitalitis took all the air out of the world, when you did something, it kind of had to work. Might not work the first time, but if you were any good and had any ambition, you made it work. And that's how you got your jollies. Whether it was a model of a biplane or even a Basic program. Now you just too whatever the Hell on the Net and hope that it "goes viral".

      I realized in college that what the diverse group had in common, was that we had all done things; built a race car, written something, learned to play Beethoven well, blow our fingers off with homemade explosives, something; i venture to say that doesn't happen anymore.

      But of course, that's of a piece with modern industrial needs; we don't need a zillion engineers to design radios any more, we need one engineer to design the radio chip and a zillion monkeys to do the hack work of making a radio out of the chip.

    2. Geoff Campbell

      Job security, I call it.

      Those of us of a certain age (I was going to say "old", but I guess I'm not the oldest hereabouts by quite a margin) had the good fortune to be born into a Golden Age for computing. We got easy employment when we were young, because our elders didn't understand the new technology. And now we have easy employment as we age, because our juniors can't be bothered to understand the new technology.

      It also means my two daughters should be able to conquer the entire planet with nothing more than a small fruit knife in about twenty years.


    3. maclovinz

      Patents Stifle Innovation

      The other reason why people are afraid to/don't mess with things, is because they are afraid of legal repercussions, and multiple other things, like the FBI knocking down their door just for wanting to know a bit more.

      It's supposed to be more about understanding new things, not the money to be made, which is why I hold Woz in the highest regard, and Jobs, well, not so much.

  5. Steve McPolin

    corporate partnered education would be great.

    Has anybody produced a little graph to see how this corporate largess has helped the education system? Didn't think so. Dumping excess crap on schools for the tax deduction just deprives schools of the better things - like pencils, crayons and paper.

    Weeping CEOs conjures up such great imagery - perhaps of Crusty the Clown whining over the failure of his latest inane scheme.

  6. Erik4872

    They're not really seeing the whole picture.

    As an American vwith the attention span to read the entire article, I can see a few grains of truth in it. The evidence is there when my employer tries to hire candidates for IT systems integration work. It really is difficult to find qualified people -- and that's not a ploy to hire H-1B workers. The job description is basically "expert troubleshooter who can learn fast, loves being a lab rat, enjoys the torture^Uchallange of making developers' bug-ridden messes^U^Umasterpieces work in the real world, and deals effectively with a huge variety of different people." (And yes, it's a lot of fun for the right sort of twisted individual.) Most of the people I work with are foriegn-born, and it's very difficult to recruit suitable natives. The pay is decent, and the hours are amazingly flexible most of the time, so I don't think that's it. I think the pool is just low.

    So, what do I think the CEO Peanut Gallery has right? I do think the education system is a little messed up, or more accurately, we don't place enough emphasis on education. Developing countries have hugely competitive higher education systems simply because education is the difference between working for a multinational in Bangalore or Beijing, vs. spending your life as a subsistence farmer. I also think that artificially reducing immigration makes a talent shortage worse, but an active giveaway like the H-1B visa just depresses wages for those of us who did the right thing and got educated.

    However, here's where I think they miss the boat. In order to incentivize people to get a good education, there needs to be a clear career path laid out for them. You can't say "we need more scientists and engineers" on one day and then close your R&D facilities in the US because you can pay Chinese Ph. D.'s 10% of what your US Ph. D.'s make. Education in the sciences and engineering is tough -- it takes a lot of effort, time and money to get through school. I'm in the unenviable position of getting older, and am dreading the day our corporate overlords decide we're too expensive to house in the US anymore. It's a negative feedback spiral from both ends of the spectrum -- older workers who spent the time educating themselves get tossed out, and tell their children that they should spend their brainpower on finance, project management or some salesy-type job. In addition, getting rid of the entry-level tasks means no one who is interested has a place to start and learn the trade, thus amplifying the tech shortage these CEOs are talking about.

    If I had these guys' ears for a few minutes, the one thing I'd tell tham is -- if they want talent, innovation and growth, they need to provide a stable jobs framework. If people aren't constantly worrying about being laid off, or whether the huge investment in their educations will pay off, you'll see a return of interested American science and engineering grads. Keep some entry-level positions onshore with the intention of allowing people to grow their skills. And most importantly, think beyond next quarter and realize that your experienced workers are not 100% liability -- that experience counts for something!

    1. Naughtyhorse


      or to put it another way, it's all the markets fault

      (whoah!!! y' cant say that :-D, are you some kinda commie etc etc etc)

      flexibility and short term-ism, theres your problem, right there

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Exactly correct...

      ... and this is why there are more sports therapists than engineers. You can't outsource sports therapy, so anyone who is any good can always get work where they live. However, someone who is an ace software engineer can easily be out-competed by someone on the other side of the world.*

      I don't want to be telling my son that plumbing is a better career option in the UK than software development, but unfortunately it's the truth, and until your toilet can be remotely unblocked from China, it's going to stay that way.

      * In my experience, the competition is only on price, because outsourced software is rubbish. Not because of the quality of the people doing the coding, but because of the increased disconnect between the recipients and producers of the system: managing complex and changing requirements was hard enough when teams were small and co-located.

      1. Charles Manning

        You are assuming....

        Your argument only works because people are too squeamish to fiddle with plumbing and are prepared to pay huge for plumbers.

        You're assuming that in the future people in the UK will actually be able to afford toilets and can afford to pay someone to do the unblocking.

        If the economy **really** goes pear shaped then people will start doing their own plumbing again.

        Far better is to build a well rounded set of skills and be open to career change down the road. I currently have a fencing contractor doing fencing (I could do it myself if I had the time, but choose not to). This guy is also a commercial pilot flying for a national airline. He has been fencing and flying for the last 20-odd years. At the moment the pilots are flying less so he spends more time fencing.

        Perhaps your son could become both a plumber and a programmer.

    3. Identity
      Black Helicopters

      This kind of myopia may not be a *wholly* American disease, but...

      To paraphrase Harlan Cleveland, we're trying to solve twenty year problems with five year plans staffed by two year personnel with one year appropriations based on quarterly results. It's no wonder we're heading for disaster — our priorities are hopelessly screwed up. In fact, we barely have any! This country seems to "function" on what I call bumper-sticker thinking (as in, it's not a philosophy if it doesn't fit on a bumper sticker). Demagogues are quick to offer sound bites (which by the way, a recent study shows are getting *shorter*!), but long-range problems require long-range plans AND implementation. Meanwhile, our short term needs and wants trump them (Can't deprive fishermen of jobs, so [according to Pew research] over 92% of large ocean-going fish are extinct. Can't have 'furriners' takin' our jobs — keep 'em out, so immigration raids deprive farmers of labor so apples rot on the ground as no Americans want to work so hard for so little (and pay raises are out of the question due to international competition). Can't pay so much for goods (or lose profit) so offshore manufacturing to China, et al, and then complain about where all the jobs went.)

      Frankly, the lack of a sense of irony from CEOs who helped fuel the current state of affairs would be laughable if it weren't so dire. Negative feedback loop, indeed!

      My own crackpot scheme (once we've managed to destroy society and maim civilization beyond recovery — which we're working hard to do — is to try it without money. Money and profit has added an irrational secondary (but controlling) layer to human activity that is inimical to survival and sustainability. As Douglas Adams put it, "On the planet Earth, happenings of humans revolve mainly around little pieces of paper – and these little pieces of paper had a lot to do with the happiness and sadness of humans, which is strange because the pieces of paper were neither happy nor sad. In fact, the most they did was suffer in silence as they were passed around, torn, and occasionally used to light cigars."

      There is a long argument to be made about why incentive and competition a) don't work like it says on the box and b) should be as passé as Westward Expansion (which also worked and favored progress — for a while.) So as not to go on for pages and pages, if you want to see my reasoning, go to

  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Good job the problem is only in the USA

    I mean Britain would never fall into the trap of keeping out foreign expertise for purely political reasons and thanks to our students getting exponentially better grades each year our universities can hardly cope with the numbers of brilliant scientists and engineers.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      We have engineering course students who cannot add fractions, and need a year's remedial maths before they can even understand what their subject is about.

      It's the one with a Ready Reckoner (remember those?) in the pocket.

      1. Naughtyhorse


        something to do with metal?

    2. Paul_Murphy

      Hold on...

      Is that sarcasm?

      It's so hard to tell anymore ;-(

      Having a daughter who would really like to go to University next year, but has to attend a college course instead to teach her how to do things that her school couldn't, but the university expects her to know, really brings home some of the silliness that the current system exposes.

      I say that we should bring back polytechnics, and ensure that they are seen to be more useful to the country than universities.

      We also need to break the problem that an advanced education is determined by income (or, more correctly, expenditure) - it should go to those that deserve one.

      Education is by far the best determinate of a countries long-term prospects, if clever people are not able to flourish then the country will not be able to compete.

      Oh - and another thought .. what happens when the workers in the 'cheap' countries manage to organize themselves and get their pay and conditions improved?

      Maybe one day when the whole world is well-educated and paid the same then all talk of out-sourcing will disappear.

      1. annodomini2

        You missed the main issue

        The reason these young individuals end up in this position is the dumbing down of the courses so that politicians can guarantee their year on year grades increase.

  8. Charles Osborne

    Still with the Supply-Side voodoo?

    What, Neutron Jack, Jr. can't depress salaries quickly enough?

    And when we Yanks say "education" we mean "training." Not well-rounded, well-read with in-depth knowledge, but well trained in using the latest tools. Classical language, literature -- you know, the stuff you folks on the other side of the pond think (thought?) important -- not so important here.

    Sorry, but the education system over here is rotting because teachers can't live on the salaries. Industry is collapsing because the most-recent-quarterly-profit hucksters have gutted the production infrastructure. And young people see how the industry values its workers.

    Are these generalizations? Yes. Not every business whores itself to Wall Street, but the lion's share is going to the pigs. And these leaders are correct: it is not sustainable. They should know as they are the ones pushing it into the sea.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Education Levels / Skills

    I sometimes write technical documentation, if the document is intended to be read in the USA, then I have to target the TECHNICAL documentation for a reading age of 12.

    12 ?? TECHNICAL ??

    come on, just how technical are 30 year old Technicians in the USA, something isn't gelling..

    By the way, I am a Specialist, a Specialist that has done, and could do more, good work in the USA and I know there is a desparate shortage of my skills in the USA because of how many Job/Want ads I get mentioning my skillset.

    However, I am UK born, and nobody will sponsor a Visa - Locals Only - so I get to work all over the world except the USA, I train the people and disseminate my Knowledge - except in the USA.

    I agree that first source for labour should be local, but if you don't find any with the skills after 6 months then maybe that should be a criteria for allowing an external(to the country) hire to get your flagging business on the move. Doesn't have to be permanent Hire, maybe 1 year or whatever.

    Where am I working now ?


    Where will I work next ?

    Anywhere except the USA and India.

    1. tony trolle

      "reading age of 12." sad but true

      They leave high school really bright; then its downhill all the way.

      I can only think its the TV dumbing them down.

      I'm about to jump ship back to the UK

    2. LaeMing Silver badge


      I had to outsource myself and my expensive publicly-funded education to China for several years too. In this case it was my own country who couldn't give me a job. As a school teacher. With IT specialisations including solid industry experience.

      Every week the papers ran stories of the government screaming out for qualified and experienced IT teachers and every week I was down the dole office with my list of job applications I didn't get because I was 'overqualified'.

      I am back home again now, but in a far better job than school-teaching, though only because I lucked onto an employer who explicitly wanted older hirees for dealing with a particular type of customer, and admits she was taking a chance with me even then (a chance that, I'm happy to say, worked out excellently for all parties).

    3. sandman

      Re:Education Levels/Skills

      The US software company I work for is full of really bright, highly skilled software developers, implementation guys, etc, etc. However, most of them are 30 plus. A hell of a lot of the more jumior staff aren't US citizens, but are mostly from India, various parts of the Far East and Europe (particularly the old Soviet bloc). The disparity is purely down to their technical education and hence ability. This is not a matter of them being cheaper, pay rates are the same.

  10. JaitcH

    Finally, it's sinking in - the U.S. is bankrupt financially and morally

    The global 'empire' of the U.S. is fading, just as those of the Romans, Greeks and British did before them. America needs money to work it's magic and it's credit has about hit the buffers.

    Previous empires left benefits be it long, straight roads, democracy or bureaucracy and right-hand drive. They also enjoyed a certain amount of good will and appreciation.

    What will the U.S, legacy be? Israel's Teflon coating thinning out, substantial drops in standards of living and far less effective sabre rattling, no more invasions and undeclared wars.

    Let's hope they realise it soon, so their demise can be orderly and minimise collateral damage.

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge


      Learn to place your apostrophes, to distinguish Macedonians from Greeks, explain to me why the partition of the subcontinent was so beneficial, and I'll start to listen. But I suppose some might find right-hand drive beneficial.


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