Border Secuirty and Jobs Bills Pass

As I predicted last friday, the house has passed the “let’s flush $600 million down the toilet in the name of border security” bill.  I won’t rehash why the money is being wasted.  From Reuters:

The U.S. Congress on Thursday passed legislation to strengthen security along the border with Mexico, trying to tackle the politically sensitive issue of illegal immigrants ahead of November congressional elections.

Final legislative action came as the Senate passed the bill on a voice vote, one day after the House of Representatives interrupted a six-week recess to pass the bill.

The only good thing to come out of the bill is it’s funding mechanism.  In order not to add to the deficit congress had to either cut spending or increase revenue.  In this case they mostly chose to raise revenue.  However, instead of a general tax increase they targeted towards companies that make a business model out of importing cheap labor into the company.

The plan is financed by imposing higher visa fees on some Indian technology companies operating in the United States, prompting a protest from the government of India.

Senate aides said the Indian companies had been targeted because they take advantage of a U.S. law to import a high percentage of their workers from abroad. They said four Indian companies would be affected: Tata (TCS.BO), Infosys (INFY.BO), Wipro (WIPR.BO) and Mahindra Satyam (SATY.BO).

It may strange that congress would pass a bill that hits only 4 companies.  However, that’s because they are the only 4 large companies whose majority of state-side employees hold temporary visas.  Fee qualification is explained over at NDTV:

The Bill proposes to increase visa application fees by at least USD 2,000 for the next five years to raise nearly $550 million to help fund the $650 million plan for increasing security along the US-Mexico border. These fee increases will apply only to companies with more than 50 employees and for whom the majority of their workforce are visa-holding foreign workers.

Indian software firms, including IT biggies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and others, use H-1B and L-1 visas to fly their employees to the US for working at their clients’ locations as on-site engineers.

The bigger news is that congress also passed a so-called “jobs” bill.

House Democrats on Tuesday pushed through a $26 billion jobs bill to protect 300,000 teachers and other nonfederal government workers from election-year layoffs, while sending $16billion to help cash-strapped states with rising Medicaid costs.

The bill would be paid for mainly by closing a tax loophole used by multinational corporations and by reducing food stamp benefits for the poor. It passed mainly along party lines by a vote of 247-161.

I’m all about closing tax loopholes, and I’m also glad that we’re going to keep more teachers in the classroom, and police on the streets, but I am a bit concerned about cutting food stamps during the worse recession in 70 years.  Cutting the food stamps keeps the bill “budget neutral”.  However, it’s likely just smoke and mirrors anyways.  The food stamp funding will likely be restored in next years budget.  It’s hard to vote against giving food to the poor.

Under the bill, effective March 31, 2014, food stamp benefits would return to the levels that individuals would have received under pre-Recovery Act law. This modification is estimated to save $11.9 billion over 10 years. House Democrats plan to work to restore this funding before the cuts are implemented in 2014, however.

President Obama signed the Teacher and Police jobs bill into law yesterday and will be signing the border security bill into law today.  All this when the congress is supposedly on their “august break”.

Indian software firms, including IT biggies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and others, avail H-1B and L-1 visas to fly their employees to the US for working at their clients’ locations as on-site engineers.

Plagiarism: Wikipedia vs. Dept. of Agriculture

This is kind of interesting.  While researching yesterdays post, I found out that either Wikipedia or the federal government is plagiarizing the other.

First skim over the history section on wikipedia about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  Now, skim over the governments rendition of the history of the program.

Did you notice how similar they are?  They have the same headlines and milestones, and many of those sections are word for word repeated.  There are a few differences here and there, but you can tell one of them copied off the other.

While it’s impossible to tell who copied off of who, I’m going to guess it was the Dept. of Agriculture that did it.  Looking at the revision history, you can tell that several people over many years have worked on the article and how it slowly took shape.

While I don’t think there’s anything scandalous about this, I just find it funny that the Dept. of Agriculture is copying and pasting wikipedia articles to beef up its own website.