April 18, 2017

Trump on the right track with this executive order

President Donald Trump brought a big dose of his economic populism to Wisconsin Tuesday, where he signed an executive order that would rein in a popular foreign worker program and encourage federal agencies to “buy American.”

Trump is on the right track. The H-1B visa program is widely used by technology companies but critics contend it’s being abused at the expense of American labor. And why shouldn’t federal agencies buy American products? They should whenever possible.

The order, by itself, may have a limited impact but the theater is perhaps as important as the actual act. Trump is keeping a campaign promise, and, after a week of flip-flops on the Export-Import Bank and China’s alleged currency manipulation, sending a message to his working class supporters in places such as Wisconsin that he hasn’t forgotten them.

That he chose Wisconsin, where he won a key victory last fall, shows that the state remains a critical player in presidential politics. Trump visited Kenosha toolmaker Snap-on Inc., which is in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district and is the hometown of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

The H-1B visa program has its place — helping companies around the country, but particularly in Silicon Valley, fill jobs for which the supply of American workers is thin. But an H-1B review is overdue. Critics of the program claim staffing companies are undercutting American wages by using the visas to recruit foreign labor and then contracting those workers to large companies. The Associated Press reports that employers as diverse as Walt Disney World and the University of California, San Francisco, have furloughed tech employees and replaced them with H-1B workers. That’s not the intent of the program and should not be allowed. 

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