When I saw this in the Times yesterday, the thing that surprised me was that a major news outlet was reporting on this in very matter-of-fact terms. As we've seen, these discussions get heated, and for the record I'm not one of the "they took our jerbs" people for the most part. What I don't like is the abuse of the system by these offshoring companies, and the erosion of any sort of stability throughout the workforce.
As originally intended, there's nothing wrong with the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. I work for a multinational company and we often use these to bring in very talented employees who just happen to be citizens of another country. The difference here is that most of these people are designing products and providing the exceptional advanced-level knowledge that the visa was originally intended to allow. In the article, and indeed in most IT departments, this is just a flat-out replacement of a low level office job. Tata or Accenture or whoever is just bringing in the few people in their offshore centers who have the capability to learn the target job and teach it to the hundreds of other interchangeable workers they have back home. This is what I think has to be looked at; companies simply don't want to pay for any labor anymore if they don't have to and now we have an environment where they can easily avoid doing so. I like how the article puts it right in peoples' faces -- it's no longer the problem of some anonymous factory worker in the rust belt or an IT worker that makes a higher salary and has a higher perceived degree of stability than the accountants they were profiling.
What bothers me more about this is the loss of economic stability. People are going to avoid buying things if they aren't secure in their jobs, period. The 30-year mortgage was designed around the idea that people would at least stay in the house for 10 or 15 years, preferably for the full 30. Someone who's picking up stakes and moving every five years chasing the jobs around the country to the lowest-cost environments is wasting a huge amount of money in real estate transfer taxes, realtor commissions, loan fees, mortgage interest (since it's front-loaded), etc. It easily costs mid-5 figures when everything is added up to move, but most people just pay for it with their next mortgage and don't think about it. Not to mention the cost -- moving a family with kids around constantly does not make for a stable home life. Ask any military family about that; every military kid I've ever talked to says they hated moving every year or two because they never got to settle in somewhere and put down roots.
It sounds really mean to say this, but think about your average corporate worker. Not management, not a hotshot developer, just a random cubicle dweller producing reports or processing customer records. The jobs in the article, like low level corporate accounting tasks and such, were where the vast majority of average, C-student college graduates have wound up for the last 30+ years. The progression was thus - get into a big state university, party your way through 4 years and get a generic business or communications degree, show up at corporate recruiting events during your senior year, and get hired on for some sort of entry level task. If you kill off all the middle class jobs out there, what do you propose doing with these educated people who previously bought houses, paid property taxes, and felt secure enough in their lives to have a family? If there's no good answer for this, why are we bothering telling students that college is worth it in the long term? These are the questions that need to be asked, and no one is doing it because companies are only focusing on today, not 20 years from now.