Letters 2/09/2012

Feb. 9, 2012
One reader is concerned about safety devices that cause injuries, while others wonder what industries to regulate and which to deregulate. Some suggest engineering should be deregulated

De or reregulate?

One reader is concerned about safety devices that cause injuries, while others wonder what industries to regulate and which to deregulate. Some suggest engineering should be deregulated. Another letter writer brings up the familiar question: Is there really a shortage of engineers and scientists?

Deregulate engineering?
The recent editorial (“Why Finance Majors Make More than Engineers,” Oct. 20) was interesting, but my takeaway was different than yours. You make the point that deregulation of the financial industry led to higher salaries and more innovation in that field. Your proposed solution is for government to increase regulation on the financial industry, thus depressing salaries there to bring them more in line with engineering. That’s quite a pessimistic approach.

The correct answer is to deregulate engineering/manufacturing industries so as to encourage innovation and let salaries rise there as well. Let the free market determine the value of engineers.

The problem with your analysis is an incorrect assumption that deregulation was the cause. In fact, the real culprit was political interference in the lending process in the name of increasing home ownership. Congressional pressure, combined with assurances that the federal government would back these loans, led financial institutions to make risky loans. This, in turn, skewed demand in the real-estate market, sparking the housing boom. It was only a matter of time before individuals began to default on loans they could not afford. Housing prices plummeted and more people defaulted as they suddenly found themselves underwater.

The whole house of cards began to tumble down as the financial industry looked to Washington to make good on their earlier promises.

If you are looking to government intervention to fix a problem, you had better check first to be certain that it wasn’t the cause of the problem in the first place.

Allen Heindel

Basically, I say there is never any free lunch. If someone goes into engineering, he’s providing a real service of value, and that can never be reduced. The free-lunch seekers, i.e., the financial people, often end up getting their free lunches in prison. Personally, I would send these white-collar criminals to the same prisons populated with axe murderers, not some Club Fed facility.

Jane Alstott

A very informative editorial on finance majors. Everything makes sense, except for the last phrase.
If deregulation triggers ingenuity, productivity, and higher rewards, why would you suggest more regulation on the financial industry?

There is a better way: deregulate other industries. Yes, they will go up and down, But left unregulated, they will self-stabilize on a much higher level than “regulated” ones. Regulating everything only makes funnel money and power to our “Legal Industry”.

Ilya Feygin

The point is that salaries in the financial industry dropped relative to those in other industries during the 1930s and 1940s because, according to the two economists doing the study, the financial industry was increasingly regulated during that time period. — Leland Teschler

Do no harm
I appreciated your article on unsafe guards (“Beware of Unsafe Machine Guarding,” Sept. 28). I once was forced to add a safety device to a machine that used an air cylinder to bring a guard up when the operator activated palm buttons. Although the guard was raised with a low-pressure cylinder, the operator could get whacked in the face if he or she leaned too far forward and was not paying attention. I’ve also seen machines using the same method to bring a guard down like a guillotine.

People often design safety methods like these with the idea that they are at least making an attempt to keep workers safe without realizing the device they have installed is actually what will most likely hurt the operator.

In that vein, I’ve seen machines powered by pneumatic cylinders that have a long stroke. When that stroke was interrupted by a light curtain or e-stop in the middle of its travel and then reenergized, it would slam into position because the pressurized air on the opposing side of the cylinder had drained off during the stop condition. Adding flow controls didn’t help because there was enough empty volume in the opposite side of the cylinder to let it compress, which also let the moving components slam into position. I’m not by any means a pneumatic expert. So, with that being said, what is the best solution to prevent this?

Rich Whitford

One of the basic concepts when adding a guard is to make sure that by adding the guard you are not adding another hazard. Therefore, whenever a machine is altered or modified, perform a preliminary hazard analysis to ensure all hazards of the current machine are addressed. — Lanny Berke

Job shortage or worker shortage?
I bought into the lies about impending engineering shortages and went to an engineering school in the 80s. Unfortunately, after I graduated engineering salaries were consistently decimated by offshoring both manufacturing and design work, and by importing cheap engineers (H-1B and L1). Now, 25 years later I am sending my daughter to an ivy-league school (which is costing me a fortune) to study engineering, but with explicit instructions that she is not to become an engineer. Post-graduate business, law, or medicine will do nicely. Engineering is her fallback. I am not the only parent doing this. Who knows; if this keeps up, maybe someday there really will be a shortage of engineers. But I doubt it.

Ray White

I agree with your disdain for graduates who have pursued their dream without regard to a viable livelihood (“Advice for Occupy Wall Streeters,” Nov. 17). But why is it that “...43% of those [STEM] graduates do not work in STEM jobs immediately after graduation”? Were there no jobs, or did they find something else more attractive?

I believe the reasons are to be found in Ruark and Graham’s report, Jobs Americans Can’t Do?: The Myth of a Skilled Labor Shortage, which can be found on the Web.

Here are two of their findings:

• The glut of science and engineering (S&E) degree holders in the U. S. has caused many S&E graduates to seek work in other fields. Less than one-third of S&E degree holders work in a field closely related to their degree, while 65% are either employed in or training for a career in another field within two years of graduating.
• Wages in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics occupations have not kept pace with those of other college graduates, and in some occupations have actually decreased.”

In a free market, a shortfall of STEM workers would have raised compensation, but instead, wages have lagged or stagnated. This leads me to conclude it is a manipulated market, created by domestic businesses that benefit from lower cost immigrant labor.

There is also a complementary “diversity” campaign to recruit minorities, who are upwardly ambitious, but economically naive, and may be lured by comparatively attractive starting salaries.

Robert Rung

We have written about STEM students who take non-STEM jobs back on May 3, 2010, “Engineering Students Who Don’t Go Into Engineering.” Here’s a link: http://tinyurl.com/2eqjrf9

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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