As the Republican presidential candidates compete to see who can bash immigrants the hardest, Citigroup has just appointed Vikram Pandit, a super-smart financier born in India, to be its CEO. As this New York Times article notes, he joins thirteen other CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies who were not born in this country: “The head of the Altria Group was born in Egypt, for example. PepsiCo’s is from India, the Liberty Mutual Group’s is a native of Ireland, and Alcoa’s was born in Morocco.”
Perhaps one of the GOP candidates can cut a TV spot bemoaning lost jobs for American plutocrats and promising that in his administration WASP’s will regain their rightful places atop the corporate hierarchy.
Actually, the fact that the top management jobs are no longer the exclusive preserve of the proverbial man in the gray flannel suit is good news. It means that American companies are doing a great job of drawing on talent from all around the world. In the short term, of course, that can be disorienting and aggravating for the clubby golfing types who had come to look on top-level corporate jobs as theirs almost by divine right. In the long term, however, it means that American companies will be more competitive than insular rivals in other countries, thereby making this country even more prosperous and vital. Something similar is happening on lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder: the short-term pain of immigration is generally offset by long-term gains.
That’s easy to lose sight of amid all this immigrant bashing. To be sure, Republicans claim to be all in favor legal immigration; it is only illegal immigration they claim to oppose. But the reality is that a lot of undocumented immigrants are also making a positive contribution to this country. In any case, the distinction between legal and illegal quickly gets lost in the debate, when a lot of the leading Republicans sound like they’re simply aggravated by too many foreigners coming here.
Keep it up, guys, if you want to lose the votes of Latinos—and those of our newest CEO’s.