The Republican Convention closed with a rousing speech by Mitt Romney. (I speak as fair-minded Democrat). It included few concrete promises, but Mr. Romney did say his Administration would be responsible for creating 12 million new jobs.
Reminds me of Winston Churchill’s famous remark: a politician needs “the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."
Needless to say, neither party is willing to address unemployment’s immigration dimension.
I keep running across example after example of this powerful trend worldwide. Remember the Coke factory in Louisiana which makes almost a million servings of Coke daily with under a dozen workers? [See US Job Creation Stalled By Automation and Our Immigration Overhang]
Few Americans will have the patience (or masochism?) that I did to watch this 46 minute film. [Ultimate Factories: Coca-Cola, NationalGeographic.com] But it leaves you wondering how many of the planet's population of 7 plus billion will be needed to produce all of the products that people can afford to buy.
The latest example among many I have found of automation’s impact—an August 18, 2012 NY Times piece by John Markoff, Skilled Work, Without the Worker:
At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way.
At a sister factory here in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human.
One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.
So why are both political parties working to allow the importation of over a million new aliens yearly, although 20 plus million US citizens either out of work or underemployed?
Politics, and the unremitting power of business, folks!
No significant political leader wants to be the voice of reason, because reason doesn’t please the big funders of our political system, who now control our one-time Republic.
More confirmation of automation’s impact—Markoff’ s NYT piece continues:
Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”
The falling costs and growing sophistication of robots have touched off a renewed debate among economists and technologists over how quickly jobs will be lost. This year, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the case for a rapid transformation. “The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications,” they wrote in their book, Race Against the Machine.
In their minds, the advent of low-cost automation foretells changes on the scale of the revolution in agricultural technology over the last century, when farming employment in the United States fell from 40 percent of the work force to about 2 percent today. The analogy is not only to the industrialization of agriculture but also to the electrification of manufacturing in the past century, Mr. McAfee argues.
“At what point does the chain saw replace Paul Bunyan?” asked Mike Dennison, an executive at Flextronics, a manufacturer of consumer electronics products that is based in Silicon Valley and is increasingly automating assembly work. “There’s always a price point, and we’re very close to that point.”
Mitt, if you are correct or even half correct about that 12 million pledge, all Americans (including this Democrat) would be jumping for joy.
But I suspect that, if elected, you will end up needing all the skill Churchill recommended to explain why it didn’t happen on your watch.
Donald A. Collins [email him], a free lance writer living in Washington, DC. , is Co-Chair of the National Advisory Board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). However, his views are his own