It’s encouraging to see a smart young candidate for president talking about automation as a threat to the US economy and American jobs. The 2016 election was lacking any such discussion: The tech community was aware, but Washington lagged behind, as usual.
The formula is simple: When a machine become less expensive than a worker, then the human will go. And unlike the Great Depression, the jobs won’t come back.
Among the first jobs to go are the low-skilled sort, the employment that illegal border crossers count on getting in America. It’s likely that automation-caused unemployment would be higher without President Trump’s economic leadership.
Andrew Yang was interviewed yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning (the show made famous by Charles Kuralt and his nostalgic patriotism seen on the nation’s backroads).
Candidate Yang mentioned in his CBS interview about how automation has already had an electoral effect: “We automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, all the swing states that Donald Trump needed to win, and did win.”
That job loss is an important point and a reminder that we are already on the big automation highway with no off-ramp.
One criticism of Yang is that he went rather quickly to his universal basic income plan without explaining the need more thoroughly, although it seems public concern about automation job loss is increasing.
Still, if the billions of poor on earth hear that America is handing out free money to everyone, more serious immigration enforcement is needed.
Hopefully the Democrat debate on Tuesday will give Yang more time to talk, which he has not gotten so far.
Andrew Yang on creating a “trickle-up” economy, CBS News, October 13, 2019
In a park in Los Angeles last month, thousands gathered to hear the Democrat perhaps least likely to be running for president. “I am the ideal candidate for that job, because the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” said Andrew Yang.
In Yang’s world, MATH stands for “Make America Think Harder,” and Yang is mostly thinking about dire economic times ahead.
[. . .]
Andrew Yang, in fact, calls himself an entrepreneur. His parents immigrated from Taiwan: His father, a physicist, and his mother, with a master’s in math and statistics. Yang grew up in Schenectady, New York. His first big success was running a college test-prep company, and then he founded Venture for America, a non-profit that helps train entrepreneurs in struggling cities.
He thinks jobs – or rather, the loss of them – are why Donald Trump won the presidency.
“The numbers tell a very clear story,” he said. “We automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, all the swing states that Donald Trump needed to win, and did win.”
And Yang believes robots and artificial intelligence will accelerate the loss of all kinds of jobs. “Now, what we did to those jobs, we’re doing to the retail jobs, the call center jobs, the fast food jobs, the truck driving jobs, and on and on through the economy,” he said.
Thompson met Yang along the campaign trail, as he took a break for some tea (“Duke of Earl Gray”), and then discovered a foosball table, where he naturally talked about economic theory, and another of his big ideas: reforming how we calculate Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.
“If you want to see how out-of-whack GDP is, all you have to do is look at my family,” Yang said. “My wife is at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic. And what is her work every day, included at in GDP? Zero. And we know that her work is among the most important work being done for our society.” (Continues)