When it comes to social justice and economic fairness, Democrats have the right sentiment, just the wrong century.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, or Deputy Chair Keith Ellison, or the talking heads from MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell to Crooked Media’s “Pod Save” pundit podcasts:
When Democrats start talking strong unions as job creators, without dealing with the realities of technological displacement, they still prove that they’re clueless about how to really help the big”P” People.
It’s more of the Hillary haze that ignored a fundamental truth that we’re just not willing to face:
Human beings are being phased out of both the labor and intellectual capital markets at an alarming rate.
In my HuffPost piece on robotics and AI taking jobs, I told you that, according to CNBC, 91.2 million people, adjusted for seasonal employment, and the 1.8 million people who look for work sporadically, are permanently unemployed.
The current unemployment rate figure is a LIE. A low 4.5 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ rate only follows those who have looked for work in the last four weeks. The dirty secret that the BLS doesn’t tell you about their cherry-picked data? The unemployment number doesn’t always drop because of new jobs. It can also drop when people just quit looking.
Poor blue collar workers, especially white ones in the once-mighty factory zones of America, and those who lost their clerical and administrative jobs in the Great Recession, know what a crock the Democrats’ “stronger union” siren call really is.
Unions don’t slow down automation. They accelerate it.
The whole purpose of adding robotics, or artificial intelligence (AI) into the workplace is to replace people with devices that don’t collectively bargain, or need pension plans, or take afternoons off to go to kids t-ball games, or sleep. You won’t see a factory line robot on a coffee break, or an artificial intelligence creating contracts in a law firm taking maternity leave.
Organized labor‘s efforts to stop the offshoring of jobs, or the introduction of cheaper labor by limiting HB-1 visa workers only accelerates the the process.
Labor unions limited successes at repatriating jobs only help the automation process. Fully automated domestic manufacturing plants are cheaper than outsourcing work overseas. Robotics working 24/7 on US soil knock down shipping and logistics costs.
Millions of construction workers, fast food employees, drivers and cashiers will be gone in the near future. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods accelerates their Amazon GO concept will start the tide at retail that takes millions of cashiers out of stores NOW, not ten years from now:
Unionization also doesn’t help all of the non-unionized doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, stock brokers, insurance underwriters, military professionals, IT professionals and thousands more who are going to feel the burn as they’re replaced by machines that can execute their jobs with better outcomes at a lower cost.
Oh, and don’t be so smug, programmers. AI can write software code too.
The reason that Republicans are winning with their bogeyman attacks on immigrants is because they cause reactive response from the Left that masks what their masters are doing to the workforce. Attacks on healthcare and the social safety net tie up Democrats in hyperbolic, rhetorical knots, while the AI invasion and the robot revolution roll.
Democrats talk time-warp, their solutions to problems are more buckboard than Buck Rogers.
Democrats, progressives and liberals need to do start leading serious, adult conversations about humanity’s role in the world.
So, Democratic pundits, here are some ideas to ponder:
Universal Basic Income, (UBI) is the idea that we’re all worth something, that the right to life extends beyond our ability to work in a world where work no longer defines us. It is an extension of the traditional welfare system, supported by Democrats since the New Deal, and hated by Republicans backed by many of the owners of the very equipment that will unemploy the same humans. Sources estimate it would take $3.2 trillion to distribute $10,000 to every human in the United States.
The Robotics/AI Tax ― Government calculates the value of labor in a particular occupation or skill, probably in man hours. When a robotic unit, or an artificial intelligence is deployed into that same workflow, a tax is levied against the amount of man-hour equivalent work product that it puts out. This tax could be used for both retraining, and for supporting the humans that the machines displace.
Data Mining Income (DMI) could be a way of providing a basic income. Right now, large companies like Google make billions mining data on consumers. If they were forced to pay for what they now take from consumers, often in exchange for “free” services, a floor that rewards being used for research could yield an income baseline.
Startup Farming ― Governments could provide seed capital period to entrepreneurs proposing new businesses that hired humans. Businesses that succeed would pay back their seed money, and a small premium that would be placed into a fund to seed other pro-human startups. Businesses that unemploy people in favor of machines in these businesses would then be subject to the Robotics/AI Tax.
Democrats should start looking for real answers to the tough questions about our brave new world. Some people will be able to make friends with the tech, and survive, but millions of people, even with training, may never work again. They will lack the skills.
The liberal lovefest with unions is because they have been the largest source of income to the Democratic Party. Just as Republicans refuse to stop kissing Koch rings, Liberals loathe losing labor organizers’ money and bodies for get-out-the-vote. That plays into the hands of a policy-free technological revolution, though.
Whether it’s healthcare or taxation, Republicans keep looking for ways to kill off the weakest of the herd. If Tom Perez’ Democrats want to truly be the champion of the people most vulnerable to permanent unemployment, he had better find a few “real” answers to the problems of the struggling working person. Fast.