AI is poised to eliminate half of the jobs in America.
America is going to have to soften its edges a bit and get past its bravado over self-reliance as it relates to individual income if half of current jobs disappear in the next twenty years as predicted. It is also going to have to re-evaluate what it considers to be of value to the nation. It’s hardly a secret that the last half century of American economics has been an effort to enrich business, and its management/ownership, in hope of that wealth being distributed downward in the form of meaningful employment that would benefit society as a whole. It’s also hardly a secret that this has failed a great number of citizens, leaving behind anyone not equipped or inspired to fit into the mold of a “good employee”, as well as having left a great number of the needs of society unfulfilled if they didn’t fit into the standard of for profit companies.
Anyone simply walking around the typical American city, or even small town, with their eyes open, could likely point out millions of people hours of work that needs to be done, so it’s not like there is a vast shortage of potential jobs. Matching that potential to skills and then paying for those skills to be utilized is where we stumble. The normal employer/employee relationship between a for-profit company and available labor leaves a lot of social/community work undone, or unpaid, while unemployment and welfare don’t direct skills to matching jobs people could do while drawing benefits.
If we can find the political will to create funding for this work the benefits to society could be enormous. Volunteers are difficult to find for much-needed work that would add value to our society but don’t result in someone’s profit to justify compensation. This is especially true as our economy demands more hours of people to make ends meet and retirement age is steadily edged upward to squeeze every last minute of productivity out of everyone to the benefit of business.
If we wish to match people with this available work we will have to have a truthful conversation with the people whom we hire to manage our economy on the national level, and they are going to have to dispel many myths that they have propagated and fed to serve their own political ambitions and expediency. First among those is the admission that America has a sovereign currency that can be spent into the economy only by the federal government. Second is that such spending “IS NOT” constrained by revenue/taxation. America can never “run out” of money or fail to pay its obligations unless its representatives choose to do so.
Admitting this belies a lot of political rhetoric that is primarily meant to engender fear and divide people along ideological lines. This is especially meaningful when the subject of “the national debt” is raised, along with the automatic knee-jerk response of “how will we pay for it?”. The proper answer is that we can pay for it by “paying for it”, just as we do every day as a normal course of doing business at the Treasury for many of our government’s expenses. Some keys are depressed on keyboards at Treasury and currency is created in a targeted account at a Federal Reserve bank where it is available to pay obligations that congress has deemed worthy.
Since abandoning the antiquated concept of a commodity based monetary system (gold standard) that had its roots in feudal systems from centuries ago America has completely failed to utilize its currency in a way that empowers its people. It doesn’t appear that we have any reservations about utilizing it fully when funding is needed to wage war or purchase weaponry to wage war though. Anyone who believes that we have paid for our military and its thousand plus bases scattered around the globe solely with tax dollars, present or future, should take a look at the really terrific bridge I have for sale. It’s a really big bridge, and it’s the most beautiful bridge anywhere.
A national job guarantee funded by the federal government’s ability to create currency on demand, but administered by states and municipalities, could provide a replacement for unemployment programs and much of the social safety net if it was structured properly. It would also set the minimum wage without dictating anything to business. Workers could enter and leave the program at will and employers would simply have to offer what wages and benefits would be necessary to entice them to do so. In return, employers would have a labor pool to draw from that is presorted by skills and without the atrophy of social and employment skills that so often accompanies long-term unemployment now.
While our tax policy obviously needs serious work by some honest and committed representatives of the people, we can’t afford to let so much of our nation’s needs languish to service political ambitions and the corruption of our government that we have allowed to get in the way of preparing for what is coming. To not make use of such a powerful tool as a sovereign currency to alleviate very “real” human suffering borders on criminal. We “MUST” work to restore the values and structure of our nation without the constraint of misconceptions and politically motivated mythology as we stare down the barrel of a society where half of existing jobs disappear to automation in a relatively short time span. This will eclipse the job losses resulting from offshoring to date that have so decimated entire cities and states.
That we haven’t done so before now doesn’t speak well for our leadership, or ourselves as citizens. Shouldn’t our lagging performance in comparison to other countries in so many critical sectors be sufficient to inspire introspection? Do we really need devastating economic collapses that create even more human suffering before we put action to our claimed values and national exceptionalism? Churchill once stated that America can always be counted on to do the right thing, right after exhausting all other options. Can’t we prove him wrong this time?