Don’t let corporate America threaten you with robots

Interesting editorial from the New York Times today. I certainly wasn’t aware of this:

If automation were rapidly accelerating, labor productivity and capital investment would also be surging as fewer workers and more technology did the work. But labor productivity and capital investment have actually decelerated in the 2000s.

Indeed, as the Times hints in the same editorial, much of the hype about automation is ideologically-driven. Defenders of free(er) trade have tried to shift attention from the off-shoring of jobs to the automation of jobs, it notes.

Similarly, automation has become one of the favored talking points of corporations and politicians who oppose higher wages for workers. If employees demand too much, they claim, they will simply be replaced.

What is brilliant about this tactic is that nobody ever says or hints or guesses at when this mystical tipping point will be reached. There are already self-check out aisles at grocery stores and kiosks at some fast food joints. And yet in other places, low-wage human labor is still very much in style. In fact, the guy Trump nominated to oversee our nation’s labor laws outlined a number of reasons that machines are preferable to humans that have nothing to do with wages: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

Andy Puzder’s logic pretty much sums up the prevailing thinking of the ruling class on workers rights: If they are an inconvenience to big business then they must be bad for everybody. The abuses are unfortunate, some might concede, but they are just the price we must continue to pay, lest corporate America get fed up with our bitching and take away the tiny morsel of the pie that it so graciously allows us to nibble on.

Companies will get rid of their workers as soon as it becomes profitable to do so. But as long as they’re taking your time and your labor, they should pay you enough to live on.