Our latest video displays Clinton corruption in all its most recent glory:
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Andy Kessler maintains that we shouldn’t be too concerned about the ‘robot threat’ to jobs. Much of his argument revolves around the idea that technological change has worked out in the past and so it will work out again:“[T]echnology always creates more jobs than it destroys”.
Maybe so, but history doesn’t always repeat itself. Besides, the past is not quite as reassuring as Mr. Kessler would have his readers think. Yes, historically technology has created more (and better) jobs, but over time. What happens in the interim can be on the alarming side. I touched on this lag in the course of a recent piece on our robot friends for NRODT.
We comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the Luddites were proved wrong, but we forget that proof of that was quite a while in coming. Economic historian Robert C. Allen refers to the decades that it took for real wages to rise in Britain after the technological changes of the early 19th century as “Engels’ Pause.” That’s the same Engels who argued in The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845) that the industrial revolution had made workers worse off. Over the long term, things changed for the better, but what happened in the interim should concern those worried about the political consequences of this latest technological revolution. These were the years not just of the Luddites, but also of the Peterloo Massacre, the Swing Riots, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and the 1842 General Strike. By the time of the Chartists, a mass movement of the working class, an explicitly political agenda had evolved alongside struggles over pay. Engels took things even further. In 1848 he co-wrote The Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx, not an encouraging thought.
Giving the examples of the media and Wall Street, Kessler goes on to argue that technology “augments humans, rather than replaces them”. Yes and no. Technology may make humans better at their jobs, but it may also mean that fewer humans are needed to do them. To take Kessler’s two examples, this is something that workers in the financial world are currently discovering, and those in the media have known for a long while. Check out the US Bureau of Labor Statistics data on employment in the media (broadly defined) here. We live in an age of proliferating media, and yet fewer now work in that sector than did in 1990, a time when the overall work force is significantly smaller than it is today.
Kessler argues that Chinese workers “shouldn’t fear robots”. On the contrary, they should. As Tyler Cowen notes, ‘premature deindustrialization’ is gathering pace. Foxconn has reportedly replaced more than half its workforce with robots since the launch of the iPhone 6. With robots able to take on more and more manufacturing more and more cheaply China’s labor cost advantage is worth a great deal less. Why should a firm serving advanced markets locate in China, or India, or Vietnam, or…, when it can base production close to the end-consumer in a rich country where the legal, political and physical infrastructure is so much better? As for the implications of all this for the development hopes of those far poorer nations, mainly in Africa, from where so much of the world’s population growth is forecast to be coming? Not great.
Being a doctor is no longer a “good job”?
The reality now is that automation is moving from brawn to brain. Yes, smart folk will still be needed to work with smart technology, but when so much of the brain work is automated, will they be paid so much to do so? I doubt it.
At a less elevated level, Kessler tells us that bank-tellers “are doing higher-end banking tasks now that low-level cash dispensing is handled by ATMs”. Maybe they are, but not a lot of cash is being dispensed into their pay checks. Median pay for bank tellers was $25,000 in 2012 and, according, at least, to one report, “almost a third of tellers and their families nationwide are on public assistance.”
And as technology works its way higher and higher up the food chain, those being displaced will be among the most able, the most educated and the most able to make themselves heard. They are unlikely to take it quietly.
To be sure, Kessler admits that “some” people will get left behind, but:
Yes, some people are left behind. But as society gets wealthier, we can help them catch up. We need to get our education system right, teach the fundamentals of computer science much earlier, and provide continuing education on how to adapt to changing technology and adopt these new tools. I can think of a dozen community-college courses besides French literature to assist displaced workers. Some could even be taught by robots.
There go the adjuncts!
And then there’s this (from the Economic Policy Institute in 2013):
“[T]he number of new graduates with engineering and computer science degrees exceeds the number of graduates who actually find jobs in these fields by 50 percent.”
Meanwhile, a 2012 New York Fed study noted that demand for “cognitive skill” has fallen since the late 1990s.
What, I wonder, will these displaced workers be taught?
Gary Johnson, speaking with the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times earlier this month:
I’m open also to the notion of a carbon tax. That it does have an impact, that it ends up being revenue-neutral. I’m not looking at this as a revenue generator, as much as there are costs associated with, there are health and safety issues with carbon.
Johnson’s the kind of Libertarian who doesn’t just want unrestricted access to abortion, but opposes cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He thinks it’s okay for New Mexico to fine a photographer for refusing to work at a gay wedding, because “on the basis of religious freedom, being able to discriminate — something that is currently not allowed — discrimination will exist in places we never dreamed of.”
Finally, the vice-presidential nominee of the party that’s supposed to stand for individual liberty recently talked about how the most popular rifle in America and handguns are on par with nuclear weapons. No, really. I wish I was making this up, but there’s video.
“The five-shot rifle, that’s a standard military rifle; the problem is if you attach a clip to it so it can fire more shells and if you remove the pin so that it becomes an automatic weapon, and those are independent criminal offenses. That is when they become, essentially, a weapon of mass destruction. The problem with handguns probably is even worse than the problem of the AR15.”
This sort of language would be over-the-top coming from the Brady Campaign or Mike Bloomberg. It’s just inexplicable coming from the Libertarian ticket, and suggests that Weld is a fair-weather friend of the Second Amendment at best. No surprise to those of us who studied his record in office:
While failing to keep his fiscal promises, Weld also managed to make some moves on cultural issues that are seriously inconvenient for a Libertarian candidate in 2016. In 1993, as governor, he endorsed a slew of gun-control proposals: a statewide ban on assault weapons, a waiting period for buying handguns, a limit on the number of handguns an individual could buy, and a prohibition on handgun ownership by anyone under 21. “The purpose of this common-sense legislation is to remove deadly guns from our streets and to take weapons out of the hands of many teens who themselves are becoming deadly killers,” he said at the time.
Great choices, Libertarians!
I’ve taken some grief from my #NeverTrump friends over Reince Priebus and his stewardship of the RNC in the Trump era (short may it reign). Where the prevailing sentiment seems to be, “Off with his head!” I’ve been something of an apologist for the beleaguered party boss.
I think the expectations placed on Priebus have been unrealistic. He’s not going to overturn primary voters’ decision to nominate Trump, nor should he be expected to do so. That’s outside his jurisdiction and not how the party works, even though Republicans — against all laws of metaphysics and logic — nominated a walking obscenity to run against the weakest Democratic candidate since Mondale.
When you elect someone to a leadership post, that’s what you need. You want someone who will faithfully execute his duties, not when they’re easy, but when they are hard. As polls show the Republican party doing an authentic reenactment of the RMS Titanic’s courtship of an iceberg, there is Priebus on the bridge, stoically going down with the ship.
There’s honor in that, right?
Donald Trump is teetering on the brink of a historic defeat, but Republican National Committee officials are poised to reward the party’s chairman Reince Priebus with another term. Priebus is soliciting support for January’s chairmanship election — leaving some insiders with the impression that he is preparing for a future with the party after a Trump loss.
Okay, so maybe he’s not going down with the ship.
I’m a gooey, naive Priebus defending squish and even I can’t get behind this. Here’s a lesson we can take from the British. After Prime Minister David Cameron lost the Brexit vote, he honorably resigned, citing a need for “fresh leadership” after a divisive period in his country’s history. He walked away with his dignity intact, having fought the good fight and lost.
Reince was dealt a tough hand. He played it as true to RNC rules as he could, maintaining strict neutrality in the primary then backing the GOP nominee. He can be proud of that. But this has been a terrible time for the party, and November will be equally terrible. He is, by no fault of his own, a symbol of that discord — win or lose.
Chairman Priebus should hold his head up high, knowing that he faithfully executed the duties of the office that he swore to uphold.
And then resign with honor.
From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:
Trump: ‘Obama Got Tremendous Numbers of People Out of the Country.’
“We’re going to obey the existing laws. Now, the existing laws are very strong. The existing laws, the first thing we’re gonna do, if and when I win, is we’re gonna get rid of all of the bad ones. We’ve got gang members, we have killers, we have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country,” he said on Fox News. “As far as everybody else, we’re going to go through the process. What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country, Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m gonna do the same thing.”
[Host Bill] O’Reilly then mentioned detention centers, prompting Trump to quickly shoot down the idea of keeping undocumented immigrants in detention centers.
“You don’t have to put them in a detention center,” Trump said.
“I never even heard the term. I’m not gonna put them in a detention center,” he added. “We want to do it in a very humane manner.”
Great news, immigration hawks! Trump will emulate those tough policies of… Obama and Bush! Aren’t you thrilled? Haven’t you passionately campaigned for the status quo all these years?
And just think, we were doubting Trump’s ability to pivot!
St. Bartholomew’s Day – some history (including the massacre), a brief documentary, and Monty Python.
How to Undress in 20 Seconds or Less, and the tactical order of re-dressing.
How People Call Cats In Different Countries.
ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include Dorothy Parker’s birthday and the long, weird journey of her ashes, the United States’ first trip to the Olympics, the world’s only surviving tattoo shop for medieval pilgrims, and a supercut of technology breaking down, then being beaten until it works again.
The Republican base still has not united behind Donald Trump.
This explains why he’s polling at or below 40 percent in the majority of surveys taken, both nationally and in battleground states, over the past three weeks. That’s a sharp drop-off from late July, when, immediately following a week of solidarity-themed speeches at the GOP convention, Trump registered in the mid-forties in a chorus of surveys and was neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton.
But that’s easier said than done. The reason Republicans remain divided, even at this late stage, is simple: Trump has spent the past 14 months appealing to one wing of the party at the expense of the other.
To review: Republican voters, broadly speaking, can be divided into two camps. The first is comprised of those who live in middle- and upper-class suburbs, earned college degrees, and have white-collar careers. The second is home to those who live in rural settings or working-class suburbs, are less educated, and hold blue-collar jobs. (Ron Brownstein dubbed these groups “Managers” and “Populists.”) The latter was hugely supportive of Trump during the GOP primary, in large part due to his policies and rhetoric on immigration, and continues to back him enthusiastically. The former was divided between several candidates, Trump included, and has not fully embraced him as the party’s standard-bearer, in large part due to his policies and rhetoric on immigration.
The result is a schizophrenic strategy for consolidating the Republican base, one that vacillates between different sound bites for different voters on different days. Instead of a standard campaign playbook that emphasizes consistency, Trump is now adopting a scattershot approach that has something for everyone. Consider the events of last week:
– On Monday, Trump gave a major national-security speech in Ohio, likening the fight against radical Islam to the Cold War and calling for aggressive new measures to combat terrorism. Trump did not mention his pledge to prevent all Muslims from entering the U.S. — which proved decidedly unpopular with the GOP’s managerial wing — but still implied blanket opposition to accepting any Syrian refugees, and proposed “extreme vetting” for anyone coming from a country afflicted with terrorism. He also called for an “ideological test” to ensure that immigrants share American values.
– On Tuesday, Trump delivered a speech in Wisconsin ostensibly aimed at black voters, whom he said Democrats had “failed and betrayed” with their policies. Trump gave the speech not in Milwaukee, which is 40 percent black, but in suburban Washington County, which, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, “has a black population of 1.2%” This was no accident: College-educated Republicans have been most adamant about their party projecting compassion and inclusiveness toward minority communities — and Trump has struggled to win their support as a result. Trump wasn’t speaking to urban, black Democrats on Tuesday; he was speaking to suburban, white Republicans who think its important that the party speak to urban, black Democrats.
– On Wednesday, Trump made two major staff changes that sent dueling signals about the direction of his campaign. Trump announced that Stephen Bannon — the establishment-bashing chairman of Breitbart Media, an ultra-conservative website that’s become home to the xenophobic and race-baiting “alt-right” — would become his campaign’s new CEO. At the same time, Trump announced he was elevating pollster Kellyanne Conway — a longtime Republican operative who has focused on appealing to women, and who once supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants — to become his new campaign manager.
– On Thursday, Trump gave a speech in Charlotte that was widely praised as his finest of the campaign, during which he expressed vague “regret” for offenses he may have caused (while stopping short of offering specifics or any sort of apology.). Trump continued his outreach to black voters, asking them, after decades of failed Democratic leadership in America’s cities, “What do you have to lose?” He also struck notes of unity and optimism, pledging to protect equality for women, gays, Hispanics and other minority groups. Trump talked of a “New American Future” and, as the Washington Examiner’s Byron York observed, used the word “together” seven times. It was the closest Trump has sounded to a centrist in 2016.
– On Friday, Trump released his first TV ad of the general-election campaign, a 30-second spot featuring dark and ominous images of immigrants streaming across open borders and warning that Syrian refugees would “flood in” under President Hillary Clinton. … An hour after the ad’s release, Trump confirmed the resignation of campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who months earlier had replaced the bomb-throwing former manager Corey Lewandowski atop Trump’s electoral enterprise in what allies described as a pivot for Trump away from controversies and toward being more presidential.
– On Saturday, Trump broadened his message to the black community, telling a rally in Virginia, “The GOP is the party of Abraham Lincoln. And I want our party to be the home of the African-American voter once again.” … He also met with his Hispanic advisory council at Trump Tower in New York City, and reports quickly surfaced in BuzzFeed and Univision that Trump was softening his stance on immigration — and even considering mass legalization for those living in the U.S. illegally. Those reports suggested that Trump was preparing to announce a significant shift in his immigration policy this coming Thursday in Colorado.
– On Sunday, Bannon’s website Breitbart.com pushed back forcefully against those news accounts: “Trump did not say or suggest that he was open to granting any legal status–amnesty–to any illegal aliens in the United States at his campaign’s National Hispanic Advisory Council meeting as reported in BuzzFeed and Univision.” … On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Conway was quizzed on these conflicting reports, and asked repeatedly whether Trump still supported the “deportation force” he promised during the GOP primary. After deflecting twice, she finally responded, “To be determined.”
There’s a famous quote, attributed to Talleyrand, about the behavior of the Bourbons when they returned to the French throne after the fall of Napoleon:
They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians.
And (via Business Insider):
“We have to fight against nationalism,” said Juncker, who is the president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch. “We have the duty not to follow populists but to block the avenue of populists.
Absent: Any thought that it might be a good idea to deal with the concerns that have turned voters towards populism.
Meanwhile, writing in the Guardian, Bremainer Anatole Kaletsky argues that the EU leadership should present the UK with a choice between a genuinely new deal or a ‘hard Brexit’:
Suppose EU leaders invited the British government to negotiate on the policies that dominated the referendum and are also fueling resentment in other European countries: loss of local control over immigration; the transfer of power from national parliaments to Brussels; and erosion of social models that depend on strong bonds of citizenship and generous welfare states.
Imagine, for example, that EU leaders endorsed Denmark’s recent proposal to allow national governments to differentiate between welfare payments to citizens and recent immigrants, or that it extended to all of Europe the Swiss plan for an “emergency brake” against sudden immigration surges. Imagine them easing the counterproductive budget and banking rules that have suffocated southern Europe. Imagine, finally, that the EU acknowledged that centralisation of power has gone too far and formally ended the drive for “ever closer union”.
That would indeed be something, but then Kaletsky crashes back to earth:
Such reforms are considered unthinkable in Brussels, because they would require treaty changes and could be rejected by voters. But voters who opposed previous EU treaties for centralising power would almost certainly welcome reforms that restored authority to national parliaments. The real obstacle to reform is not the difficulty of treaty change; it is the bureaucracy’s resistance to ceding power.
The European commission remains obsessed with defending the acquis communautaire, the collection of powers “acquired” by the Union, which EU doctrine dictates must never be returned to nation states. Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president, and his chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, have even welcomed Brexit as a chance to “strengthen the acquis” by centralising power even more.
Juncker, like May, should recall King Canute. The tide of national democracy is rising across Europe, and slogans about “ever closer union” will not reverse it. European leaders must acknowledge reality – or watch Europe drown
There, I suspect, Kaletsky is, in a sense, too optimistic. I’m sometimes told by milder euroskeptics that Britain would do better to remain within the EU until the point of the union’s inevitable, not so far distant, terminal crisis, at which point the UK would, as an insider, be far better placed to cut a good deal with whatever constellation emerged next. I can see the appeal of that argument, but I don’t buy it. The euro has, against all the odds and most of the commonsense, held together and, so I think, will the EU. It will not drown, but it will stagnate, further draining democracy and economic vitality from its member-states.
Waiting for the inevitable break-up that is anything but would thus be an expensive gamble that would be almost certain to fail.
The one and only.