At the beginning of the Obama administration we made a big deal about using federal stimulus funding to fix infrastructure projects that were “shovel ready.” I read this week the dollars sent to California were used not to fix the most pressing problems, but were sent to districts of the most politically connected. I am not surprised. Don’t get me wrong, I have no idea what the most pressing projects were, but I do know how politicians deal with money. Money is power, control the money you have the power to control the political debate. I wonder if the District 1 state senator had seniority over the District 4 senator?
There are so many uninformed statements on Face Book that I’ve got to believe we have become a nation of stupid people, or maybe a nation of people who believe an uninformed public statement is better than actually knowing what you are talking about. My latest example comes from a woman talking about the unfairness of firing people who chose not to come to work on “a day without immigrants.” She noted that all the firings she knew about came from Right to Work states where people could be fired for any reason. Since I didn’t know what the law was I looked it up. Within a minute, I found this:
Right-to-work-laws say workers can be fired for any reason.
Wrong, A common misconception is that, Right-to-work means an employer can fire employees for any reason or no reason at all. Right-to-work laws have absolutely nothing to do with this. What you're talking about here is at-will employment.
Every state but Montana is already an at-will employment state. At-will means your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. Whether your employer doesn't like your shirt, wakes up in a bad mood, or just feels like it, they can fire you at-will unless you have a contract or union agreement saying otherwise.
A union can bargain to change this. Many union agreements have requirements that employers only terminate for just cause.
There should be a Robot Tax
Bill Gates has the video, embedded below, on YouTube where he’s talking about how robots will free up the workers so they can do things that require human empathy like teaching and health care. He then says if a worker making $50 thousand is taxed the robot that replaces him should be taxed to pay for the humans who move into those more noble professions. What gets glossed over in Mr. Gates grand statements is both the humanity affected and the simple economics of his proposal.
From the human side he says, IF we could take the labor and “financially, training-wise, and fulfillment-wise” move them to those jobs requiring human empathy we would have a net gain. A wonderful statement, how can you disagree with it? But as in most utopian dreams the actual society we live in seems to be completely out of sync with the proposal. He says we have severe shortages in teachers and health care workers for the elderly and special needs populations, yet we have approximately 10% to 15% of our labor age population today that is unemployed, why aren’t they flocking to these jobs? Is it training, or financial? I don’t think so. We have a huge outcry for free college because students are graduating with mountains of debt and degrees that do not lead to the jobs they were told would be theirs if just they went to college. Why aren’t all these under-employed and unemployed young people flocking to the severe shortages Mr. Gates referred to? It couldn’t be because they are not interested in them, could it?
So, if the jobs they are interested in are taken over by robots would their job fulfillment expectation change or would they just become bitter and drop out?
On the financial side, he says companies who replace workers should continue to pay the same income taxes they did when they had human workers. He says the robots should pay taxes but they are, at this point, machines who requires no income to survive, just the power and maintenance. Therefore, what his is actually saying is the government should expect the same income from a business as they had before the worker is replaced. Since the Federal government operates at a net loss, why does he think whatever taxed income could be attributed to automation would cover the costs of moving the humans to those human empathy jobs he finds so lacking in today’s world?
But…but… but… Bill Gates is a billionaire, he must know what he’s talking about right?