The automation and robotization of American industry has been going on for a long time now. It is part of the reason, along with the offshoring of jobs, that industrial jobs which so many working families used to depend on are more and more difficult to find in America.
Of course the robots are descending on everyone including many professionals like book keepers and lawyers. However, robots are eliminating the jobs of the Trump base more disproportionately than other segments of our society.
In a Dec 13, 2018 article in the New York Times, Thomas B Edsall says that “The adverse effects of automation fall disproportionately on the voters who cast most of their ballots for Trump in 2016: White men, much more than women and whites without college degrees.” And this, says Edsall, “is leaving many ‘casualties of history’ in its wake.”
Edsall got much of the information in his article from a paper published earlier this year titled “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Labor Markets,” which was written by Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, economists at M.I.T. and Boston University.
The fact that Daron Acemoglu was a co-author of this paper was quite interesting to me since I found his book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty absolutely first rate. Anyway this is another story that I shall get to someday soon.
Another interesting aspect of the robot story is that Trump’s recent tax cut actually hastened the arrival of robots to Trump Country. How this happened is revealed in the take-aways from the main article below.
Again, the relevance of Trump and his base to environmentalism is that Trump is the major block to environmental progress in the US and it is his base that keeps him in office. If workers realized that Trump is actually not their friend, perhaps they would vote against him and aid environmentalism.
As usual, the entire article can be accessed from the link at the bottom of this page.
“The adverse effects of automation fall disproportionately on the voters who cast most of their ballots for Trump in 2016: White men, much more than women and whites without college degrees.”
“In a paper that was published earlier this year, “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Labor Markets,” Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, economists at M.I.T. and Boston University, demonstrate that the Midwest and sections of the South have far higher ratios of robots to population than other regions of the United States.”
“Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut has increased incentives to replace workers with robots, contradicting his campaign promise to restore well-paying manufacturing jobs in the nation’s heartland.
The Trump tax bill permits “U.S. corporations to expense their capital investment, through 2022. So, if a U.S. corporation buys a robot for $100 thousand, it can deduct the $100 thousand immediately to calculate its U.S. taxable income, rather than recover the $100 thousand over the life of the robot, as under prior law,” Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a specialist in tax policy, wrote me by email.”
Edsall points out “That the sum of wage payments to workers is growing more slowly than economic value-added, so labor’s share of the pie of net earnings is falling. This doesn’t mean that wages are falling. It means that they are not growing in lock step with value-added.” And this is part of the fact that while employee efficiency is growing rapidly in America, middle class wages have grown only a tiny bit when inflation is taken into account. This means that owners and capital are raking in the big bucks while workers and labor are losing out. Every year workers are getting further and further behind the guys that are making out like bandits. And the bandits are getting richer and richer at the expense of labor which is making more and more goods every year. This has been going on for almost fifty years now in America. It is basically why the working class is no longer able to afford a decent lifestyle. And it is, of course, a lot of why they are so angry at elites. Who could blame them?
The article goes on to say that there are both similarities and differences between what happened to workers in the 19th century industrial revolution in England and what has happened to America workers in the deindustrialization of America.
Edsall says that “E.P. Thompson, author of the classic work of British history, “The Making of the English Working Class,” described the brutality of economic transformation during the Industrial Revolution in Britain:
The experience of immiseration came upon the English working class in a hundred different forms; for the field laborer, the loss of his common rights and the vestiges of village democracy; for the artisan, the loss of his craftsman’s status; for the weaver, the loss of livelihood and of independence; for the child, the loss of work and play in the home; for many groups of workers whose real earnings improved, the loss of security, leisure and the deterioration of the urban environment.
While there are parallels between the conditions of workers during industrialization in England and during the de-industrialization of regions of this country now, one big difference stands out from a political vantage point: In England, workers turned sharply to the left while here they have moved sharply to the right.”
The image at the top of this page was taken from the Going to the Sun Highway
in Glacier National Park in Montana.
It has been said that this highway is the most scenic in the entire country.