Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's Not Just Manufacturing--Or Men, For That Matter

In an earlier post, I wrote about the devastation of small-town industrial middle America, and how it contributed to the level of economic desperation that made Donald Trump an attractive candidate to many of the residents of these towns.  In doing so, I touched on the role that the economic policies of the 1980s contributed to that desperation.  I neglected to mention, however, the role that automation has played, and continues to play, in creating the desperation and making it even worse.

Nothing, not even the level of federal involvement in my earlier post (which I continue to advocate) is going to make the devastated communities of our country what they used to be.  And automation is the single greatest reason for that right now.  Even if the companies themselves came back, they wouldn't be offering many new jobs, unless those jobs were in robotics.  And even the availability of overseas work forces don't matter; the jobs that were exported from the United States, and many of the indigenous ones, are being automated out of existence.

We're familiar with the role that robotics have played in eliminating manufacturing jobs, but, until recently, less has been said about the role that e-commerce has played in devastating traditional, bricks-and-mortar retail shopping.  No aspect of retail shopping is immune:  not luxury retailing, not suburban shopping, not even the traditional urban centers that long ago adapted to the flight of businesses into the suburbs.  And this guarantees a degree of gender equality in the devastation. While most manufacturing jobs have been held by men, most jobs in retail are held by women. One is forced to wonder whether the loss of retail jobs will get the same political attention that has been given to manufacturing losses.

In any case, it's time to take technology, and make it work for everyone, and not just the 1%.  How about it, progressives?  Want a 2018 issue?  Here you go--something that could bring male and female voters together.

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