Lunchtime deep thought:
While standing in line at Home Depot, I overheard a man loudly complain about self-checkout machines, and how they were taking away jobs from people. He was expressing a larger, common fear: machines taking our jobs, which often is joined at the hip with foreigners taking our jobs (via free trade).
It is true that machine and foreign competition do change our labor markets, and they do so in ways that threaten the livelihood of our most vulnerable workers. But the worry about "losing our jobs" to machines or foreigners is misdiagnosing the real problem:
Our society has plenty of work that is desperately needed, and plenty of people who desperately need work, but we prefer rich people to pay low taxes.
Just look around. There is work everywhere that needs to be done. There are roads, bridges, and pipes to be fixed. There are railroad lines to be built. There are homes to be constructed. There are solar panels to be installed. There is massive amounts of infrastructure needed to be built to mitigate the dangers of global warming. There are children that need to be taught. There are working families who need someone to provide day care. There are the elderly who need care. There are case workers and public defenders who are extremely overburdened. Work is needed.
There are even things we don't yet know we need or want, but which only exist in the mind of someone overburdened with debt and trapped from starting their own business and realizing their dreams.
If we had a healthy economy, we'd celebrate losing low paying jobs to machines and foreign competition, as it would bring lower prices, leaving more money to be paid in higher wages to workers doing more important work.
While we are a wealthy economy, we are far from a healthy economy. Instead of taxing the immense wealth within our country to lower debt and pay wages to people to do the things we need, we collectively decide to avoid "class warfare" and instead blame the machine or the foreigner.
Nick, I've said for years the goal of the Republican Party is to turn America into Mexico. A very tiny ultra wealthy privileged class, the Dons, rule a huge class of impoverished, desperate peons and just enough of a competent middle-class to provide the rich with their needs.
Ironically, Mexico is beginning to show the signs of a growing middle-class, something that was always an American right -- until Ronald Reagan happened. He reignited the class war that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had won for the majority. That counterrevolution has been incredibly successful. With the death of Antonin Scalia and the presidency of Barack Obama, we might be seeing the beginning of the Restoration.
Hmmm...The French Revolution would be a better example. But I'm too tired to change the Restoration into one of the Republics.
PS, although I did mean "Dons" in the strictly Spanish sense, it does make pretty good pun.