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Nice job you got there - too bad it won't last.

If you think I'm not talking to you, you're mistaken. I don't even have to know what your occupation is. I can think of at least five trends that threaten your job. One is what we remain in the middle of - a jobless recovery. Maybe you've already lost your job to that, and can't find another, or can't find a job that pays as well.

But maybe you believe in the business cycle, and that we'll all be singing Happy Days
Are Here Again
in the near future, instead of the current chart-topper, There but for the Grace of God Go I.

Meet four other job-killing trends over the fold.

Not to keep you in suspense, here are four trends that are after your job:

1. Off-shoring
2. De-skilling
3. Product design
4. Automation
Off-shoring is already familiar. Basically, it means moving jobs from a first-world country to a third-world country. It probably started in the late 1950s/early 1960s when jobs moved from the industrial northeast and midwest to backwaters like Mississippi, Texas and Florida. Companies weren't moving there for the nice weather - not so much as for the low-paid, non-union labor and lax regulation in areas like safety or pollution control.

Then jobs moved to Canada and Mexico, aided by NAFTA, and when those became too expensive or too regulated, to China, and when that became too expensive, Thailand, Viet Nam and Bangladesh, and if you thought the race to the bottom would end there, there's this:

My name is Tony Smith. I am President and CEO of Limitless Electronics, a company that I founded in April 2011, based in Seattle, Washington. And we design and manufacture consumer electronic products.

  ---- snip ----

And we also operate factories and we are building right now our hybrid office in Africa that will pretty much assemble different components that we are using to build our devices.

Specifically, Cameroon, in Central Africa. Presumably Somalia was too expensive with too much government interference.

Some people claim that few or no jobs have been shipped overseas. For example, the jobs building the Apple II or the original Macs weren't shipped overseas. Apple just discontinued those products. All of its new products - iPods, iPads, iMacs, iPhones and everything else - are built in China by Foxconn. See? No jobs were transferred.

De-skilling doesn't seem like a job killer at first - you just take an existing job and re-structure it so it can done by someone with less skill or formal training. Teach for America will train you to be a teacher in five weeks, not four years of traditional college education. Medical judgment is replaced by evidence-based medicine, lack of need for skilled judgment means that nurse practitioners or physician's assistants, or eventually computers, can now do an MDs work (same price for an office visit, but a lot lower labor cost), or paralegals do what junior, and eventually senior, attorneys used to do.

Notice that none of those are manufacturing jobs - nearly any service job can be de-skilled, even if it can't be off-shored (and things like reading X-rays or producing legal documents are already off-shored too, and I have friends who get their dental work done in Mexico). Don't worry that the quality usually suffers - if you have enough money, your kids will be taught by a real teacher, and you can see a real doctor or lawyer. And as cynical as that sounds, it isn't meant to belittle nurse practitioners, physician's assistants or paralegals, or even computers, who can all perform vital services in a well-structured system - the idea behind de-skilling, however, is not to improve service delivery, but to reduce delivery costs.

And cost reduction is what's wanted here. Consider this: suppose you sell a product for $100 that costs $80 to make - $20 profit. Suppose you sell 1,000 of those, and make $20,000 profit. Now suppose you want more profit. You can increase sales by 1%, and you'll make another $200. Or you can cut costs by 1%, to $79.20, and make $800 more profit - 4 times the profit for 1% cost reduction vs. 1% increase in sales. And increasing sales is hard and risky. Cutting wages, or labor costs, is easy and certain. Increasing sales costs money too, for advertising or more salespeople, for example.

Cutting costs by driving wages down might cost very little, but there's a limit. And there are two more ways to cut costs and kill jobs at the same time (the two efforts being more or less the same thing): re-designing your product or automating. Technology is a job killer.

Again, be clear that this isn't just a problem for people in manufacturing - most service jobs can be re-designed to need fewer workers, or even automated out of existence. Both of these changes are in the realm of technology. For example, as Benjamin Braddock was advised in The Graduate ... Plastics!. Molded plastic parts allow you to build things that snap together, eliminating fasteners and the people who hold the screw-driver. You can mold in features to reduce the number of pieces to be handled and assembled, reduce the parts count. And one person can operate 3 or 4 injection molding machines which are highly automated.

If you can't get rid of the screws, make them intelligent

Each fastener is a mechanical device consisting of a pin or socket that locks into a male or female part and an actuator that releases the device.

  ---- snip ----

Wilson believes that intelligent fastening changes how platforms are put together: “It’s about taking the power of computing down to the level of the basic building block, which is the fastening device.” He adds that the technology offers a new way to create intelligent tools and fastening devices with electronics built into each component. Automating each of the components allows software to control the entire assembly process so that humans would not be required to perform construction and maintenance. “We are talking about reinventing the way that things get assembled,” he maintains.

Expedia, Travelocity and William Shatner put travel agents out of work. You now pump your gas (offer not valid in Oregon) or do your own grocery checkout. Hollywood Video and Blockbuster employees have been replaced by Netflix employees stuffing envelopes, who will eventually be replaced by streaming video. One DJ tapes radio shows that are broadcast over dozens of stations across the country. There's no shortage of service sector examples. All brought to you by technology - re-designing or automating jobs out of existence.

Laura Clawson front-paged  a great article, Low-wage manufacturing is on the rise, which is well worth reading. In the comments section there was some discussion of the fact that people have been telling scary stories about automation killing jobs probably since the time of the Luddites. Kurt Vonnegut wrote his first book on just that topic - Player Piano - in the late 1940s (when he worked for General Electric).

But there is an instance of an entire industry's employment automated and re-designed  away: agriculture. In the 19th century, it's estimated between 70% to 80% of the workforce was engaged in farming. Today it's 2% or less, and almost entirely due to technological advances. It's true that some of those 75% of ag jobs that disappeared were replaced by food processing jobs - slaughterhouses, making Wheaties, bakeries, etc. - but on nowhere near the scale at which jobs ceased to exist.

And to underscore the changes technology - automation and re-design - is having now, the AP is running a 3 part series on the topic, the first part, Recession, tech kill middle-class jobs ran today. From the article:

Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What's more, these jobs aren't just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren't just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.

They're being obliterated by technology.

It isn't just the Apple II assemblers or people on the line at GM or Ford:
Some of the most startling studies have focused on midskill, midpay jobs that require tasks that follow well-defined procedures and are repeated throughout the day. Think travel agents, salespeople in stores, office assistants and back-office workers like benefits managers and payroll clerks, as well as machine operators and other factory jobs. An August 2012 paper by economists Henry Siu of the University of British Columbia and Nir Jaimovich of Duke University found these kinds of jobs comprise fewer than half of all jobs, yet accounted for nine of 10 of all losses in the Great Recession. And they have kept disappearing in the economic recovery.
It isn't just in the US either - the trend is worse in Europe (unemployment approaching 12%, still in recession) and even affecting places like Japan. And it will affect the current low wage countries - like China - as wages and living standards rise. In fact many compainies maximize the bang for the buck by heavily automating at the same time they build new plants - or outsource to contract manufacturers - in low-skill, low-wage countries. Even Foxconn, the Apple contract assembler infamous for recent worker suicides, is planning to install a million robots in the near future.

Economists, on the left at least, bemoan the fact that while industry has seen dramatic productivity increases (think about the fact that during a recession and declining sales, US companies have increased profits by as much as 33% - see the cost reduction example above, again), the productivity increases haven't trickled down to worker paychecks, which, in real dollars, are a few hundred dollars below their 1970 levels. But while in the past, productivity improvement came from workers working harder and smarter, today that improvement comes from capital investment - and fewer workers, besides. Under our current systems of economics and politics, the returns from those improvements flow to the people who made the investments.

For the short-term, we need to get Americans working again, even if it isn't at the wage-levels they held previously. But in the long run we need to plan for an economy where not everyone will have a job, and not everyone will be able to earn their daily bread through their labor, no matter how energetic or hard-working they are. In a culture where food, clothing, shelter, and for many, even medical care depends on having a job, and where the safety net, already inadequate, continues to shrink, joblessness equates to homelessness, hunger, and early death. We need to devise ways for everyone to survive at a decent standard of living in the face of not enough jobs - decent jobs, at least - for everyone.

If we weren't in a global economy, we might talk about slowing productivity growth, reducing automation and even innovation. When you have competitors not foregoing those things, it becomes impossible to compete, just as when your competitors will labor for $1 a day instead of $20 an hour and benefits you need for a middle class existence, minimum.

It's the challenge for this century that no one is talking about, and there are no easy solutions, and probably no solutions without significant changes to our cultural framework and social structure. Although we can look to countries like Haiti to see the ultimate endpoint of failing to address the problems. It's, admittedly, a long way to get there, but we're already on the road, and there are no exit ramps unless we figure out how to build them. But I'm sure there are a few people living well in Haiti, and you might just be one of them.

Perhaps you've heard that Apple, and some other companies, are moving jobs back to the US, and anticipate a manufacturing or even employment renaissance here. Again, from the AP article cited above:

"The jobs that are going away aren't coming back," says Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of "Race Against the Machine." ''I have never seen a period where computers demonstrated as many skills and abilities as they have over the past seven years."

The global economy is being reshaped by machines that generate and analyze vast amounts of data; by devices such as smartphones and tablet computers that let people work just about anywhere, even when they're on the move; by smarter, nimbler robots; and by services that let businesses rent computing power when they need it, instead of installing expensive equipment and hiring IT staffs to run it. Whole employment categories, from secretaries to travel agents, are starting to disappear.

"There's no sector of the economy that's going to get a pass," says Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote "The Lights in the Tunnel," a book predicting widespread job losses. "It's everywhere."

But perhaps you're an optimist and thinking, "Well, there's always that job flipping burgers at McDonald's or Burger King that I can fall back on."

Not so much:


No longer will they say, “He’s going to end up flipping burgers.” Because now, robots are taking even these ignobly esteemed jobs. Alpha machine from Momentum Machines cooks up a tasty burger with all the fixins. And it does it with such quality and efficiency it’ll produce “gourmet quality burgers at fast food prices.”

Originally posted to badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:03 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well aren't you just (17+ / 0-)

    the optimist.

    FYI  NJ  also does not permit you to pump your own gas, at least on the turnpike. Next many grocery stores are getting rid self check-out because the customers do not like them. And yes travel agents still do exist, just not many. Believe or not there is still some travel that you cannot do without going through an agent.

    Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?

    by jsfox on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:10:24 PM PST

    •  I thought it was NJ too (14+ / 0-)

      but I wasn't sure, as I've never embarrassed myself there by jumping out of the car and pumping my own gas as I have in OR.

      I think self-checkout sucks, but I think they'll probably come back with version 2.0 eventually, too. Especially since some of the big chains are unionized.

      There are still travel agents. There are probably still scribes creating illuminated manuscripts too. I wouldn't pin my future on either field - well, maybe scribe has a future.

      I have a friend who's a travel agent, and her work seems to revolve around gambling junkets to various places besides Las Vegas and Atlantic City. There are always good niche jobs - just not a few hundred million of them in the future.

      Farriers (clean hooves and shoe horses) make good money - really. It's not a growth industry.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:22:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe not NOW... (8+ / 0-)
        Farriers (clean hooves and shoe horses) make good money - really. It's not a growth industry.
        Let's just say it's in hiatus.  >$10/gal gasoline may make horses more practical in some quarters.
        •  Farriers industry HAS ALWAYS BEEN GROWING - snark (5+ / 0-)

          Only funny if you know a damn thing about why farriers need to do their job.  And they don't "clean hooves and shoe horses", THEY trim hooves and re-shoe horses.   BIG f-ing difference.

          Now on to reality - for farriers.  In many parts of the country farriers are in great demand.  The job is VERY tough physically, requires years of training, and a farrier MUST be not just comfortable around horses but a good horseman/woman.  So even with the bad economy and the smaller number of horses in the US it is not a bad job.

          And farriers will never be outsourced or automated.

          Also many farriers do welding and blacksmithing on the side.

          •  I stand (somewhat) corrected (0+ / 0-)

            I'll stand by "clean" hooves, because I've watched them pick all the stuff out of there, but I'd forgotten about the "trim hooves" part, which is the most important.

            My wife is the horse expert in the family - I'm basically a city kid.

            But I'm sorry for my error - cuts me to the quick, as the saying goes.

            Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

            by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:07:05 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I've been saying (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          for years that we're going to go back to horses.  We'll probably need lots of mules and oxen too, to tear up all the asphalt and highways.  Of course, it will be hard to feed all of those animals when we're in perpetual drought.  

      •  I often wonder why progressives, (10+ / 0-)

        who support the working class, seem to buy into the notion that we need to import millions of ordinary temp workers each year.

        How is it possible that so many people don't see the direct link between skilled employment based immigration and the rising unemployment of the skilled local population.

        •  Brief optimum age range (0+ / 0-)

          Everybody's poorer worker after 30.
          No shooting star companies founded in a garage, by founders  past age of 30. No wiz coding grunts over 30 hired by google.

          Everything else in this thread is unreasonably pessimistic.
          In the agricultural age, kids grew up learning to 'operate' an ox in the field.
          But in 2013, very few kids grow up even thinking about oxen.
          Good schools cater to kids whose career will include bots.

          No matter the workplace, employees will always need self-defense ('unions', etc)

          ♥ Repeal the Capital Gains, Carried Interest & Dividends Entitlements bequeathed to 'more special' taxpayers.

          by in on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:01:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Re (10+ / 0-)
      Next many grocery stores are getting rid self check-out because the customers do not like them
      For now. Eventually everything will have a distance RFID tag and you just walk out through a fast lane style archway, cart full, having previously registered a credit card account.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:41:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some people will still (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle

        either need to pay cash (or SNAP) or want to get cash back when they debit.

        You can't really automate SNAP b/c of the items disallowed: like toilet paper and shampoo.  And so a human needs to run at least some registers b/c what company in its right mind would allow a cash register to open so someone could steal whatever was in it?

        I have heard some speculation about self-serve bars, too.  But you'd still need somebody to say, "You've had enough, pal.  Go home, sleep it off, and come back tomorrow."  Not to mention a bouncer or two in case of trouble.  So why bother with the automation?

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 11:00:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  smart labels (5+ / 0-)

          or data retrieval will flag not allowed snap items, can also be automated

          fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

          by mollyd on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 11:14:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, sure. (0+ / 0-)

            Look: I ring up ten allowed items and two disallowed items.  The register gives the SNAP total, and we do the SNAP transaction.  Then the customer pays in cash for the non-SNAP items.  Then the cash register opens to take the cash.  You see?  Someone (me) is needed to take care of the cash payment.

            Because who wants the register to spring open so the customer can remove all the cash, rather than putting some in?

            To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

            by Youffraita on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:03:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Not fast & efficient at all, horrible. Safeway now (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle, badger

        has only self checkout, no cashiers from 10-12pm. They have long lines, and the machines are incredibly annoying and difficult. It repeated something 29 times at me that was irrelevant. I hate them.

        No, this will not stand.

        •  Your picking fly shit out of pepper (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          No one gets out alive

          When you devolve into an argument that a low paying job like a cashier is going to be automated. This is coming from a guy who likes automated lanes.

          The problem that this diary expounds on is the removal of living wage jobs. That is the only thing that needs to be addressed.  Ultimately, living wage jobs define the middle class.  A living wage job is  systematically being reduced to only very specialized high skilled people jobs.
          Note I did not put education in there.  

          There are jobs that are scorned by many that will survive. Everyone thought it was the "death of a salesman" when e-commerce came. Then it became Death to high level salespeople when Ariba and Commerce One (C1 now defunct) came up with B2B marketplaces. It was the opposite . They did change the profession name to "Business development" since sales brings up visions  of liars wearing flashy suits who has unerring skill of talking people into doing things they don't  want to do. That was never part of the profession. Those people generally end up in Jail unless they are from Wall Street.

          As everyone who was talking about this, I realized it was total Bullshit having once been in B2B sales for 13 years. I burned out young flying to Asia 15 times a year.  I have  close friends who have stayed in it for 30+ years and are earning in the low 6 to mid 6 level with only a mild increase in effort since 2008. None of them have college educations.  It's a hard job to learn. The rejection rate at the start is huge. Most people can't take that. But those who can , have been rewarded handsomely and will continue to be. Retail salespeople may be an exception because they always get screwed. [ See apple. See apple's stock price].

          This suggests that people to people skills that require skills like situational awareness , timing , and judgement are not going to be automated. Believe me if they could they would . No one has found a way to convince people to try things they have never done. Major Commerce doesn't start with a pithy line of copy and a good photograph with an add to cart button. People skills were required , in most cases to get that product developed and a merchant sold into carrying it. It may have been marketing (still a good paying job) that laid the seeds but ultimately there is a person somewhere that was able to show compelling evidence that the product was worth investing in.

          I do believe a high level profession like  Psychiatry will be devalued as Talk therapy is being replaced with pills therapy.  But I see lots of areas where people can make living wages but just not in the areas that once were far more respectable.

          I also agree that we are in the middle of a Teutonic shift and it will be very  uncomfortable for decades until new professions are created where there were none. One person commented that instead of word processing skills, a basic skill that will be required is coding. No matter what the job.

          •  Tectonic (3+ / 0-)

            I don't think you mean the jobs are going to Germany.

          •  Tectonic, Teutonic means German. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
          •  Two points of reference (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Yo Bubba

            One is that my sister, way back when, was a checker. She liked the job, and in the 70s and 80s it was very good pay. She had the skills and training to be a legal secretary or executive secretary, and had been both earlier. Kohl's (the original Milwaukee grocery chain) paid better. The people who check me out at Costco seem to like their jobs, too, but they're treated well, with decent pay and benefits.

            The other is a little squishier, but there's a 1943 Hitchcock film called Shadow of A Doubt. It's set in Santa Rosa, CA and Hitchcock chose that location because it was a "typical" mid-sized, middle class town.

            In the film, supporting character Henry Travers (Clarence the Angel  in It's a Wonderful Life) is a bank teller - not much different from a grocery store clerk. With his job (in the film), he supports a wife and 2 children in a large, Victorian house. He owns a car. The family has a cook/maid. His wife, who doesn't work outside the home, belongs to the same women's club as the bank president's wife, and all of them socialize together. Imagine a store clerk or bank teller in those circumstances today.

            Hitchcock may have used a little dramatic license, but the film was intended to be realistic and even if the specifics were a little exaggerated for the time, it couldn't have been too far off. I grew up in the 1950s in a neighborhood where people with similar types of jobs did OK as the family's only breadwinner - even to owning homes.

            I think we've lost touch with the fact that even simple, unskilled jobs once paid decently and had dignity, and that an economy can run perfectly well, and did, if that's true. Those once were middle class jobs.

            Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

            by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:28:31 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Cashiering at unionized Safeway is a living wage (0+ / 0-)

            for some.

            Psychology is my field, and psychiatrists have not been doing talk therapy for 30 years (with rare exceptions). Talk therapy is performed by us mft's, lpc's, lcsw's, and psychologists, who can't prescribe meds as can psychiatrists. Pills will never replace talk therapy, and studies show which conditions need pills, talk or both.  Human contact is necessary for solving interpersonal problems.

            Humans aren't robots, and we don't want robots doing things that humans can do better. That was my point.

      •  You see, these corporate captains have underest- (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle, badger

        imated what humans do in a job. A cashier beyond the personal connection that is enjoyable, is much faster than a customer at checking your stuff out, scanning, which I had trouble with at the infernal machines, the cashiers are far more efficient, and after a long day of work do you want to haul your groceries and be yelled at by an obnoxious machine? NO. This is hell, and it must not stand.

  •  Many service jobs will continue to do relatively.. (5+ / 0-)

    ...well.  Relatively.

    Boehner Just Wants Wife To Listen, Not Come Up With Alternative Debt-Reduction Ideas

    by dov12348 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:21:01 PM PST

  •  This is not on your list.... (18+ / 0-)

    The City Council in my medium size town wants to bulldoze my work place to build a brand new hotel to go with their grand new dreams of tearing down the Convention Center (which we owned and managed until a bunch of wealthy citizens were pressured into investing $500,000 to buy it and "gift" to the city) and building a bright new shiny building. They are spreading rumors and talking to the newspaper and radio how our hotel & meeting facility would be a disgrace to their shiny plans and as long as we are here, they will have to find six new acres and build elsewhere. Now many businesses have built up around this 30 year old Convention Center so we are now a threat to all those around us.

    It looks like they might succeed in their grand plans and all 50 employees will be without jobs.

    "I came for the politics and stayed for the community" - h/t the fabulous earicicle

    by shortgirl on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:28:47 PM PST

  •  With improvements in AI and materials (8+ / 0-)

    science, advanced robots are now being produced. If anybody here thinks that no robot can do what you do for a living, chances are you are not up to speed on where the technology is. Either you're replaceable now or you will be in 15 years. But it's not a matter of if, it's only a matter of when.

    •  Actually no robot CAN do what I used to do. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It has only been outsourced to cheaper and less-skilled people in other countries, and the low-quality products we get back are the result.

      If you think that the "spelling checker" and "grammar checker" programs in word processing software are a resounding success, then you would think there is no need for what I used to do: editorial work. You would be wrong.

      I'm sorry, but no machine can replace a trained human being when it comes to editing in his or her own language because the machine can't be programmed to know how to properly use a word regionally, colloquially, casually -- they just know how to check the spelling. Grammar checkers are a resounding failure.

      That doesn't stop American companies from outsourcing editorial work -- to countries with people who have no concept of American idioms and customs, so you get crappy work product -- unreadable books and papers.

      You get what you pay for. But this is one field that is not being saved by robotics.

      "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

      by Brooke In Seattle on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 07:35:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yet. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, doc2

        And while automation may not totally replace every aspect of editorial work, it can certainly free editors of a lot of the tasks that take up much of their time.  Which means unless you see a commensurate increase in the volume of work there's going to be little need to keep so many bodies around.

      •  There's no requirement that self-published (0+ / 0-)

        books go through editing, and there are a lot of successful e-books that prove that.

        Yeah, we sacrifice quality, but the cost is so much lower we can haz 20 books instead of 5 for the same price, and the publisher makes ten times the profit. (cf. Idiocracy, the film)

        There is a variation of Gresham's law in nearly every field of human endeavor. Just look at journalism.

        Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

        by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:33:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Re (9+ / 0-)

    Meet "Baxter" the Robot Out to Get Your Minimum-Wage, No Benefits, Part-Time Job, Because He's Still Much Cheaper; Fed Cannot Win a Fight Against Robots

    Baxter costs $22,000 and can be trained in a matter of minutes
    Baxter costs $22,000 and lasts 6,500 hours, about $3.40 an hour
    The minimum wage for jobs that Baxter is suited for is now $3 or so an hour, regardless of minimum wage laws and unions.

    The big question is: what are all these displaced people going to do? I think the future is going to be about much fewer, more highly educated people, but that doesn't help today's displaced population.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:35:54 PM PST

  •  Don't forget adjunctification (21+ / 0-)

    More and more part-time jobs so that employers don't have to pay health care or retirement costs.

    Zen is "infinite respect for all things past; infinite service to all things present; infinite responsibility for all things future."--Huston Smith's Zen Master

    by Ree Zen on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:36:37 PM PST

  •  600 Claims Processors (12+ / 0-)

    at WPS Insurance in Madison, WI are about to hit the bricks.  WPS lost a Medicare contract and thus will be dropping 600 employees.  That's gonna hurt.

    "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." - from the prophet Jeremiah

    by 3goldens on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:48:57 PM PST

    •  That's exactly the kind of job that's going away (11+ / 0-)

      Like the diarist said: what does a Medicare claims processor do? A fairly mechanical task of matching up people to the right forms and filling out paperwork. You need a few humans around for that, but you could replace many with a supercomputer and auto phone systems.

      Keep in mind as well that when we talk about Medicare being "efficient" we explicitly mean not having to hire a lot of these people.

      It does suck, though.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:53:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which brings up a couple of things (9+ / 0-)

      Madison, in recent years, has lost a lot of the few mfg jobs it had - Artesyn and Noran out toward Middleton, and Nicolet toward Verona, among others - and I doubt the current state government or UW is on a hiring binge.

      That's the kind of thing people don't think about when they advocate something like single payer (and I'm in favor of single payer). The House bill implementing single payer had some nearly useless clauses to re-employ a few people put out of work if it were enacted. But ultimately, single payer would cost a few million jobs in the insurance industry and in clerical jobs in clinics and hospitals.

      That's where the savings in single payer largely come from - eliminating jobs. You eliminate some profits and big CEO salaries, but you save billions by cutting labor costs, just like any corporation tries to do.

      Like I said in a comment above, we're at the point where we need to think in terms of something like an employment impact statement, and we need to deal with this stuff seriously and effectively.

      Just don't ask me how.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 03:00:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Someone always says this (0+ / 0-)

        when it comes to the insurance industry.

        Nobody ever said it about textile workers, or IT professionals, or editorial workers like me -- two degrees and a 35-year career in publishing, and I've been unemployed (with no benefits) for SIX YEARS. And changing careers at 56 is kind of out of the question in this backward country that sees older workers as only a drain on the bottom line, not a talent reservoir. What am I supposed to do for a living?

        When they shipped all the publishing jobs overseas, there was no boo-hoo'ing about what we were all going to do for a living.

        At least what we did was useful. Insurance industry employees only shuffle paper and screw people out of their money.

        "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

        by Brooke In Seattle on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 07:52:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  There is ONE small bright spot: (6+ / 0-)

    Free software.  Now you may wonder how anyone can make a living out of free software, first consider that you will not be price-cut.  the living is made on the support of the software - and who is better able to support the software than those who created it in the first place?

    An illusion can never be destroyed directly... SK.

    by Thomas Twinnings on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:52:21 PM PST

  •  I like this diary but (6+ / 0-)

    I don't understand why you put evidence based medicine in there. Using research to determine the practices associated with the best outcomes is a positive thing, not a negative one, particularly for physicians who may be newer and not have as much clinical experience to rely on.

    •  All productivity enhancements... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, chantedor

      ...are "good things". They just cost jobs, at least in the short term.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 03:29:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not (5+ / 0-)

        really sure evidence based medicine does that. Maybe, but I'd be curious to see some external links. I don't see it as a "productivity enhancement." It's a quality of care enhancement instead. The purpose is to ensure that the care that is being provided in a given situation has the best possible health outcomes (quality), not to provide care to more people (productivity).

        •  I don't think it's productivity either (7+ / 0-)

          It's standardization, and standardization is one of the precursors of automation.

          Your computer can display images because they come in standard formats, like jpg, gif, png, etc. It can also put together a treatment plan if there's a corresponding plan for a diagnosis.

          Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

          by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 04:00:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Right (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, 6ZONite, Chi

            A lot of medicine is just:

            Hmm, patient has symptoms X and Y. That means they might have disease Z. The standard treatment is 100mg of drug B.

            All standard, not a lot of need for a human in the works other than maybe as a sanity check or to sign paperwork.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 04:46:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  lol Part of the art of medicine is knowing/finding (6+ / 0-)

              the difference between the hoof prints of zebras vs horses,(med school aphorism- when you see hoof prints, think horses, not zebras). Another complicating factor is that there are idiosyncratic presentations  of many illnesses/disorders and that there is a ton of overlap between symptoms, (a very significant % of conditions present with headache,  nausea & vomiting, and/or fever), it's the nuances that determine a lot of the diagnoses. Sometimes a tone of voice or a posture can make a difference in the call.

              There are an awful lot of considerations to balance in diagnosis and treatment options, and some people are much better at it than others, so a medical program on an autodoc is not going to be the be-all or end-all, ever.

              Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

              by FarWestGirl on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 06:13:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Re (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                FarWestGirl, badger, Chi, IT Professional
                There are an awful lot of considerations to balance in diagnosis and treatment options, and some people are much better at it than others, so a medical program on an autodoc is not going to be the be-all or end-all, ever.
                No one ever said it was.

                The thing is that it displaces doctors and nurses. If a computer can handle most of the routine work, that's a lot of doctors you don't need.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 06:26:49 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Decisions in health care (6+ / 0-)

                aren't always made on the basis of delivering the best care, and many (most?) doctors are employees now, of clinics, or the large medical organizations that run multiple clinics and hospitals.

                I agree that the judgment, intuition and experience of a good doctor isn't something that can be automated. That doesn't mean corporate types won't try.

                Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

                by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 07:22:41 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  True. And truthfully, a lot of basic stuff really (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  badger, Brooke In Seattle

                  can be handled at lower levels, it's just that when you need that expertise, it makes a huge difference not having it available and on tap.

                   That's when you get into the death panels and cost benefit analyses by the corporate goons. 'How many can we lose before someone makes it too expensive to fire more doctors?' ::grr::

                  Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                  by FarWestGirl on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 07:59:45 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think evidence based medicine (11+ / 0-)

      is inherently bad, although I can see ways in which that methodology can be misused.

      The point of using it in the diary is that, right now, even highly skilled occupations can be de-skilled to use less skilled and/or less expensive employees, even to replacing workers with machines when previously complex tasks become routine. The close of your comment points in that direction.

      While I think doctors and researchers see it as a way to improve treatment when used intelligently, I'd be even more certain that clinic and hospital CEOs and CFOs see it as way to reduce costs and increase profits - and a big segment of the industry i for-profit.

      But suppose the very best happens and diagnosis and treatment become highly automated and drastically improved in quality, and everyone in the country can now afford the very best medical care. What happens to all the people whose jobs have been replaced by machines, when it's happening across nearly every industry?

      I'll grant that the questions I pose in this diary about employment are often at odds with improved cost, quality, or service delivery. That's what makes them so very difficult to solve as problems.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 03:53:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's interesting (6+ / 0-)

        The health care system I belong to seems to on the one hand have ever longer waits to see a doctor, which would suggest they are cutting physician total FTEs, but on the other hand, between the times my two kids were born they got rid of midwives so I had one with my first but not my second because CNMs don't bring in as much reimbursement as MDs do. (Fewer c-sections partly.)

        I can't figure out whether they want to hire or fire the nurse practitioners.

      •  Then people could spend less on medicine (0+ / 0-)

        and spend more on efficient transportation, sustainable food, efficient housing, living close to work...

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:42:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If the savings were distributed (5+ / 0-)

          But money/wealth only flows upward right now - that's basically what this is all about.

          Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

          by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:51:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not necessarily true (0+ / 0-)

            Walmart is a good example of lower costs, as much as people hate it.

            You can certainly afford declines in your salary if your costs also decline even more. In fact, deflationary monetary systems like Bitcoin pretty much have to work that way.

            Besides, wealth can only accumulate so much. Natural feedback systems (in my view) will always tend to counter excessive concentration too much. A person who owns all the money in the world is the same as the person who owns none.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:10:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Depends (6+ / 0-)

              Maybe Wal-Mart food is cheaper, although I'd be real surprised if shopping there beat careful shopping at a mix of different places, which is what we do. I doubt Wal-Mart's quality is uniformly as good as elsewhere, which also makes the low price illusory, even for commodities.

              But on clothing or hard goods, I think if you take life-cycle costs into account, the wealth still flows upward. You might get socks for 1/2  the price of elsewhere,  but they cost 10% of what other seller's socks cost to make, and you buy them 3 times as often (that's the last thing I bought at Wal-Mart many years ago, and that was pretty much my experience).

              I was going to give an analogy in the other response, but I'll give it here.

              You pay 7.65% SS/Medicare tax on your wages. Your employer also pays 7.65% on your wages. If tomorrow, that tax were abolished (hypothetical - I'm not advocating it), what would happen to your paycheck? Would it be

              a) 15.3% higher, because you no longer pay the tax, and your employer gives his tax payment to you

              b) 7.65% higher, because you keep your share of the tax, and your employer keeps his

              c) The same, because the employer keeps your share of the tax as well as his.

              (I won't add (d) Lower, because I've been cynical enough today).

              I think there's no question the answer in today's environment is (c), and that means your cost to your employer just dropped 15.3% - but he won't be lowering his prices any time soon. That's especially true in a market where unemployment is nearly 8% and not trending downward very fast.

              What you might save by making health care cheaper will evaporate in the same way, IMO.

              Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

              by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:30:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Evidence based medicine & treatments are good, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle, badger

        but not for everyone. A medication in a study works for a high percentage but not all. The danger is to misuse such information to railroad patients and practitioners.

        •  Sure (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, doinaheckuvanutjob

          It depends on how it is used of course. But having the information available is better than having no information. A judicious practitioner can take it into account. That doesn't mean they are going to always make the decision to go in a particular way, only that they have research based information they can take into consideration, instead of just 'we've always done it this way.'

    •  I don't think the author's making a value judgment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The universe of "evidence based medicine" is a very good thing overall, but it still can have disruptive effects on the health labor market.

      •  Right - I'm not (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I probably should emphasize that I'm not making a value judgment on automation or product design either - if anything, those are positive values, or can be when done right.

        All of those things, though, have significant downsides or potential downsides that we need to deal with.

        Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

        by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:48:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good thing I'm about to retire then (7+ / 0-)

    Please don't throw things at me. I suspect I'll be doing volunteer work; conceivably some of that work could turn into part-time paid work. I'd be okay if that didn't happen.

    We do seem to find new and better ways of destroying our economy, don't we?

    •  Me too (4+ / 0-)

      Just so they keep paying into Social Security (like we have). My first check comes in about 3 weeks.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 04:08:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Three weeks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        That sounds wonderful. One of my colleagues is retiring next week.

        I'm due to leave at the end of the year so I have another eleven months. As I'm a federal employee there's plenty of crap our dysfunctional Congress could put in the way between now and then but I don't think any of it will have long lasting effects on me personally. Would that were true for my colleagues and those whose livelihoods depend even remotely on the continued functioning of the federal government (that is to say, pretty much everybody).

  •  Between "de-skilling" and "automation" (13+ / 0-)

    For the most part - Customer service for we proles died a horrible death. Getting a live human being on the phone is cause for celebration until you find out that they can't help you with a thing. Ask a question on a product and half the time get an "I don't know" or a blank stare and not even an offer to find an answer.

    But we put up with it. It's "efficient" or something. The WalMartization of America continues.

    The Aggressively Ignorant Caucus is getting aggressively ignorant again.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 05:49:56 PM PST

    •  Oddly enough I have been getting (5+ / 0-)

      improved customer service since some call center off-shoring seems to have been brought back to the U.S.

      Just today, I needed to make a satellite dish tv service call and was braced to listen to an entire useless script read from around the world like last time.  

      After an automated call consisting of "press 1 if you have tried this, then try this and press 1" etc, I was transferred to a U.S. based technician who promptly set up the service appointment.  

      I assume a human is coming to climb up on my roof, but I can't be certain yet. Not sure how agile this "Baxter" is.

      •  Yes, my daughter's company brought theirs (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        back to the US after customer complaints skyrocketed.

        They have a very young customer base, and the American customers didn't like their experiences with the overseas offices.

        They still have overseas offices, but they serve only customers in their own regions.

        "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

        by Brooke In Seattle on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:01:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  ouch- (6+ / 0-)

    it is hard to believe that people don't believe that this has already/ is currently happening.

    Thank the stars that what I do now is locate and rehabilitate items that were produced before all that, and that I'll probably be obsolete before some sense of nostalgia deserts absolutely everyone. I hope.

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 05:57:12 PM PST

  •  I think that it very well could go this way, (13+ / 0-)

    however, I also think there may be alternatives if we avail ourselves of them. When the robber barons got too powerful to fight individually, people banded together with the Grange and farmers co-op movements. And with esops and other community based organizing, we could re-develop a parallel economy of, for and by the regular, little folks. They exist already in small numbers, but if we seriously made a push, like the 'move your money to a credit union' thing, we could 'go local' and co-op an awful lot of stuff, bypassing the Wall Street/megacorp system.

    Now whether anyone will actually attempt it, that's another kettle 'o fish.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 06:22:12 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the thought-provoking diary. (9+ / 0-)

    It's my belief that all of us should be willing to reinvent ourselves, and be willing to do it repeatedly, as these changes reach into our lives. Clinging to an old technology won't get you very far in life.

    After college, I became a forester for a large timber company. At the time, a job with that company was considered to be a "job for life" if you wanted it. Within a few years, they were laying off people.

    When the euphemistically-named "reduction in force" reached out and grabbed me, I responded by going to work for a forestry consulting firm. It was a logical choice, since the big companies were ditching employees in favor of contractors. Yet this did not happen overnight; it took two years for me to find my way.

    The next step was to go into business for myself, working close to home. As that work became more scarce, I began to divide my time between the Northwestern and Southeastern regions of the country.

    I'm still not done reinventing myself. As I write this, I'm in Arkansas, doing work for a new client. My attitude is to always be open to new opportunities.

    I'm not about to say that what I've done was easy. I made some lousy choices along the way. There was never any magic voice in my head telling me what I needed to do next.

    If there are any easy answers, I haven't found them yet.

  •  People will be alright in the long term (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk, worldlotus, Gemina13

    but not the short term.

    This kind of thing has happened many times.  For example, in the 1800's more than 50% of the American population worked in agriculture.  Then technology came along (new machines for growing and harvesting crops, better pesticides, etc.), just like it's doing now.  Now only 2-3% of the American population works in agriculture, but we grow more food.

    In the long run, people will invest in themselves to become competitive for whatever the jobs of the future will be, in whichever new markets that may not even exist yet.  That kind of movement takes place over a generation.  But before that happens, the people who are first forced out of work and replaced with technology will be in a bad situation.

    •  I think... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, mrblifil

      ...part of the 'solution' is just going to be less people around.

      I don't know, but I suspect family formation has nosedived in the last decade, Unemployed potential parents are putting off having kids, many of whom would have been unemployed in 2030 or so.

      I think there are going to be less kids, and more education for the ones that do exist (in marketable skills).

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:17:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It boils down to the conversation we never had (12+ / 0-)

    when free trade was all the rage: are increased "productivity gains" and corporate profits worth the cost of making human productivity obsolete? How do we very many humans generate wealth to buy things with, to make the profit for the very few (if that must be the only "fair" way to distribute wealth)?

    Unfortunately at my age (46) I am too young to "thank god because I am retired/retiring" as voiced above by a couple of folks (and the reality for a good percentage of Americans and Kossacks). I am too old to get hired in my old occupation  (and I don't have a 4 year degree like the kids who can't get hired for what they went to school for), and I just got out of a vocational training program and there are no jobs in my new field either.

    I did customer service for over 22 years. I might has well have been a blacksmith for all the good it did me. I'm so goddamned sick of this city,country, and world based on the value of whatever TBTF organizations say value is. It is madness to live in a society that will only consider me valuable when I can find a job that no longer exists. When can we debate this? What day can we say enough?

     And I'm also so sick of being told its eventually going to trend toward eventually getting better, if we just keep voting for the same people who got us down this road to start with. A vote in this system is truly a vote for the system, and nothing more. We might vote for the actors, but we sure as HELL get to watch the same script and hear the same songs NO MATTER WHAT.

    •  I'm one of the people "retiring" (9+ / 0-)

      because the business that has supported my wife and I evaporated last year. We have no choice, and we still have business debt to retire, which is equal to a good chunk of our retirement savings.

      And our business evaporated because a lot of our customers either were bought out by bigger companies, shipped production offshore, or both. There are other reasons too, but they still come back largely to the effects of off-shoring.

      I'm lucky to be old enough to collect SS, but it's going to be a tight 4 years until my wife reaches that age, and we have no health insurance with 2 years to Medicare for me and 7 for her.

      The opening part of your comment is exactly right, IMO, and the situation just gets more precarious each year. People that have jobs don't think there are people like you, or me, out there. We should just get a job and quit moaning. I'm still looking at options for earning more income, and I'm sure you are, but as you rightly point out, it's much harder at your age, and by missing some big earning years, it's going to be harder when you reach my age too.

      I really wish I knew how to help you - and me too.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:40:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right before I read this diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gemina13, foresterbob, terabytes

    I had just read an article about the insane situation in Spain, where the jobless rate just hit 26.02%, thanks in large part to austerity measures.

    Guess this is a portrait of what would have happened here if Romney had won and the Republicans had gotten control. What I don't understand is how the politicians can see these horrible results and yet still think austerity and budget-cutting is the way to go. And I don't know how Spain will ever pull out of this, given that they are dealing with the same world economic mindsets that you lay out in your article. I guess we're sliding down the same slippery slope at a slower speed, though.

    •  Those are Great Depression unemployment levels (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoonerG, foresterbob, melo, terabytes

      The last time Europe had those kinds of levels, we got civil war in Spain and WW II. Greece is similar, and they haven't exactly been a paragon of freedom and stability since WW II (see the movie Z, for example).

      Not the kind of stimulus I'm looking for.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:48:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was a drop-out (7+ / 0-)

    back to the lander in 1973 leaving wealthy fairfield county ct for very rural Maine. The bleakness of today was similar to then in that being a part of the economic system was something I couldn't abide, and  simple living in wealthy suburbia didn't seem doable. Spouse and I approached the no jobs dilemma by trying to live like self sufficient rural people did not that long ago in a place like Maine. Burning wood, growing veggies etc..

    We didn't take on a mortgage and built our own home from trees cut and milled from our own property and lugged water and used an outhouse when we first started. Gradually we got sucked in to more and more consumerism enabled mostly by spouse working as a teacher. She can't work anymore and I can't work as a carpenter anymore either. I think that getting back to simpler living is the way to go and fuck all the employers who don't want people anymore. We're close to getting retirement checks but will have to learn to live simply again. If worse comes to worse I could give up internet service, cell phones, no more late model vehicles, netflix, newspapers etc.

    I'm just pointing out that this approach could make sense in response to a dismal jobs situation. I know it's not for everyone but people in any rural area of the country 100 years ago lived without electricity and survived. I often hear the old timers talk about how poor they were when they were kids but just didn't know it because everyone around them was just as poor.

    music- the universal language

    by daveygodigaditch on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 10:50:12 PM PST

    •  How would people afford the land? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foresterbob, Brooke In Seattle
      •  That's a good question. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        foresterbob, badger

        Obviously you have to have some money saved. In this area you still can buy a house lot for less than 20 thousand but as it was 30 years ago if you can come up with more money the price per acre drops dramatically per acre if you buy a larger piece. I would think you could get a 10 or 20 acre piece for 30 to 40 thousand. I know that is more than some can afford but put into comparison to a forty thousand dollar down payment on a 200 thousand dollar house it is a much better deal.

        We lived with our parents and worked for a year in CT and saved almost all of our 2 incomes. I'm starting to sound like Mitt. If you're a homeowner and aren't underwater you could sell and maybe come out 40 grand ahead. Again I know a lot of folks couldn't come up any money so homesteading just can't happen. You also need to have your health and be younger rather than older. However I feel there are a lot of people who could do this but never considered it or who aren't into living in the boonies and the initially hard lifestyle. We both were into camping and roughing it so it was a good fit. Indeed we lived in a tent and a neighbors school bus for 5 months before moving into our 14ft x20 ft shell of a house with plastic for windows.

        We never felt isolated as rural Maine in the early 70s had thousands of refugees from the political chaos of the 60s doing the same thing we were.

        music- the universal language

        by daveygodigaditch on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 04:34:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Star Trek "economy" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've said it for years, large-scale capitalism is essentially unsustainable. Value in a capitalist system derives from scarcity, the more scarce something is the more value it has. The more of something there is, it's value drops until it approaches zero. Capitalism can't function without scarcity. There's just no incentive in capitalis to distribute what is in abundance. Technology is rendering more and more things so cheap and abundant that capitalism can't work with them anymore.

    People laughed and called it an unrealistic pipe dream, but TOS had it right. A certain level of technology renders capitalism inoperable.A post-scarcity society cannot operate under the old rules. A form of socialism driven mostly by volunteers and hobbyists becomes inevitable when all labor can be easily automated.

    So how do we manage the transition from here to there? A socialistic mixed economy is the only way. As things grow in abundance and fall off the capitalistic value scale, the socialist system will have to handle their production and distribution. Slowly, as scarcity itself becomes scarce, this system handles more and more until it's covering damned near everything. It's the only way.

    We have to break the power of the capitalist overlords first, though. They'll cling to the old way no matter what until their hands are pried from the levers of power. Let's hope it doesn't take WWIII and Khan to make it happen for us as it did for Star Trek.

    "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

    by DarthMeow504 on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 02:35:28 AM PST

  •  Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've been saying this for twenty years, though nowhere near so clearly and methodically.  This diary is a model of foresight, organization, evidence, and modest good judgment.  

  •  In the early 1980's I worked for Oshkosh B'Gosh (6+ / 0-)

    When I went to work there, they built a new distribution center, fabric-cutting facility, and added manufacturing in Oshkosh, where thery had been for a long time. Some of my great-aunts told me about working for B'Gosh in the nineteen-thirties. All union jobs, by the way.

    The company originally produced almost indestructable men's workwear, bib overalls, shirts, jeans, coats and jackets. As sales for these items slowed in the early 1980's, they began to market children's clothing into an apparently bottomless market for well-made-but-pricey kids clothing.

    First the company created a large, new distribution center in Tennessee, and then built new production facilities in VERY small towns in Tennessee and Kentucky. They got tax-free status and free water and utility permits and all sorts of goodies for setting up in high-unemployment areas. Then, one by one, they closed all of these facilities and off-shored, first to Mexico, then to Central America, then to Thailand, and then to Indonesia.

    I was cut loose in 1996, when all the advertising stuff began to be drop-shipped to customer's stores, instead of going through Oshkosh. I don't know what happened in all those little towns, with their new school, utility, road, and other bonds. There were also new service businesses to support the needs of the 200-300 new jobs in those little towns. Finally, the whole business was sold to Carter, and they closed the corporate office, which had been in Oshkosh since 1895.

  •  My job would be a tad hard to de-skill, as it's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    teaching and research. I've heard people worry that the kids will give up on college because they think they can learn everything they know from Wikipedia, but I suspect the college degree will retain its allure in the near future.

    No, I'm going to lose it because the competition's gotten so fierce for this relatively safe job that I'll get pushed out of the market.

    •  That's a great point (0+ / 0-)

      and another thing I missed.

      The jobs that can't be automated will become extremely competitive under the current system of (essentially) "work or die". And as the supply of potential jobholders increases, the price of the job (wages) will drop.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:00:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What automation does is replace (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brooke In Seattle

    a few hundred manual laborers with a few automated device designers, programmers, and installers.

    And that's a good thing. I'd much rather be a programmer than a farm worker.

    The question is what you do with all the people who aren't particularly good at engineering or programming.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 07:39:21 AM PST

    •  Some people like being farm workers, too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark

      But I agree completely - automation, product redesign, efficiency, productivity are all things that can have positive values if done right.

      You have to deal with the fallout, though. In the past, farm jobs, for example, got replaced via the industrial revolution which created jobs directly in factories and indirectly in cities for all of the support functions.

      If something similar doesn't happen naturally (and it seems unlikely it will), then we have to figure out how we're going to compensate, or we - and most of the world - become Haiti or Somalia.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:04:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The most important thing (0+ / 0-)

    is that nothing be done to threaten the sanctity of the 40 hour week and the maximum 2 weeks paid vacation that Americans enjoy, as a reward for participating in the Greatest Economy In The World.

    Because maximizing profits must only every benefit a small group of gate keepers in the form of multiple houses, blow and hookers, and never in the form of reduced hours and/or greater benefits.

    Seriously imagine the impact on the economy if the average American worker could get by on a 4-day work week. Instead companies pressing the technological advances are content to initiate hi-tech serfdom while a few clowns carve up the windfalls for themselves and their friends. Which incidentally has been the story of Industrialization since the advent of the horseshoe...

  •  It all works out in the end.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ....because we all share in the production gains.





    Man, that was a good one!

    In the Fox News Christian Nation, public schools won't teach sex education and evolution; instead they'll have an NRA sponsored Shots for Tots: Gunz in Schoolz program.

    by xynz on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 07:45:57 AM PST

  •  NUMBER 5 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    janetsal, badger, Yo Bubba

    That MBA Friedman follower running your company thinks business is about one thing, making money, and such nonsensical logical is a threat to everyone and every job.

    I mean people actually take serious an idea that it is all right to destroy lives and this planet if it means a few more units of fake fiat money is added to a imaginary cloud based spreadsheet.

    This logic that teaches us that we are not our brothers keeper, nor are we stewards of this planet, but instead what we and our companies are , are nothing more than a species grouped up to chases and accumulate imaginary mediums of exchange in order to buy shiny trinkets. Its is this logic that imperils us all and our future societies.

    Exclusive Family Friendly PC Games to Give, Play and Share for Free.

    by MrBigDaddy on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:05:14 AM PST

    •  People don't realize that that shift has actually (0+ / 0-)

      happened. For example, the Bradley Foundation, which supports many of the wingnuttiest initiatives and think tanks is the result of money from Allen-Bradley Corporation.

      When the Bradley brothers ran A-B, it was one of the most paternalistic (and good-paying) companies in Milwaukee, and both Harry and Lynde Bradley understood their products and were intimately involved in product development.

      Milwaukee, then, had Socialist mayors and city councils and county government much of the time - not County Execs like Scott Walker, now WI governor.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:10:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The "productivity" curve gets steeper (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, Brooke In Seattle, badger

    but the jobs, wages and benefits curve has gotten flatter. Meaning, companies are able to produce more products and services more with fewer people, more cheaply, for higher profit, leaving more people out of work, and those who still have work with lower-paying and less satisfying work, with fewer benefits.

    And, really, it's as much if not more a profit than a true productivity curve, since many of these alleged "productivity" improvements are really just brain-dead cost-reduction "improvements" that result in lower quality goods and services being produced, but which are still "good enough" to be sold, especially with less regulation and true competition these days.

    While it's true that there have been genuine productivity improvements, many if not most of what now passes as a productivity improvement is really just cutting corners to save money without any actual improvement to quality, and often a reduction in it, by hiring less skilled low pay workers to replace more skilled high pay workers in jobs that really need the latter to maintain quality, by making things where labor is much cheaper and environmental regulations are much lower, etc. It's not all the "wonders of technology".

    But both genuine and phony productivity improvements that cut costs end up costing something in externalities. Not just in inferior products and services that cause problems down the line than often end up costing more to others than they saved for those who made them, but environment damage that has to be paid for by someone else and can have catastrophic long-term physical, human and financial effects (e.g. global warming), by taking money out of the national and local economy, by leading to social atrophy and crime, by putting the burden of keeping unemployed, underemployed and underpaid workers fed, housed, kept healthy, etc. So I don't buy the whole "productivity" mantra. Even when it's true in an immediate sense, on a societal sense, it often isn't.

    Only active, comprehensive and smart policy can fix this. Nothing else can begin to do that, not protests, not rallies, not "awareness"--and certainly not the "invisible hand of the market". We desperately need a comprehensive set of progressive policies on the level of the progressive era from the late 19th century to mid-20th century. Or else we're truly screwed.

    Financial Reform
    R & D

    These are what we have to invest in and do, or else we're done.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:14:19 AM PST

  •  Amazon robots, Google trucks will replace retail. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger recently bought a robot company, Kiva. Apparently the idea is instead of having people roam the giant Amazon warehouses, getting items off the shelves for orders, they'll have it done by teams of several robots, with each team headed by a single human.

    Amazon has also been buying or building lots of warehouse space in medium-size cities, a departure from its past practice.

    Amazon has also been rolling out "delivery lockers" at grocery stores, drugstores, gas station/convenience stores, etc. You order over the web, receive a code to open a nearby delivery locker, and Amazon puts your order there. A little more trouble for you, but Amazon offers the delivery faster & cheaper than to your home or office. And you're going to the grocery store or gas station anyway, aren't you?

    Amazon is also supposedly about to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery a modest-cost upgrade.

    Google's success with self-driving vehicles is well known.

    Put them all together and you get orders put together by robots and delivered by robots, cheaper than you could buy in person at Walmart or Target--who will either adopt the same business model or die. Most retail jobs will cease to exist, replaced by way fewer jobs heading warehouse robot teams or maintaining robot delivery trucks.

    Oh, and also, US office trash cans will soon be emptied, and US office carpets vacuumed, by drones operated by humans in low-wage countries. Not making that up.

    This will happen in the reduced number of US offices that will exist, of course. I'm typing this in my home office, from which I telecommute daily; my Atlanta-area law firm has other lawyers doing what I do from California, Montana, and England, and competitors outsourcing comparable legal work to India.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:18:55 AM PST

  •  My job can be outsourced, too: (6+ / 0-)

    they could just play a recording at church on Sunday morning. But they won't. You can't de-skill professional musicians. You can replace them with CDs, but you know what? Someone has to make all those recordings.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:00:39 AM PST

  •  automation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Just wait until the software discussed in this article goes mainstream.

    Gonna be a lot of very highly paid radiologists saying "what happened?"

  •  Marx was right (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Even Nouriel Roubini is saying so.

    The inexorable logic of capitalism is manifest, and the class warfare on the part of the "haves" is becoming increasingly visible.

    The "have nots" do not have an equivalent sense of class consciousness, yet.

    -9.00, -5.85
    Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave.

    by Wintermute on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:58:12 AM PST

    •  Except there won't be any workers of the world (0+ / 0-)

      to unite, unless robots become more sentient.

      And the idea that profit is stolen from labor will disappear too when there isn't any more labor.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:15:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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