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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.


Where Did Those  Jobs Go – Part Three

Automation Takes Root

A few years ago I read “Being Digital”, a very interesting book by Nicholas Negroponte who at that time was one of the leaders in MIT’s computer department. He stated (and I paraphrase) “if you think automation of work is a problem for the unemployed today, it is nothing compared to what it will be like in ten years.” The publication date of “Being Digital” was January 6, 1996.

Unless Congress acts very soon, 1.3 million jobless people will lose their unemployment benefits. This is a result of the recent budget agreement. The right-wing spurred on by the all the corporate moneyed folks had their way with us,

We are still caught in the aftermath of the worst depression since the Great Depression. Many of the families that suffered from that are still suffering.  There are about three unemployed Americans available for each job opening today. We cannot afford to withdraw emergency benefits for the unemployed because of terrible consequences – hunger, family destruction and possibly the most destructive mindset of all: dissolution of the American dream.

The gibberish involving makers and takers turns my stomach. If employers won’t pay workers enough to put food on the table and drives the workers to go “on the county” (an old time expression for Social Services) for medical services and housing assistance then it begs the question of who are the makers and who are the takers?

Low wage Wal-Mart, food service and sundry other jobs are not playing the “free market” game properly when they  pay so little it forces workers to go “on the county”. In a larger sense, we are supporting the profitability of corporations with our tax dollars. That turns the makers and takers argument upside down and that is just not right. Moreover, ending jobless benefits for the unemployed is bad for all of us because it removes their purchasing power from an economy already suffering from inadequate demand.

There are so many great jobs available if we just put people to work rebuilding bridges, roads, and crumbling schools and other infrastructure. We should be doing everything we can to put people to work. I don’t know of any leaders in American history who would allow the poor and the unemployed to suffer because of alleged jealousy of a past President’s policies. This is unforgivable and in my mind treasonous.  What kind of ignorant Americans have we scraped together to serve recently. Where did they come from – another planet?

And –  how about the gutting of the food stamp (SNAP) program and WIC (food for babies and pregnant women).  Food pantry programs all around the country say they can’t accommodate all the poor who come to them. Shelters are overflowing and turning people away. Some 45,000 people are dying each year because they lack health insurance.

Maybe we can augment our police forces with mortuary services to pick up the starved dead and be done with them. I’m reminded of a Monty python film – “Bring out your dead” was the cry of the mortuary service in that movie as the funeral cart moved through the streets.

An exaggeration? I don’t think so. What is left when a family whose head of household exhausts their savings, loses their home and is forced to live on the street or in their car – if they have one.

An exaggeration? I don’t think so when at a recent Republican town hall meeting  the crowd shouted, “Let them die!” when faced with a hypothetical situation concerning what to do with a person who lost their health insurance through no fault of their own.

An exaggeration? I don’t think so when it was reported by many that Republicans in the house were drinking heavily and laughing when they voted on the recent government shutdown.

An exaggeration?  “Take away all benefits from the poor, let them find a job.” Was heard on the same night as the shutdown vote.  Where do heads of households go for that? McDonald’s at eight dollars an hour? Try that with a family  of four.

Emergency benefits are the only hope for the hardcore unemployed. I am so happy that the Affordable Car Act allows people to go where the jobs are and not have to worry about the portability of health care – everyone will have it no matter where they go. That is a very important  point when considering assistance to the unemployed and another argument in favor of “Universal Healthcare”  discussions.

Greedy Republicans in today’s world just don’t seem to care about accomplishing anything. That’s why they are fighting Obamacare so ferociously. They don’t want the Obama folks to get credit for anything – especially if it helps the poor among us.

Some say we can’t afford to feed and clothe all the needy people through programs like SNAP, WIC and others. I say, if we could afford the two wars in the mid-east then we certainly can take care of our less fortunate. We already are as big companies fail to pay workers enough to keep them from going “on the county”. When did we stop being the country of “CanDo” and become the country of “Can’t Do”?

The problems of the unemployed today should make us re-examine the complications creating poverty.  With the advent of computers, automation of work is, perhaps, one of the more perplexing developments facing the modern world.

Historically, revolutions were not started by the rich, they were started by the poor and their numbers are increasing dramatically in the US. The gap between the rich and the poor in the US has never been wider and that gap is growing at a frightening pace.

Copyright 2018 by Charles Loomis

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