Whistling In the Dark

Whistling In the Dark

There is much talk about the return to the manufacturing world of the twentieth century.  Lots of promises being made to out-of-work people that old plants will come to life again and new, greatly increased numbers of manufacturing jobs will be the hallmark of America in the first quarter of the 21st Century.

America may become more of an island again, buying less from abroad and producing more goods at home.  America may see a renaissance of “Made in America” products.  But, it is far less certain, even in the most rosy of scenarios, that we will see much if any net gain in blue collar (or even white collar) jobs as a result. 

All one has to do is look at manufacturing today in the U.S. and abroad.  Robotics has transformed manufacturing in industrial countries.  The result of this, of course, has been a net reduction in numbers of jobs for humans.  And, as robots become ever more omnipresent and ever more sophisticated, jobs for humans will become ever more scarce and require ever greater skill levels. 

In an article in the New York Times of March 29, 2017, a study by economists at Boston University and MIT found significant evidence of the negative effects of robots on jobs in manufacturing in America.  The article noted that data clearly show that robots are to blame for hundreds of thousands of lost manufacturing jobs over the last decade or so and that the number of industrial robots will increase many fold again in short order. 

It is clear that automation is here to stay and ever more an essential and central factor in manufacturing in this country and abroad.  To assume, as politicians may suggest, that manufacturing jobs will increase by bringing them “home” is as naïve as to assume that robotics is just an academic pursuit and that Robots will not continue their inexorable takeover of almost every element of manufacturing in the developed world, whether in the United States or wherever.  Robots are well rooted now and humans have already lost the race for American jobs.  Very simply, there will be increasingly fewer and fewer skilled and unskilled manufacturing workers as this decade advances no matter how many more plants in America expand or are opened. 

I Think I'll Join Mar-A-Lago

I Think I'll Join Mar-A-Lago

Mar-A-Logo membership recently went up from $100,000 to $200,000.  The doubling in price has a lot of people crying foul, for the owners seem to have doubled the cost of membership within days of their father being sworn in.

But, I am thinking about this as a consumer.  $200,000 is still just about the best deal possible.  I don’t particularly enjoy Florida at all.   I don’t play golf or hang out with people who have nothing better to do that to show their adulation for a rich man.   And, even if it is the Winter White House after all, I wouldn’t particularly be excited about spending more than a few minutes there.  Having been in other Trump-branded properties, I know I would find the décor over the top.

But, the access that I would get for my $200,000 is quite extraordinary.  I just need to whisper into the ear of the Secretary of Energy, the Attorney General or even the President himself and I can probably get almost anything done  After a couple of minutes with the right audience, this could all instantly pay for itself.

I think I’ll join.

Image: Courtesy: Fortune

Taking Away Benefits

Taking Away Benefits

I never believed I would say it, but the Republican majority in the House has not served the new President well.  They have produced a pathetic and wholly inadequate replacement for Obamacare.  If it goes through, their hastiness and their stupidity will come to haunt them down the road.

So, why are they so eager to pass this dumb bill?  Is it only the pressure they are getting from Trump who wants the bill for his own purposes, the people be damned?

Or, does their eagerness have more to do with a fire in their belly to kill Obamacare, regardless of what the replacement may look like, than worry about the details of a new healthcare bill, ostensibly designed to serve the people?

Indeed, they have been intensely committed to killing Obamacare for almost a decade.   The speed they are applying now has far less to do with delivering on a commitment they made to their constituents than accomplishing something very very personal and about which they are passionate.

And, that passion has nothing to do with the good of the people.  In this instance, certainly, they care not a whit about the people.  They care about, and only about, themselves. And this obsessive drive to get rid of Obamacare for them trumps the possibility of turning off constituents. 

And the reason dates back precisely to the passage of Obamacare itself.  Republicans were in the minority at the time.  And, their colleagues on the other side were playing to their constituents by insisting that all those in Congress should join the same healthcare program as the people.  Thus, it was written into Obamacare that all federal employees, including those in Congress, would move immediately from the healthcare program they enjoyed to the new Obamacare. 

And so, the Republicans and Democrats alike were forced to give up the expansive, cadillac program they enjoyed under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and to come under the far less attractive people’s program – Obamacare.

Thus, the Republicans' passionate desire to kill Obamacare has far more to do with recovering fat benefits they enjoyed in the past than delivering a better and new healthcare program for the country.

Message to all Congresspeople: Don’t take away important benefits from your colleagues.  It will haunt you later.