The house Republicans just about self destructed last week and the Democrats declared the sky was falling over the extension of a payroll tax cut that amounts to drop in the preverbal bucket. The Democrats wanted a two month extension to the tax cut which by most accounts is not even doable. The Republicans wanted a full year which is doable but will add to an already blooming deficit. In the end the Republicans caved in exchange for having the opportunity to make the Democrats cave later. It was the politics of nonsense on display as usual.
For most politicians politics is all about staying on top. This means staying in the limelight as much as possible and saying whatever will make them more popular. They often seem to resemble attention starved drama queens looking for a stage and an audience. Unfortunately in politics true leaders that have core values and vision are all too rare.
Presently U.S. economy is the worst it has been since Jimmy Carter (yes Jimmy, not the Great Depression; at least not yet) and Europe is on the verge of economic collapse and yet politicians keep on being politicians. Instead of solutions we are hearing politics as usual. Of course there are voices of reason among the cacophony of political grandstanding but these voices are drowned out by those trying to play to the crowd. What is worse is most of what those grandstanding drama queens hogging the spotlight are spewing forth would only make matters worse. To most politicians it seems their agendas trump nearly everything else.
Take Obama for example. As America’s economic house started to burn down he fiddled around on health care and doubled down on regulations. Both of these having the effect of undermining the economy further but to hear it from him it was its savior. When the economy worsened he started out by blaming companies for not hiring, as if hiring was a civic duty and not, by necessity, an economic driven decision. When this line was played out he blamed increases in productivity for the loss of jobs. Absurd as that was many were quick to accept that ATM machines and modern technology was at fault for a slow recovery. This last bit of demagoguery is probably one of the oldest ploys in the political playbook,
The idea that advances in technology create unemployment and lower standards of living has been around for centuries. In the fifteenth century Dutch workers were known to throw their wooden shoes (Sabots) into the gears of the textile looms (an act of sabotage) to save jobs from the onslaught of technology. Similarly there was great fear in England during the eighteenth century that the advancements in the production of textiles would cost jobs with some even going as far as burning down new factories. In America such fears gave rise to the legend of John Henry. With a twenty pound sludge hammer in each hand it is said, he challenged a steam powered spike driver in an effort to show man was superior to machine and save the jobs of the men the machine was meant to replace. The legend says the mighty John Henry put hammer to steel from sunrise to sunset beating the machine fair and square only to die of exhaustion. Such determination, such strength and in the end such a waste, if only Henry could of known that the productivity increases he feared would mean even more jobs, not less!
It is too bad history tends to leave off the end of all these stories. The textile mills did not destroy jobs, they created them. As clothing became cheaper people could afford to buy more and better clothes with money left over to spend on other things. Standards of living rose and so did the number of jobs. Because of technology like steam powered spike drivers and tunnel drills railroads expanded quicker which lead to increases in national and even international trade. Again jobs were created and living standards increased, just the opposite of the workers feared.
What was true in the past is true today, if it were not for technology there would be less jobs and a much lower standard of living. This truth can be seen today across the globe. From Africa to Appalachian Mountains, the more backward an area is, the lower the standard of living and the higher the unemployment. For those politicians that demonize increases in productivity one needs to ask if they would prefer computers to be playthings of the rich or to take a track across town just to get money out of the bank? Without technological advances and the production efficiency it brings both would be true today. It is simple economics. As productivity increases costs drop which leads to greater demand for the now cheaper products; it also releases more capital into the market that in turn creates more products. This isn’t fantasy or based on exceptions to the rule; it is the rule and has been so for centuries.
This all begs the question, why then do politicians, union bosses and others keep decrying each new technology that increases the productivity of workers? One could also ask why a President that has a history of increasing the government’s deficit spending suddenly is pretending to be a deficit hawk. The answer is simple; it is because they think it is in their personal self interest. While it is true some attackers of new technology may just be uninformed it is doubtful that most politicians are so woefully ignorant. Surrounded by advisors and lobbied by businesses, politicians are usually very aware of the truth. The sad fact is that for many politicians their political agendas and those of their backers are more important than jobs, the economy or the well being of others.