What kind of Jobs? A profit-first economy going where?

What kind of jobs?
A profits-first economy, afloat with low-wage, no-benefit, insecure jobs, going where?
Bob Sheak
June 4, 2018

Is the jobs situation in the United States good or bad? Are there enough jobs available for those who want and need them? Are they regular jobs that pay a decent wage? Bear in mind that wages and salaries are often the only source of income or the largest portion of income people have. People are likely to be poor if they have a low-wage job. They are likely to be rich if they are a CEO or executive of a Fortune 500 company. In April, there were over 153 million people employed in all sorts of jobs, in different industries and occupations, some full-time and some less than that, a growing number are contingent workers, the conditions of work vary greatly, with varying degrees of control over work activities. A recent study of the CEO-worker pay ratio, finds that the gap, which has been growing for decades, is higher now than ever. Reported by Edward Helmore for The Guardian, the study, titled Rewarding or Hoarding, was released by Minnesota’s US congressman Keith Ellison on May 16, 2018 (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/16/ceo-workers-pay-ratio-america-first-study).

Helmore reports that the central finding in this “first comprehensive study of the massive pay gap between the US executive suite and average workers…found that the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio now reached 339 to 1, with the higher gap approaching 5,000 to 1.” The data on which the study is based includes wage information on “almost 14 million workers at 225 US companies with total revenues of $6.3 trillion.” The gap would probably be even wider if contracted workers had not been excluded. The pay gap in the US. is far higher than other “major world economies,” with US CEOs making “more than four times his or her counterpart in the other [19] countries recently analyzed by Bloomberg.

Another indication of the jobs’ situation is reflected in the distribution of income in the US, which is the most unequal among the economically rich countries. This reflects significantly the wide range of jobs in the economy and how earnings related to these jobs are rising at the higher end and stagnating or falling for the majority of workers. Jake Johnson reports on a recent study on U.S. inequality and poverty by Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. Johnson quotes Alston as follows:

“It is no secret that the United States has among the worst levels of inequality, poverty, and infant mortality of all wealthy nations, but a scathing new United Nations report concludes that President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress are “deliberately” working to make these already devastating crises worse by waging war on the poor while lavishing the rich with massive tax cuts (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/06/01/scathing-un-report-condemns-trump-and-gop-deliberately-driving-already-devastating).

Inequality and the job situation

To repeat: Much of the inequality in the U.S. reflects changes in the kind of jobs – and wages – that are available. Focusing on the lower half of the job supply gives you a glimpse of the how problematic the job situation is. Chuck Collins refers to the following evidence in his new book, Is Inequality in America irreversible?

“Half of US jobs pay less than $15 an hour and 41 million workers earn under $12 an hour, or less than $25,000 per year. These workers are disproportionately black and Latino. Most of these low-wage jobs have few or no benefits, including no sick leave, vacation days, childcare, or retirement plans. These are the workers who clean hotel rooms, take care of children and the elderly, serve food, and work at retail counters and as janitors and security guards. This fuels a difficult work-life balancing act for many individuals and working families attempting to survive” (pp. 18-19).

A press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals more generally that “real average hourly earnings” barely increased by 0.3 percent over the previous year, from April 2017 to April 2018 (https://www.bls.gov/news/release/pdf/realer.pdf).

The stagnation of wages stretches back to the 1970s. Wages in manufacturing, where the relatively highest nonsupervisory wages can be found, have been stagnant since the 1970s. Robert Kuttner writes: “In January 1979, the average manufacturing wage was $20.83 in inflation-adjusted dollars. In July 2017, it was $20.94” (Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism, p. 191). The percentage of manufacturing jobs in the economy has been declining most years since the 1960s: “Between the 1960s and the current era, US employment in manufacturing declined from over 25 percent of total jobs in 1965 to just under 8 percent by 2016” (p. 191).

More recent estimates by the BLS indicate that manufacturing jobs increased from May 2017 to May 2018 by 259,000, or an increase of 2.1 percent (https://www.bls/gov/web/empsit/cehighlights.pdf). We must wait to see whether this trend continues. But there is reason to be skeptical that manufacturing employment will ever climb back to double digits (as a percentage of total employment), let alone to 25 percent. This would require a number of presently unlikely conditions, namely, that corporations like GM, Ford, GE, stop outsourcing their investments in the rising consumer markets of China and Southeast Asia, that the US government invest massively in a major infrastructure project, that corporations use the increased billions in revenues from the Trump/Republican Party tax cuts to invest in new or expanded domestic production, that the federal government increase – rather than decrease – support of green technologies, and that government support a National Labor Relations Board that supports the right of workers to join unions and for fair collective bargaining.

The importance of jobs beyond wages and salaries

Paid employment has implications that go beyond earnings. Jobs provide people with opportunities to acquire and develop skills – or not. The jobs people have shape their core identities and how they think about themselves and how others think about them. That is, jobs have status implications. Jobs often consume a major chunk of time. If the job is stressful and/or the job environment is unhealthy, there are consequences for the physical and mental wellbeing of workers. And there are larger economic effects. Communities thrive or fall on whether there are good jobs available for residents. In the aggregate, the overall wages earned have a major effect on how much people can spend on consumption. Lower levels of consumption have a significant impact on the economy. If many consumers have limited earnings then sales, revenues, and profits suffer.

The disciplining of workers through stigmatization of government “welfare”

There is an invidious aspect of U.S. culture that says any job, however low the wages and poor the conditions, is better than public assistance or welfare. Alternatives to paid employment are stigmatized and made difficult administratively to obtain. So, welfare recipients are viewed as wanting a free ride, for being lazy, or for lying about their eligibility. One implication of such stigmatizing is that it “disciplines labor,” that is, it conveys the cultural message that even the lowest-paid work is better than going on public assistance and pressures workers at the lower end of the labor market to accept the poorest jobs. There is a long history in the U.S. about such stigma. I recommend historian Michael B. Katz’s book, The Undeserving Poor, 2nd edition, for an in-depth analysis of the issue. Such stereotyping is good for employers who pay low wages or don’t want to raise wages.

Presently, Trump and the Republicans are stoking this cultural stigma, as they push policies that will require welfare recipients getting food stamps and in certain situations getting Medicaid benefits to work a certain number of hours each month to pay for their meager public assistance. Hannah Katch and her colleagues offer documentation that Medicaid work requirements “will reduce low-income families’ access to care and worsen health outcomes (https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/medicaid-work-requirements-will-reduce-low-income-families-access-to-care-and-worsen).

Recent Jobs’ data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

A lot of what we know about the jobs’ situation comes from the estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of employment, unemployment, and non-participants in the labor force. There is substantial evidence that they underestimate the true extent of a jobs’ situation that is highly problematic, in which there is a lack of opportunities for tens of millions of people to find employment with decent wages, benefits, security, and that are safe from occupational hazards of various sorts. What is clear, though, the official BLS job categories and estimates have great importance politically. For example, all presidents and all political parties include in their platforms the goal of creating more good jobs than exist when they take office and promise to do better than the opposition or previous president did. Trump was unsurprisingly no exception and has always been cognizant of the importance of jobs to voters. His own record in real estate suggests that, as an employer, he was hardly generous to his workers. David Cay Johnston writes: “He has been sued thousands of times for refusing to pay employees, vendors, and others” (The Making of Donald Trump, p. xiii). He is a person with few scruples whose main aim in life is to win in whatever he does. Consider that when he was campaigning for the presidency back in 2016, he argued that the official estimate of unemployment widely underestimated the true extent of the problem and that if elected he would create more jobs than any previous president. Writing for the Washington Post, Philip Bump reminds us of Trump’s blather at the time, as follows:

“On the campaign trail, Trump consistently argued that the unemployment numbers being touted by the administration of President Barack Obama failed to capture the true weakness in the economy. The “real” unemployment rate was somewhere over 20 percent, he argued repeatedly during the campaign — even as the official figure continued to slip downward. As president, that official figure coupled with the increase in the stock indexes have been a centerpiece of Trump’s arguments for his own presidency” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/11/20/why-trump-should-be-more-wary-of-below-4-percent-unemployment-than-he-seems-to-be/utm_term=.95f6574ffbe8).

Now, however, Trump has done one of his regular flip-flops and has come to embrace the official unemployment estimate, now that it is down to 3.9 percent in April 2018 (https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000). This is the lowest it has been since 1999, according to the BLS estimates cited by Bump.

The civilian labor force

Let this soak in. If you just look at unemployment estimate of the BLS, then the economy is doing well, people are finding employment, and even the conservative Federal Reserve is beginning to worry, as the corporate and political elites do, about a tight labor market, rising wages, and a specter of inflation. Consider the BLS employment estimate, which is that an amazing 96% of those counted in the “civilian” labor force, which includes the employed plus unemployed. Here are the raw numbers. There were 153,161,000 persons aged 16 and over who were employed and 7,021,000 who were unemployed, that is, actively looking for work. Together they add up to a civilian labor force of 160,181,000. The BLS considers actively looking for work to include doing at least one of a wide range of activities, from having a job interview, contacting a public or private employment agency, submitting resumes or filling out applications, and some other form of active job search. Those in job training programs are not considered unemployed. Those who are “expecting to be recalled from temporary layoff are counted as unemployed.” The unemployed include more than people who have lost their jobs, as explained by the BLS as follows.

“They include people who have quit their jobs to look for other employment, workers whose temporary jobs have ended, individuals looking for their first job, and experienced workers looking for jobs after an absence from the labor force (for example, stay-at-home parents who return to the labor force after their children have entered school). Information also is collected for the unemployed on the industry and occupation of the last job they held (if applicable), how long they have been looking for work, their reason for being jobless (for example, did they lose or quit their job), and their job search methods” (https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm#employed).

The civilian non-institutional population – those not employed or unemployed according to BLS definitions

Then there is another BLS category that helps us to understand the job situation, that is, the “civilian non-institutional population.” This category includes all persons (legally) residing in the 50 states and the District of Columbia who are not in the Armed Forces or in jail or prison or other otherwise institutionalized (e.g., mental facilities, homes for the aged). There were in April 254,588,000 people in this category.

If you subtract the number of people in the civilian labor force, or 160,181,000, from the number in the civilian non-institutional population, that is 254,588,000, the result is 94,407,000. These are people 16 years and older who are not employed in paid work or who have not actively looked for employment in the four weeks prior to the April survey. They are fulltime homemakers, or single parents who do not have access to daycare for young children. They are attending school. They are unable to work due to a mental or physical health disability, discouraged from continuing to look for work because of their unsuccessful previous efforts to find work, in a situation where there are no jobs for which they are qualified, or have a criminal record that makes employers unwilling to hire them. They may have a substance abuse problem that makes it impossible for them to find a regular paid job. Steven F. Hipple reports on BLS data on those not in the labor force that are generalized and devoid of context but do refer to gender and age differences for the population outside of the labor force. Here is Hipple’s summary:

“From 2004 to 2014, there was an increase in the proportion of the population 16 years and older that was not in the labor force and that cited school attendance, illness or disability, or retirement as the main reason for not working. The percentage of people who were not in the labor force and the reasons they gave for not working varied by age and gender. Among younger people, the percentage not in the labor force rose sharply and the most often cited reason for not working was school attendance. The percentage not in the labor force also rose for both men and women 25 to 54 years, and nearly all reasons cited recorded an increase. Women in this age group were more likely than men to cite home responsibilities as the main reason for not working. Men and women 25 to 54 years with less education were more likely to be labor force nonparticipants than their counterparts with more education. From 2004 to 2014, the increases in the percentage of men and women not in the labor force were larger for those with less education. People with less education were more likely than those with more education to cite illness or disability as the main reason for not working. The proportion of older adults who were not in the labor force declined from 2004 to 2014. Older adults were most likely to cite retirement as the main reason for not working, although the percentage who cited this reason fell. The older adult population saw an increase in the proportion who cited illness or disability as the main reason for not working.”

Racial discrimination

There are many institutional factors that continue to put the majority of African Americans at a disadvantage in the US job markets. Economist Joseph Stiglitz provides a telling summary. The summary comes from a chapter he wrote for the edited book titled Healing our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report.

“…the changing structure of America’s economy has disadvantaged African Americans because it has disadvantaged those with lower levels of educational attainment. But, then as now, America’s discrimination in housing, dysfunctional health care system, and weak public transportation system have had repercussions in the labor market. There is a mismatch between jobs and workers that disadvantages African Americans. If anything, matters may have become worse, as more jobs moved to largely white suburbs, the distance between African Americans and jobs may have increased” (pp. 131-132).

Unreported employment

There is another consideration that adds to the complexity of the jobs’ situation in the United States. That is, there is some unknown, but probably considerable, unreported employment, referred sometimes as working under the table, or off the books, or in the underground economy. That is, this is paid work that is not reported to the government and where payments are generally in cash (https://en-wikipedia.org/wiki/Unreported_employment). Such unreported employment commonly includes domestic work such as housekeeping, babysitting, or foodservice, construction work, landscaping, farm work, taxicab service, various types of self-employment, such as plumbing, electrician, window cleaning, painting and decorating, street market trading, and gardening, short-term work and day laborers, short-term youth employment, restaurant work, human trafficking, prostitution, and fixing cars, motorcycles, and mopeds. There are obviously no official estimates of such work. And there are no official data on the characteristics of the people who are engaged in such work.

In some cases, those in the officially identified labor force may also work for cash “under the table to supplement earnings from a regular job. In other cases, unreported work is the sole source of income. Generally, with respect to unreported employment, we are talking about people who have limited income. These are people who are a hidden part of the jobs’ situation in the country and another indication of how the official employment and unemployment estimates underestimate the extent to which people cannot find a regular and stable jobs that pay a decent wage with benefits; for example: health care, vacation time, pay for overtime work, paid maternal leave.

Out of the complexity of the jobs’ situation comes Trump claiming credit

Of course, in the mind of the president, he claims credit for the low “unemployment” of 3.9 percent and whatever else is good about the economy, like the record-breaking stock market. What is the basis for his questionable claims that his policies are the reason for the low unemployment rate?

The tax reform – whither the trickle down?

The Trump/Republican tax reform, the gold-star, the magic bullet, of Trump’s non-military policies, reduced the corporate and income tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent. Where have the tax savings gone? It’s too early to reach a final conclusion, but based on early results and previous trends, the lion share of the proceeds will go to executives and shareholders, not to employees. Jeff Cox reports on research by Trim Tabs, which compiles market and economic data and operates an ETF [exchange traded fund, often index funds] that focuses on firms with high levels of free cash flow (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/17/tax-cut-windfalls-has-gone-to-executives-than-to-workers-trimtax.html).

Purchasing their own stock vs. new employment and wage increases

The research found that in the first quarter of 2018, “corporate America dedicated $305 billion to stock buybacks and cash takeovers comparted with $131 billion in pretax wage growth. David Santshi, director of liquidity research at TrimTabs, is quoted: “The recently enacted corporate tax cut is likely to deliver far more benefits to top management and investors than to typical American households.” This continues a long-term trend, according to Santshi, of U.S. companies “spending far more money on cash mergers and stock buybacks… to boost disproportionately the compensation of top management – than on hiring new workers and paying existing workers more.” Finally, “[i]f the first-quarter numbers were extrapolated over a five-year period, they would show $6.1 trillion in buybacks and deals to $2.6 trillion in wages, or only slightly above the previous five-year pace for worker raises.”

Employee bonuses – not wage increases

The tax cuts were also going to be shared with employees, not just top executives. Some corporations announced they were going to do this. Economist Dean Baker comments on the early information on this issue in an interview on The Real News on March 15, 2018 (http://therealnews.com/t2/story:21368:Economic-Benefits-of-Tax-Cuts-Should-Have-Arrived—Where-Are-They%3F).

“BAKER: Well, they’ve touted bonuses. You’ve had a lot of companies that have announced bonuses. AT&T announced bonuses of $1000 for most if not all of its employees. Boeing announced bonuses, Disney, a number of major companies announced bonuses. And they said, see, this is the dividend from the tax cuts. And that’s good to see. I’m glad to see workers at AT&T, people who get $60,000, $70,000 a year will get a $1000 bonus, that’s good. I mean, that’s something.

“But two points. One is that these are bonuses, these are one-time payments. They’re not pay increases. We’d like to see permanent pay increases. The other is if you look at the size of the tax cut relative to the amount they’re paying out in bonuses, typically the size of the annual tax cut, in other words, they’ll get it this year, next year, the year after, it’s going to be continuing, that’s about ten times the size of the bonus. I know I looked at that in the case of AT&T, and they’re looking at a tax cut on the order of $2 billion. Their bonuses were going to cost them in the neighborhood of $150 million-$200 million. This is by their own reckoning, I have no independent way to verify how much they actually pay out in their bonuses.

“So those don’t look very good. They’ve been touted in the business press, you’ve got a lot of companies have gotten good public relations out of it, but the reality is when you look at it a little more closely, they don’t look very good.”

New investment?

Baker also finds little in the data in the first months of 2018 that support the claim that the tax reform has led to a surge in new investment in the domestic economy. Here’s what he had to say.

“… when we’re actually looking post-tax cut, you know, what has happened since the tax cut was passed or was known it would be passed, we look at the data we have from January and February, and there’s nothing going on there. The data on durable goods or capital goods orders, so this is what companies are ordering by way of new investment equipment, that’s actually down slightly in January and February. I wouldn’t make a big point of it being down. But the point is they had projected, the Trump administration had projected a huge rise in investment, and we are certainly not seeing that.

“Another measure, the National Federation of Independent Business, has a monthly survey of its members that they have been doing for more than 30 years now, and they asked them, do they expect to increase capital expenditures over the next 3 to 6 months? And again, here, too, we have data, January and February, nothing. It’s maybe a very, very modest uptick, but it’s back to levels we saw last year, as far back as 2014.

Bringing offshore cash back to U.S.

U.S. corporations have an enormous offshore cash trove of 1.6 to 2.6 trillion, the impetus for which has been the business tax rate of 35 percent that prevailed for the years. It reflects massive tax avoidance. Bringing that money back under the previous 35 percent business tax would have cost corporations hundreds of billions in taxes each year. To induce corporations to bring that cash back to the U.S., ideally for investment and job creation, the Trump/Republican tax reform reduces the tax on repatriated cash, taxing it, according to veteran financial editor and reporter Larry Light, at “just 15.5 percent [rather than 35 percent] on offshore profits invested in liquid assets and 8 percent in harder-to-sell assets like real estate.” And the future tax will be even lower: “Any foreign-generated cash in the future is subject to a 10 percent U.S. tax, but the formula for that levy makes it effectively only a few percent, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center think tank”

However, Light offers some reasons for why not to be optimistic about a rush of offshore cash to the U.S.(https://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-companies-offshore-cash-wont-rush-home).

First, there is a precedent that “isn’t inspiring.” He writes: “In 2004, when George W. Bush was president, the U.S. offered a similar tax holiday to attract overseas corporate cash, charging the returning money a low 5.25 percent tax rate. That resulted in $299 billion brought back by U.S. companies, raising hopes in some quarters that a slew of jobs would be created.” However, “the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found in a 2011 study that very few jobs were produced, and most of the offshore money went to mergers, stock buybacks and dividends. In fact, 10 of the 15 largest corporate repatriators ended up cutting jobs.”

Second, U.S. companies don’t need the money. Why? Two reasons. There is a lack of “good investment opportunities.” And most of the large corporations with large offshore cash have been making record-high, after-tax profits and, if need, can borrow money a super-low interests rates. So, Light writes:
“Companies have all the domestic cash and borrowing ability they need. Interest rates remain very low. One-year LIBOR, the benchmark rate for what banks charge each other, was 3.1 percent at the end of 2004 (the year of the last repatriation) and is 1.9 percent now. Seven-year AA corporate bonds paid 4.6 percent interest rates at year-end 2004, and now they pay 2.9 percent.”
Those corporations that did repatriate offshore cash are unlikely to invest it job-creating investments, and if they do it won’t amount to many jobs. Light gives this example.

“Apple (AAPL), which has 80,000 U.S. employees, holds $252 billion in offshore cash. Does it need that money to fund domestic purposes? Hardly. Awash in earnings, the company raised $7 billion in a bond sale earlier this year. The tech giant has pledged to spend $1 billion on manufacturing in the U.S. Apple recently announced a $390 million investment to revamp an old plant in Texas for Finstar, which makes its facial recognition lasers. That would create 500 jobs.”

Third, a lot of the money is in the U.S. economy anyway. Light cites a 2011 Senate study which estimated that close to 50 percent “of the offshore cash is invested in various American financial instruments, ranging from Treasury notes to corporate bonds to mutual funds. A lot of it is in U.S. bank accounts.” This is money that is already available to “contribute to investment and capital formation in the United States.” However, it sits in these financial instruments because the corporations fail to see many profitable opportunities.

Fourth, incentives to keep the cash offshore remain. While the tax on profits earned overseas will fall, eventually to 10 percent, there are lower corporate tax rates in some other countries (e.g., Ireland, Hungary) and no taxes in tax havens like Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caymans.
So after the IRS takes its one-time bite of offshore profits, and once the small U.S. tax kicks in on profits earned overseas from 2018 forward, why would American multinationals need to bring back money to their native soil? While U.S. corporate tax rates now are much lower, they aren’t the lowest by far. Aside from Ireland, Liechtenstein charges 12.5 percent as well, and Hungary 9 percent, per the Tax Foundation. In addition to Bermuda, nations that tax companies nothing include the Bahamas and the Caymans.

Other reasons to be skeptical of a pending surge in good jobs

Here are just a few. There is that rampant deregulation making it easier for businesses to invest and grow, but, in the absence of the enforcement of anti-trust laws, corporations increasingly grow not by innovating but through acquisitions and mergers, leading to more concentration of economic power while leading to the loss of jobs. Trump’s cabinet appointments come from Wall Street, corporate suites, circles of right-wing ideologues, and former generals. Trump, his appointees and advisers are all in effect neoliberals, promoting policies of low taxes, deregulation, privatization, and less government non-military spending on programs designed to benefit most Americans. Only libertarian economists believe this will lead to enhanced job creation. Trump and his cohorts are, in the final analysis, opposed to unions. One example. Trump issued an executive order in November 2017 that further weakened collective bargaining, requiring the labor disputes be resolved by “compulsory arbitration” and ruling out class action suits. Kuttner discusses the ramifications of such arbitration. They create a situation in which large employers “require both contract labor and regular payroll employees to sign contracts that steer virtually all complaints to impartial arbitrators in cases of union collective bargaining with management.” The Supreme Court has upheld these requirements. The research of Professor Katherine Stone of the UCLA School of Law documents how compulsory arbitration undermines the right of employees. It has been used, as summarized by Kuttner,

“to deny workers a broad range of rights and remedies legislated by Congress, including protection from race, sex, and age discrimination; from being cheated out of pay; and from abuses of workers’ compensation claims. The arbitrator, who is retained and paid by management, invariably sides with managements. Penalties, when levied are usually so minimal as to deter the use of arbitration altogether” (Kuttner, p. 108).

It remains to be seen whether their America-first trade policies will be job creators or destroyers. The Trump/Republican juggernaut has done all it can to undermine federal government support for green businesses and jobs and fancied that employment in the coal industry would come back. There is another worrisome prospect, that is, the specter of increasing displacement of human labor by robots and automated systems. JP Sottile provides an in-depth view of developments taking the economy toward such systems (http://truth-out.org/news/40495-the-robot-economy-ready-or-not-here-it-comes).

Scottile cites and draws from an academic paper by Carl Benedikt Grey and Michael A. Osborne published by Oxford University in 2013 titled “The Future of Employment,” among other sources. The evidence is astounding.

• “47 percent of all jobs in the United States may be lost to automation over the next two decades”
• “This is an economy where manufacturing jobs require a college degree, artificial intelligence replaces administrative works, automated kiosks dislodge food service workers and driverless vehicles threaten the livelihoods of up to 10 million Americans who take the wheel for a living.”
• A “grocery business with almost human-free stores.”
• “Even low-paying farming jobs could be completely upended by robotic fruit pickers….”
• “…an economy where there is ‘an 83% chance that workers who earn $20 an hour or less could have their jobs replaced by robots in the next five years’ and “those in the $40 an hour pay range face a 31% chance of having their jobs taken over by machines, according to a 2016 report by the then-President Obama’s White House.”
• Artificial intelligence “is starting to lay waste to college-educated workers in non-manual jobs previously thought to be exempt from automation.” For example: “Goldman Sachs ‘employs’ Marcus – a fully automated lending platform that’s part of an industry-wide AI-makeover displacing humans in equities ‘sales, trading, and research.’”
• “As more and more jobs are turned over to AI, robots and algorithms, more and more wealth will accumulate in the hands of those already at the top of a steep pyramid. Like the pharaohs of old, these masters of the universe will profit as the cost of labor declines precipitously thanks to the robots they ‘employ.’”

Concluding thoughts

The present jobs situation is not nearly as good as the Trump administration proclaims or as the compliant media report. The policies of the current administration is unlikely to contribute to improving the present employment in any significant or permanent way. This means that a large and growing percentage of the workforce will have jobs that don’t pay a decent or living wage and without stability or job benefits. The best hope is that progressive Democrats are elected to office in large numbers in 2018 and 2020, a progressive President is elected in 2020, and that policies that create the conditions for an economy of good jobs are put in place. If the Republicans or moderate Democrats are elected, prepare for the worst on the jobs’ front. However, beyond the employment questions, we may be faced in the not-distant future with a highly automated economy that does not require so much employment. The alternative to a society in which there is less need for employment may involve what seems political outrageous now, that is, the passage of legislation that provides a guaranteed or basic income for all citizens.

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