“We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should not feel nervous about the tollbooth collector not having to collect tolls. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited about it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die,” she said.
“We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in. Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.”
Wealthy robot owners, she added, could be taxed by as much as 90%. Ocasio-Cortez cited comments by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who suggested that robots should pay the taxes for the people they replace, although he didn’t name a precise figure. “What [Gates is] really talking about is taxing corporations at 90%, but it’s easier to say: ‘Tax a robot,’” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Let’s ignore her partisan rhetoric for the moment, and go to the main point. People have talked about a universal basic income for a long time. Seems like it might be something that will have to be considered as more jobs are automated out of existence, however, unemployment in the U.S. remains very low and “wages and salaries rose 3.1 percent in the third quarter, the biggest increase in a decade, according to the Labor Department”. So, as some jobs disappear, others are created. That said, about 12% of Americans are still living below the poverty rate, and many more aren’t earning what would be considered a “living wage” (a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that half of all workers earn above $18 and half earn less than $18 an hour; a study by the Brookings Institution suggest that two-thirds of full-time workers earn at least a living wage).
Thoughts? How do we proceed if and when many more jobs are automated out of existence? Will there always be new jobs created to fill the gaps? Related: how to deal with growing wage/wealth disparity?