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Unemployment? Blame ATMs

In an interview with MSNBC, President Obama finally revealed to us why his economic policies are not helping solve the unemployment crisis: machines. Yes, ignore all those oppressive government regulations, the obnoxious size of taxes, and the massive debt accumulated by silly things like bank bailouts and a government stimulus program. Our economic misery is the fault of ATMs, self-check-out counters in Wal Mart, airport kiosks, and the machines. See, this is a similar line of thinking to the famous broken window fallacy that Keynesian types are so quick to embrace. They ignore that just because one part of the economy is seeing a decrease (in Obama's case, cashiers and bank tellers) does not necessarily mean the entire economy is hurting; if we have more ATMs, we need more mechanics to make and upkeep them, and money spent on paying tellers can be spent elsewhere that will create jobs.

That, and Obama's comments are just flat wrong, as Jonah Goldberg points out. Since the creation of the ATM, there have been 42,000 new bank teller jobs and the number of tellers is expected to grow 6% between 2008 and 2018. While it is true that the creation of automated services has significantly altered our economy, it has not hurt it. Just as he can no longer hang the lackluster economy around President Bush's neck, so too can he not hang it around Skynet's. The real automated overlord to be concerned about is the expansive federal bureaucracy choking our economy to death.
Categories > Economy

Discussions - 11 Comments

General Ludd rears his ugly head.

In President Obama's understanding of the universe, as doctors remove children's tonsils for extra money, so too do ATMs take away jobs from bank tellers.

Also, thank you for the excellent Bastiat link: prior to reading that the only work of his I had read was "The Law". I'll have to bookmark the page.

proving my point - Liberalism is a mental illness and the bus driver has the fever....

If the president really believes this, why did he deliver this message via television? Imagine all the jobs he could create by having his words recorded by scribes, then hand-delivered by messenger to every household in the United States.

Where is all the talk about "quality jobs" the Dems used to harangue us with. "Oh sure," they would say, "you've created jobs. But they're all at McDonald's!" And I distinctly remember Lloyd Benson asserting that the Reagan-recovery was based on Federal debt, as if that were a bad thing (in the Dems' view, at least!).

Just more evidence that these people worship POWER and nothing else. There is no consistency to their rhetoric, nor much in their policies (save the concentration of power and the confiscation of private wealth).

"quality jobs" require a graduate degree. All that pointy-headed learning that conservatives don't believe in is still good for something. Without a graduate degree you run the real risk of being replaced by an iPad.

That's silly. There are many necessary jobs that an iPad just cannot do. It won't fix my plumbing or my dinner, nor can it start a new enterprise. Machines, even computers, are tools. A tool is useful in capitalizing the main source of any human's capital, which is his own body inhabited by his mind. There is always plenty of work for humans to do and someone who works well is becoming a vauable rarity, according to busness owners I know.

I suppose you can have your own definition of "quality jobs". Most people find quality in being able to make a comfortable living, and academics will not necessarily get them there.

Universities are devaluing education, which is a common conservative complaint. A graduate degree is the equivalent of an undergad degree fifty years ago. Although some graduate degrees are not worth much anyway; I am asked to celebrate a graduate in Women's Studies and still wonder at the utility of a colleague's PhD in graphic novels. At least they can teach.

Graduate school is to the college degree now what the college degree was to a high school diploma 50 years ago. such is the nature of the expansion of knowledge and the corresponding compression of the curriculum. I don't understand what it means for "universities to devalue education." Please explain. You don't understand the point of a PhD in graphic novels, well, I don't understand the point of a PhD in literature (or insert your favorite liberal art discipline).

For what it's worth, I left the teaching side of the academy because students were completely disengaged (not even bringing paper/pencil/pen to class, not purchasing books, etc.) so I don't blame the institutions but rather the students. I was willing to teach (it was a good school, and I was a good teacher), but they showed nary a wit of interest in learning.

As for the iPad, you're right it will not take over the world just yet, but I increasingly order my meals on it and then just swipe my atm card so even the lowly restaurant cashier/order placer person is endangered. Software exists to allow me to make a reservation, order my meal online, and then just sit down to it, so really, even the waiter industry is on its way out. Seriously, who gets things repaired when the cost to replace them is so much less?

While the statistics still favor getting a college degree, I've seen many recent national editorials questioning the usefulness of a college education (given the ever-rising expense).

As for "quality jobs," talk to my plumber, A/C serviceman, mechanic, or even my UPS delivery guy. You can easily attain middle-class status offering necessary services to millions of white-collar workers who are increasingly clueless about how the real world functions. But you see, those jobs are often nested in small- to medium-sized companies, the kind that are being destroyed by Obama and his stupid policies.

Anon., in a sense your first line reflects what I mean by devaluing education. I also mean the universities have allowed and even catered to the disengagement of students. Public schools must all but teach a loathing of learning, since that is the only thing they do that seems to get consistent results. Teaching English Comp. at a community college, I wonder (with my colleagues) what the public education system did with the kids for the previous 13 years. It is a form of cruelty, I think.

I figure one reason all of education has been devalued is because there is so much of it available and so much of it is free. Information has never been so readily available and no one cares about. It is coming to have the value of salt. Anyone who knows how to use it well benefits from it and enjoys it. Many people use it indiscriminately and to bad effect, which causes others to despise and ignore it. I can see the expansion of knowledge in a few fields as requiring a lengthier education, but not in all. Surely business management is far easier than it was, Law? No one could keep up with our plurality of laws, anyway, and your iPad may be very useful in that field. Even in medicine, the use of computerized diagnostics and specialization balances the expansion of knowledge in the field.

If my students were knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects other than the English language I could forgive that lack. They don't know anything well and most know hardly anything worth knowing. They know pop culture, but not how to judge it; everything is now, as if the world came into being through the TV in their living rooms.

Not all are like that. I get good students that I cherish and some wake up during the semester, which is a pleasure to see. Everyone at the college dances around the problem of the huge number of students who are not prepared even for college at our level of difficulty. One week the college president chides us to do everything we can to keep all of our students and the next week he begs us to maintain high standards. How do you do both given their educational deficits?

I lose far fewer students than my colleagues; my students drop out for personal reasons, but when I substitute for my colleagues, (all of whom have advanced degrees in the subject, which I do not) I can readily understand that many also drop out of English classes from boredom. Math and science classes average a 60% attrition rate at my college. I suppose if I think in practical terms of the "C" or below grades I give that will not transfer to a full college added to the number who drop out, the rate of ultimate student "success" in my classes is not much better. But it is a community college and if students are seeking the degrees or certifications available, then effective use of our language is desirable, but perhaps not necessary. There is only so much I can do in 15 weeks.

I agree that a liberal arts PhD has limited utility, but in the portion of my course where I am discussing literature, opening student minds to the enjoyment of classics does them good, I think. Really, I am using literature to try to expand their ideas of what it is to be human. They need that and often find the depth and complexity of themes, characters or language refreshing and engaging.

Redwald is right that you only have to think carefully about the world around you to know there are many good and even satisfying jobs -- your ATM card does not magically produce your food even if that seems the process to you.

Kate, I firmly believe that the PhD is the degree you "give yourself." I strongly assert that baccalaureate colleges do a disservice by encouraging their graduates to pursue a PhD (particularly in the humanities and the social sciences) because the academic jobs are simply not there. It is even more unconscionable for graduate programs to produce the number of PhDs they are producing without giving those students an accurate picture of their job prospects. I was extraordinarily lucky to land an academic job at a good school, and a tenure-track one at that! I was also extremely fortunate to earn my tenure, although I gave it up without a second thought when I took an administrative job at another institution.

I will argue that the fact that you can now essentially "buy" a college degree (BS, MS, PhD) through online diploma mills and evening degree programs is what is devaluing the degrees, not the traditional brick-and-mortar schools that receive rankings from groups such as USN&WR (as much as I despise this practice). I'm not opposed to for-profit education, and I'm willing to concede that quite a few non-profit educational institutions have figured out that such accelerated degree programs are very efficient money magnets, but I will assert that such easy (and relatively painless) paths towards a degree does far more to devalue that degree than anything else.

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