The Truth of Automation…

A few years ago, back when the $15/hour movement started, a photo started floating around the web.  It wasn’t necessarily THIS photo but it looked something like this:


That’s an automated McDonald’s ordering system.  The photo was intended as a threat: “Demand an honest wage,” the message went, “and we’ll just automate your job away entirely.”  As with all things rich vs. poor, it’s a lie.  Here’s why:

The $15/hour movement got started around 2015 (and even at that would have left countless people below the poverty line).  That photo is dated 2005.  This is the web; maybe it was a typo but the caption noted that it was a prototype, the wave of the future.

I don’t mean to put too fine a point on this but the concept of a for-profit business is, well, to make profit.  Consider that an axiom.  It means that a business should, by rights, do any and every legal thing it can do to create profit.  The wealth hoarders at the top usually view the workers who generate the revenues as leeches and ALWAYS view the ‘Employee Compensation’ line on the P&L as a “problem.”  (Curiously, not the ‘Executive Compensation’ part, just the ‘Worker’ part…)

That means that automation is coming whether or not the corporation pays an honest wage.  There are two – and only two – considerations on the topic: dependability and public acceptance.  The corporation is already chipping away at the ‘acceptance’ part by offering these kiosks as “conveniences.” (As we know, today’s “convenience” is tomorrow’s “Screw you, YOU do it!”)  The very moment the ‘dependability’ part catches up, you’ll see fully automated McDonald’s everywhere you look – without regard to the pay rate of the workers.

Paying the workers an honest wage – or not – never enters into the equation.  Sooner or later, those workers are going to be out of a job as a result of automation.  The ONLY thing that will result from the lack of honest pay is that the workers’ plight will be worsened when they’re finally cut loose.  If they were paid an honest living wage while the transition to automation occurred, they’d be better positioned to absorb the loss of that job while they find another one.

I’ll tell you this: I don’t know about you but I’m kind of tired of all of the fraudulent excuses and stories being peddled in an attempt to justify theft from the workers…


I, of course, knew that I was going to write about income inequality this morning.  I’m tired of it and I’m tired of seeing (and living) the consequences of unbridled greed by the thieves at the top of the money pile.  I’m tired of pretending that the greatest fortunes of our society (or any society, for that matter) were created by the person who amassed them through pluck, determination, and hard work.  Those stories are fictions presented by the people who want you to believe.

One part is true, of course.  The “hard work” part.  Someone did the “hard work.”  My issue is, it’s almost NEVER the person who keeps the vast majority of the proceeds for themselves.  In short, those fortunes are – more often than not – the result of outright theft.

So I got up this morning and discovered that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC from here on in…) has discussed a top tax rate of 73%.  Awesome.  I see an opinion piece from leading economist Paul Krugman defending AOC’s suggestion.  I’m heartened.  There ARE people out there who understand that allowing the richest to keep all the wealth produced by other people’s labor benefits nobody but the richest, doing incredible harm to everyone else.

I ALSO saw a hit piece written by the insanely crazy CATO Institute suggesting – against every available piece of verifiable information – that FDR’s New Deal actually harmed most Americans.  (I  really couldn’t believe it.  The New Deal was the economic model that made America into the greatest economy the world had ever seen…)  Conservatives will believe it, though, because conservatives have been fed a steady stream of falsehood and lies for so long, the stories seem, to conservatives, like they must be true.  But the CATO position is NOT true.  It doesn’t even take much research to discover the fact but, being honest, here, conservatives aren’t exactly known for their willingness to do their own research.

The information in those preceeding two paragraphs gives me hope.  Americans are starting to wise up and dropping their fear of saying – out loud – Supply Side Economics is bullshit and we want a NEW New Deal.  The thieving ‘Have-mores’ must also be detecting the whiffs of inequality fatigue so they’re sending out marching orders to their think tanks to undermine…well…facts and rational thought.

I expect to be writing about income inequality quite a bit, now, with more detail and specific focus on specific issues.  For now, I think I just want to enjoy feeling hopeful for a change…


Presidumb Trump seems to really believe he can stop paying Federal workers for months and possibly years without consequence.  (Don’t lose sight of the fact that while the Federal workers will eventually be reimbursed, the privatized contract workers will not.  There WILL be economic consequences to his stubborn wrongheadedness…)  He says he thinks those workers are perfectly willing to lose everything they have in life in support of his stupid, misguided wall.  He might be right.  His base is not fact-based.  They’re faith-based and faith-based believers are often…unpredictable.

For me, I’ll be interested to see how long his base holds.  It’s one thing to support philosophical positions when they’re abstract.  It’s an entirely different ball of wax when it’s your own livelihood and well-being.  When they get evicted because they can’t pay the rent, they’re going to KNOW they’ve been evicted because they didn’t get paid.  Will they REALLY continue to support him in his quest to squander billions of dollars on a vanity project that won’t change anything with regards to immigration?  Sections of his barrier already exist.  People are already going over, under, and even through the fences.  Yeah, let’s throw more money at that…

I’ll tell you this: I suspect the Trump Shutdown is going to end with little or no wall money so the only real questions are: how much personal damage is the base going to accept and how much damage is the GOP going to allow Trump to do to the brand before they step up and reign him in?

Market Movements…

Did you hear?  The stock market crashed…then recovered…then crashed again…then recovered some more.  Down, up, down, up – some fairly wild swings in some fairly short periods of time.  Profit taking?  An inevitable “correction?”  Did the stock market take such a rough ride because of the jobs reports that showed modest growth in real wages?  Maybe.  Real wage gains was one of the myriad suggestions out there.  I hope that one is wrong, though.  It’s not a good sign – the suggestion that the market might crash if workers start to get more fair wages.  It DOES, however, support my contention that the “Dow” reflects only the happiness of CEOs and has nothing to do with the state of the economy so…victory lap?

I can’t pretend I’ve heard each and every one of the possible explanations out there but the one I DIDN’T hear was this: 45’s policies are starting to take effect.  For reasons I can’t explain, FAR too many Americans don’t seem to realize that the first year of a President’s term – any President – plays out under the LAST year of the previous President’s budget.  So all of this “good” economic news that’s been playing out over the last year has REALLY been the “end” of the Obama administration.

It seems quite possible to me that one of the problems is that the GOP can’t seem to get it’s financial house in order.  They’ve been trying to come up with their own budget and, so far, we’ve measured not one but two “government shutdowns” as the GOP careens between “cruel” and “not cruel enough” for the various “Republican” factions.  When they DID finally come up with…something…it added over one TRILLION dollars to THIS YEAR’S deficit.  Talk about “fiscal responsibility…”

But, in addition to the jobs report on the Friday the crash “started”, another event took place on the subsequent Monday: Janet Yellen was replaced as Fed Chair by a Trump pick, Jerome Powell.  Okay, “Trump pick” isn’t exactly right.  Powell was already on the Board and he was put there by Obama.  But Yellen was doing a good job as the Chairperson and it is described as “highly unusual” for a competent Chair to NOT be recommended for a second term.  Replacing Yellen with Powell introduced uncertainty and one of the things the markets hate beyond any other is uncertainty.

So, why the change?  Acknowledging that Trump and I haven’t spoken on the subject, I’d have to submit that, perhaps, the driving factor was Powell’s known aversion to “regulatory burdens.”  He was once a partner in the Carlyle Group – a Washington based private equity firm.  OF COURSE he wants to reduce “regulatory burdens.”  How the hell can banks game the system and rip off their customers if regulations prevent them from doing so?  And, sure, that will help usher in new instabilities as the economy returns to the boom and bust days of old…

I’ll tell you this: “Uncertainty” and “instability” are words regularly associated with this maladministration.  Sadly, they’re also the very intangibles investment markets try to avoid at all costs.  Perhaps Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride has only just begun…