Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

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Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Relentless Automation


In his Farewell Speech, President Obama explained: “To begin with, our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.  And the good news is that today the economy is growing again.  Wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are all rising again.  Poverty is falling again.  The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records.  The unemployment rate is near a 10-year low.  The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.  Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years.  And I've said and I mean it - if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we've made to our health care system and that covers as many people at less cost, I will publicly support it.  Because that, after all, is why we serve.  Not to score points or take credit, but to make people's lives better.

“But for all the real progress that we've made, we know it's not enough.  Our economy doesn't work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class and ladders for folks who want to get into the middle class.  That's the economic argument.  But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic ideal.  While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and in rural counties, have been left behind - the laid-off factory worker; the waitress or health care worker who's just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills - convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful - that's a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

“But there are no quick fixes to this long-term trend.  I agree, our trade should be fair and not just free.  But the next wave of economic dislocations won't come from overseas.  It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.”

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