Automation Versus Jobs in America

The automation of jobs in America is not some vague concept in the future. Automation is already here and will expand rapidly in the future. This is enormously significant because it means fewer jobs in America. The Trump presidential victory emphasized the anger of millions of unemployed, underemployed, underpaid, and discouraged workers in America. These two undeniably opposing forces of automation and anger at the loss of jobs create a terrible future for millions of Americans. Is there a solution to these two seemingly irreconcilable forces? The answer is yes, but the solution is a variety of policy steps many will find unattractive.

The first step is to alter our theory where population growth is necessary to cause economic growth. We need to embrace the idea of a smaller population using automation to create a higher standard of living for all. This sounds attractive, but the steps to get there aren’t easy. The key to this concept is jobs, good paying jobs for every American. Creating this future means having a smaller population, which means closing the borders for immigration. The highest population growth groups in America are Hispanics and Muslims, which is untenable with the whole concept of a smaller, high-skilled workforce.

This means we must stop all immigration except for the relatively few really bright students from around the world. Putting Americans to work in good paying jobs will substantially reduce welfare and prison costs, which can offset additional border patrol costs. Higher-level skills will make higher pay worthwhile to business. The whole idea is to provide good paying jobs to all Americans, which would benefit today’s poor most dramatically. Since Black and Hispanic people are disproportionately poor, this plan would disproportionately help them. Thus, this is not a plan aimed at harming anyone presently in the country. As Jack Kennedy said, “a rising tide raises all boats.”

The second step is to bring back as many of the jobs sent overseas as possible. The way to do this is for Corporate America to automate manufacturing to break even with the cheap labor costs overseas. As incentives, this may require sunsetted government tax holidays for income and property taxes for targeted businesses. Of course, only a fraction of the millions of jobs sent overseas can be saved because of automation, but they are a part of the overall solution. The third step is for America to become the preeminent world manufacturer of robots used in automation, solar panels, and other new technology like nanotechnology.

The fourth necessary related piece is to retrain American workers to manufacture, operate, and repair modern technology. Fifth, the whole concept of high skilled workers requires a new national respect for the importance of these people. Sixth, this reconstructed respect for skilled work will require leadership from the president, governors, mayors, city council members, and school board members. This new respected work culture will require a transformation of thinking about technical employment, a new public awareness of the importance of a highly skilled workforce, and then actions to create a skilled workforce.

The whole concept of a high wage economy requires a highly skilled workforce. The reality is paying low skilled workers high wages is how so many jobs went overseas in the first place. American workers are not inherently stupid or lazy and can be retrained to obtain high-level technical skills. Our community colleges can reorganize away from transfer education to higher-level technical education. More significantly, we need a national commitment to high school career academies. These career academies must be tied to local and regional businesses. They also must be tied closely to the community college technical education programs for students who wish additional technical education. This specifically means direct connections of career academies to apprenticeship programs and police and fire academies. High school career academies have research showing a very high graduation rate, which has been shown to reduce crime.

Another significant piece of this plan is to move older workers out of the workforce. A first step is to reduce the retirement age to sixty for social security. Eliminating the cap on deductions for social security can pay for this. Another step is to increase public employment by employing more teachers by reducing class size to twenty. This would cost more, but welfare and prison cost reductions will more than pay for it. Most people would rather work for a good living than commit crime. The idea is to provide good paying jobs that would prevent most people from committing crime. The reality is that it is always better to prevent crime than to try to fix it after the fact.

The truth is that we have no choice but to develop a serious plan to address this new phenomenon of automation. Automation is here to stay and will quickly become more pervasive. The creation of a smaller, highly skilled workforce is feasible. However, we must recognize that we cannot take any immigrants from anywhere no matter what their circumstances. This intervention requires a captive, limited population. This sounds harsh, but the recent election has demonstrated the anger of millions of American people who want to work for a decent wage. We owe American citizens a chance at a decent life.

If we do nothing, the lack of jobs will create far more structural unemployment, poverty, protests, crime, and an even angrier populace. The reality of the irresistible movement toward automation is that there is no other way to create sufficient work for our populace. Some people have proposed just paying people not to work. This is a formula for immense crime, political insurrection, and chaos. We have tried welfare and we have learned people do not respond well to limited means and too much time on their hands. We must reject this solution and return to technical work skills to build self-esteem and value in our population.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on
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