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Gary Reber
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 19 October 2013
The study also comes at a time when Republicans in Congress are maneuvering to cut government assistance such as food stamps.

How to Reverse the Increasing Reliance of Low-Wage Workers on Billions in Aid and Restore Economic Growth

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The low wages paid to fast-food workers are costing taxpayers $7 billion a year in public assistance, according to a study released October 15, 2013 by the UC Berkeley Labor Center. The report, "Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs In The Fast Food Industry"  was co-written with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Department of Urban and Regional Planning. The study's release, and a companion report by the National Employment Law Project, comes after thousands of fast-food workers in 60 cities walked off their jobs in August, demanding higher pay. The study also comes at a time when Republicans in Congress are maneuvering to cut government assistance such as food stamps.

Full-time workers at such places as McDonald's and Burger King, and other fast-food businesses, don't make enough to support themselves, forcing them to enroll in welfare programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, the report shows. People working in fast-food jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty than any other job sector, with 43 percent having an income two times below the federal poverty level or less. This is costing states and the federal government billions of dollars in assistance, and emergency health care.

Such dependency will not cease until our nation addresses the reality that tectonic shifts in the technologies of production destroy jobs and devalue the worth of labor, forcing people to resort to low-wage jobs and welfare support as their ONLY means of financial subsistence.

The reality is that increasingly EVERY human is having more and more interactions with machines and fewer with human beings. There is no escape from technological unemployment long-term as much more is to come.

The field of robotics is at the vanguard of this new wave of automation. The broad universal definition is a machine that can perform the job of a human. Robots can be mobile or stationary and hardware or software, but ALL are instruments of productive capital and ALL are the private property of corporations OWNED by individuals.

Business investment in machine and robotic super-automation hardware and software is more than it's ever been. What's not back is the jobs.

The percentage of Americans with jobs is at a 20-year low due to tectonic shifts in the technologies of production. In every industry, we are witnessing fewer interactions with other human beings. While conventional economists, academia, and political leadership has called upon education as the solution, the changes are coming so quickly it will be difficult for workers to retrain themselves. They are disadvantaged to compete with super-computers, which can program themselves to improve their performance. Even if the entire American population was college educated, there still would not be the need in the private sector to create jobs in numbers that match the pool of people willing and able to work due to human work constantly being eroded by physical productive capital’s ever increasing role. Technology increasingly is demonstrating skills on a par with and even surprising human skills.

While entrepreneurs will continue to create new business opportunities, the reality is that they will not be hiring large numbers of people. Public companies such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google, for example, represent in total about $1 trillion in market capitalization value. Yet together they employ fewer than 150,000 people––less than ALL the new entrants into the American workforce monthly.

Annual investment by U.S. manufacturers in new technology has increased almost 30 percent since the "Great Recession" ended, and research institutions and robotics companies, funded by venture capital, are constantly searching for innovations to lower cost of production and operation and gain competitive efficiencies.

Technological invention and innovation is the ONLY means to effectively return manufacturing to the United States. But realistically, the global competition will be intense as other teams of engineers and scientists in other countries compete to create ever more sophisticated human-intelligent machines, super-automated processes, robotic workers, digital computerized operations etc. Thus, even if offshore manufacturing returns to the United States, most of the jobs will go to "robots.”

Sadly, unless addressed and the system reformed, this is the prospect and the plight of a growing segment of the American population, solely dependent on low-pay hourly wage jobs and supplemental support government welfare, which costs taxpayer billions of dollars, if not future trillions, and furthers our dependency on never-ending national debt.

While our productive technological capability has been evolving for over a century, and initially made us better at our jobs. Now it is becoming so sophisticated and prevalent that it is making many workers obsolete, even in the relatively labor-intensive service industries.

At the same time the situation is ripping our nation apart with one segment of the population declaring "laziness" and opposing minimum wage laws, Food Stamp benefits and Medicaid expansion, and another segment promoting job dependency, government-dictated wage laws (not free market), and socialistic welfare support. Both see ONLY a job as a source of income for the majority of Americans and fail to recognize that job creation is not a viable long-term solution, and that the non-human factor of production resulting from technological invention and innovation makes many forms of labor unnecessary. Both also fail to see that the majority of Americans are being systematically denied equal opportunity to acquire private sector individual wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital property ownership on the same terms that the wealthy ownership class now utilizes. They are able to use the investment's earnings to pay off the capital credit loans used to finance their investments, without having to use their own money or deny themselves consumption. The unfortunate result is that the rich get richer through their continued concentration of productive capital ownership and the vast majority of Americans struggle with progressively less well-paid job opportunities, the devaluing of their worth as labors, and the prospects of falling into poverty and dependent on tax extraction from the productive sector and the continued incurrence of national debt to support supplemental welfare programs they require to make ends meet.

This should not be what America is about. Instead, our focus should be on OWNERSHIP CREATION in which employees of companies and other ordinary citizens OWN full-dividend paying and voting stock in the corporations they work for and patronize, and build over time a diversified portfolio of wealth-creating, income-generating stock assets that will provide them a second income beyond their reliance on a job. We need to reform the system to provide equal opportunity for EVERY American to become an OWNER, just like the wealthy ownership class, and significantly improve their long-term financial security. The focus needs to be on FUTURE sustainable production and broadened individual ownership. This will put us on a path to prosperity, opportunity, and economic justice and in the short-term significantly grow our economy with "full-employment" opportunities as EVERY American benefits from two sources of income.

We are at the horizon of a new technological frontier and the capabilities of computerization and robotics are projected to exponentially expand whereby the work in a new FUTURE-built economy that can support general affluence for EVERY citizen will be largely done by “machines.”

As we build this FUTURE affluent economy, consumer confidence will be strengthened and businesses will benefit from an expanding population of "customers with money." This will drive the demand for products and services the economy will be capable of producing, while achieving environmental renewability and sustainable viability. At the same time United States credibility and leadership around the world will be restored as our economy booms and we successfully alter the choices people must make between choosing alternative, more costly "greener" choices that do not threaten the environment and their very livelihood.

While this is not a short-term "click-the-switch" solution, in the short-term we must not fail those who require supplemental support. But we need to adopt a long-term solution that will eliminate and drastically reduce dependency on tax extraction and national debt and build a future responsibly sustainable economy that can support general affluence for EVERY citizen and provide financial security into retirement.

See "Financing Economic Growth With 'FUTURE SAVINGS': Solutions To Protect America From Economic Decline" at, "The Income Solution To Slow Private Sector Job Growth" and "A Solution To Eroding Retirement Security" and here. Also see "Achieving The Green Economy" with complete footnotes.

For more on how to accomplish such structural reform, see  "Financing Economic Growth With 'FUTURE SAVINGS': Solutions To Protect America From Economic Decline" at and "The Income Solution To Slow Private Sector Job Growth."

Support the Agenda of The Just Third Way Movement and support the Capital Homestead Act. See the full Act at here

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ABOUT Gary Reber

Gary Reber is a leading advocate for economic justice. He is the founder and Executive Director of For Economic Justice (, and an advocate and author for economic justice through broadened ownership of wealth-creating, income-producing physical productive capital. Mr. Reber is a member of the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) and the Coalition for Capital Homesteading. Mr. Reber founded with binary economist Louis Kelso, Agenda 2000 Incorporated in 1967 to advocate policies and programs to broaden productive capital ownership in urban development projects. Mr. Reber studied economic development planning at the University of Cincinnati, University of California, Berkeley, with doctorate studies at the University of Stockholm and Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, and taught binary economics under John Dyckman, Chairman of the City and Regional Planning Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to other publications, Mr. Reber, for the past 21 years, also has published Widescreen Review, an enthusiast home theatre magazine and Webzine ( as well as Ultimate Home Design, a “green” sustainable movement magazine, now on the Web (, and is a producer of high-definition concert video specials. Mr. Reber testified March 7, 8, 9, 1973 as President of the Institute for the Pursuit of Economic Justice at Berkeley before The Committee On Ways And Means House Of Representatives––Ninety-Third Congress––On The Subject Of General Tax Reform and is the author of numerous articles published by The Huffington Post, Nation of Change and Op-Ed News, as well as nearly 2,000 major posts on the blog site.

The flaw in this essay is

The flaw in this essay is that it assumes that economic growth is possible and desirable, when the reality is that the economy is already shrinking in western industrial economies due to ecological collapse, and that efforts to restart growth in the west are unlikely to succeed. We are seeing wages around the world move towards the mean, which means 90% of the folks in the west will be poorer. It still allows for growth in those places that are desperately poor, mostly because the only way any of this works is if the west gives up the right to steal the resources of the poor countries. As currently constituted, the global economy is rigged to help 1% maintain their wealth and power, which they do mostly with weapons and the ever growing police state.

Beyond ecological collapse in the ever more desperate thrashing for growth, the rigged economy generates ever greater inequality. The result of inequality is a deteriorating economy, which defeats much of the purpose of those who tout the greater power of the wealthy and their greater influence on policy. It is supposed to be able to at least create the illusion of growth during the bubbles, but even the bubbles look pretty strange when the only thing they are founded on is weird mortgages.

Tax the rich, feed the poor, heal the ecosystems. Put ecological healing and economic justice together, understand how the economy has to shrink in order to keep the planet livable, remember that community can substitute for a great deal of money, and that economic democracy is as important these days for community prosperity as political democracy.

I am not a defeatist and see

I am not a defeatist and see responsible harnessing and management of precious natural resources as a condition for economic growth.

Americans simply are not irritated enough to realize that the climate of our planet is in mortal danger, which places our humankind future at risk of absolute failure.

The technology for mass conversion to renewable energy exists, and systemic change now would avoid the worst extremes of global warming. While increasingly more Americans are becoming aware and choosing to adopt reusable and sustainable practices, these efforts are far from enough to reverse course. Massive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through fundamental changes in energy production are essential.

The reality and thus political and economic challenge is that changing the status quo would decrease profits of powerful corporations with vested interests in current technologies that threaten environmental renewability and sustainable viability, and politicians continue to serve their interests above all others, regardless of the laws of physics.

Capital Homesteading1, which is based on binary economics2, offers a way out of the quandary, which pits concern for the environment against immediate needs, desires, convenience, and the profit interests of powerful corporations. Through Capital Homesteading we can achieve green growth in which Americans would be better able to afford more food, clothing, shelter, health care, transportation, education, communication, and provide the necessary demand for green technologies and production processes that produce green products. As Capital Homesteading takes hold, Americans would not only become stronger consumers and "customers with money" but also gain stronger property interests in the environment and be better able to afford the greener choice.

As for redistribution, as a substitute for inheritance and gift taxes, a transfer tax should be imposed on the recipients whose holdings exceeded $1 million, thus encouraging the super-rich to spread out their monopoly-sized estates to all members of their family, friends, servants and workers who helped create their fortunes, teachers, health workers, police, other public servants, military veterans, artists, the poor and the disabled.

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