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How to Reverse the Increasing Reliance of Low-Wage Workers on Billions in Aid and Restore Economic Growth
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 NationofChange.org, "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 NationofChange.org and "The Income Solution To Slow Private Sector Job Growth."