Explaining the middle class job drain
The Baker City Herald did us a great service by printing the first of three, Associated Press articles examining the relentless impact of automation on jobs and our economy ("Technology stems return of lost middle-class jobs," Feb. 6). Among its findings is the conclusion by economists that "the developed world may face years of high middle-class unemployment, social discord, divisive politics, falling living standards and dashed hopes."
This is not a new issue. Automation, combined with union busting and off-shoring jobs to nations like China and Mexico, has made major inroads on good-paying jobs for about 35 years now, and the median wage in America has flat-lined since then. Until now, the drain in middle-class purchasing power was at least partly hidden by increases in the number of two-income households and the ability to obtain home-equity loans during the housing boom. But the "jobless recovery" from the Great Recession has made the true impact painfully clear, though not yet fully understood.
A closely related issue is how our nation's wealth has shifted from the middle class to the top one percent during this period. Improved "productivity" stemming from lower wages and a smaller workforce has meant improved profits, even in a slowly-growing economy. The stock market is doing quite well, thank you, reflecting strong corporate earnings.
This experience puts to rest the myth of the wealthy as "job creators." Clearly, additional investment will be made in ever-increasing automation.
Of course, it's not all bad. We face a great opportunity for reducing boring, T.G.I.F. jobs and expanding human creativity. This is not about calling a halt to the progress of technology. But we must also face the increasingly urgent challenge to fairly distribute the benefits of the sharply increased "productivity."
I urge my fellow readers to dig out the Feb. 6 issue, read the article, do some research, and engage in a wide-ranging discussion about the implications for us and our future generations. Additional information and resources, including links to the three Associated Press articles and a related segment on 60 Minutes depicting accelerating advances in robotics are available at www.progressivevalues.us/resources.html. Marshall McComb
Thanks, McEnroes, for helping us out on the highway
My daughter and I just wanted to publicly thank a local man and his son, Clay and Taylor McEnroe from North Powder, for helping us when my truck hit a patch of ice and flew off the road on the evening of Feb. 4 between La Grande and Baker City. They pulled my truck out with theirs, changed my tire, and then followed us to make sure we got back on the highway okay. Talk about angels watching over us!
Mr. McEnroe also called ahead to the local tire store to see if they could take a look underneath to see if the rocks we landed on had damaged anything important. (Unfortunately, by the time we drove the 10 miles or so to Baker City, said tire store had closed). A nice young man at the Chevron station, however, did take a look for me and said it looked okay for us to keep going on to Boise with the spare. Thankfully we hadn't rolled the truck and were just shook up some but not hurt worse than that. We were able to make it that night to Boise, albeit going 35 mph the entire way. It's just nice to know there are some awesome, caring people out there. If you know these folks please give them a shout out for being so great! We certainly won't forget their kindness.
Kiera and Ari Sears