Saturday, June 18, 2011

ATMs and Kiosks are not the problem

From time to time, President Obama produces real gems of idiocy dredged up from the talking points of the labor unions. Last week's example is so egregious, it's hard to believe.
“There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate."
This is like blaming the cotton gin and the telegraph for the Great Depression. The advances came well before the economic trouble. Field workers and Pony Express riders did absolutely lose their jobs, and they went on to do other things, as have most farriers, ice delivery men and switchboard operators.

By President Obama's (lack of) reasoning, we should help the economy by ripping robotic elements from production lines. Humans can go back to doing those repetitive, dangerous tasks for low wages. At least they'll be employed.

He should also throw away the Blackberry he so famously clung to at the start of his presidency in favor of human messengers.

Why do Unions (and by extension, President Obama) oppose automation? Because large numbers of union workers are normally displaced by automation. This hurts union revenue, since fewer people are paying dues. The workers ultimately will retrain and find better jobs that don't involve as much risk and mind-numbing repetition, so their lives improve even as the economy becomes more efficient. That doesn't help a labor union, though, so they've created President Obama's anti-progress argument to try to convince people that what hurts the union is bad, even if it is actually helpful to the economy and the worker.

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