The Democrats announced their “Better Deal” platform earlier this week, and while it has some good — the move to increase education funding and negotiate drug prices — not all of it is positive. The name of the platform is presumably an attempt to invoke Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and Teddy Roosevelt’s “Square Deal” platforms, but unlike those two platforms, the “Better Deal” isn’t so much a deal as it is a delay of the inevitable, and will probably wind up making economic problems worse.
The primary feature of the “Better Deal” is that it will punish companies that outsource labor with a tax while providing those that bring jobs back to the states with a tax bonus. This, perhaps more than anything, demonstrates the Democratic Party’s commitment towards winning over the blue collar, populist vote.
And it also neatly demonstrates why populist thinking is always the wrong answer.
The problem isn’t outsourcing. The problem isn’t immigration. The problem is our refusal to acknowledge the impact automation is having on our outdated economic models and the Protestant idea that you should have to work to earn a living.
Consider this: a company may bring their offices and factories back to the United States for the tax break — but still not bring back jobs since their systems are completely automated. And why wouldn’t they want to automate their systems? That means having workers that don’t have to take bathroom breaks, never make mistakes, and can work 24/7/365. And you don’t have to pay them.
Now piece that together with “you have to work to earn a living.” Work where, exactly, and doing what? When your job has been replaced by automation, it doesn’t matter if it’s right down the street from you — you aren’t getting it back. It effectively doesn’t exist anymore.
To be clear, I’m not railing against automation. I think automation is fundamentally a good thing — it’s ignoring the effects that are destructive. And the “Better Deal” doesn’t address those problems. It plays into populist sentiment and short-sighted thinking that only makes the long-term problem worse.
We abandon capitalism and change our current thinking regarding work or we die, from no health care, lack of housing, or starvation, because we can’t afford to live anymore when there are no jobs to earn money performing. No “Better Deal” is going to change that; it can only postpone the inevitable.