Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Robots aren't taking jobs. We're just not responding to automation with helpful policy.

Are robots coming for America’s jobs?

This is a topic we explored last week on our blog, when we reviewed new research from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) that concluded: No. Using instances of industrial automation to explain American manufacturing job loss is to see the forest, but not the trees. The real reason we lost those jobs was an explosion in trade with a mercantilist China.

This and other details of this ITIF report are explored in the latest edition of the Alliance for American Manufacturing’s (AAM) snazzy new podcast, The Manufacturing Report. AAM President Scott Paul talks to the report’s author, Adams Nager from ITIF, about his conclusions:

It’s a quick, informative interview, in which Nager addresses a narrative that has been used to explain away the disenfranchisement of millions of American workers.

But once we remove that roadblock to what’s really happened to manufacturing jobs, the question becomes what to do about it.

Well! The New York Times editorial board noticed the robot fallacy, too, and took that question on. Increased productivity is nothing new, it writes. What’s new is that our government isn’t creating policies that respond to the changing nature of work in 2017, and that we’re all getting a share of the wealth that this increased productivity creates.

The Times writes:

Productivity and pay rose in tandem for decades after World War II, until labor and wage protections began to be eroded. Public education has been given short shrift, unions have been weakened, tax overhauls have benefited the rich and basic labor standards have not been updated.

As a result, gains from improving technology have been concentrated at the top, damaging the middle class, while politicians blame immigrants and robots for the misery that is due to their own failures. Eroded policies need to be revived, and new ones enacted.

Well said. Read the whole editorial here.