Okay, this is getting beyond ridiculous. Productivity growth, especially in manufacturing, is at a record slow (as in not fast) pace. This is not secret information. The data are published every quarter by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can even find a nice graph in my previous post. Yet, in spite of the fact that all the evidence shows that workers are not losing jobs due to automation, or at least at a much slower pace than in prior decades, the Washington Post still tells us:
"Yet manufacturing hit a new low in July as a share of all U.S. jobs, said Kolko. While manufacturing has been a focus of the Trump administration, the sector continues to shed jobs, due largely to automation."
Apart from the fact that manufacturing has actually been adding jobs for last eight months, how does the Post get off blaming non-existent job loss on automation? This seems like a knee jerk response.
No, job loss can't be due to a trade deficit. The idea that importing things rather than producing them here, couldn't possibly mean that we hire fewer people to produce things here. The papers can't have people believe this. So we get outright lies. (Sorry, it is a lie — it is reasonable to expect reporters/editors at a major news outlet to be able to look up data that is readily accessible from a government agency. At the least, there is a deliberate decision to remain ignorant at work here.)
Let me also point out another aspect to this issue. Even if automation was the factor costing jobs, it would not be technology that was responsible for any increase in inequality. The ownership of technology is determined by government policy on patent and copyrights. The government can (and has) made these forms of protection longer and stronger. It could make them shorter and weaker.
Without patent and copyright protection, Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, probably would not have much more money than your average successful doctor or lawyer. It is possible to argue that these are good policies and that we have all benefited from making them stronger and longer, but to deny that the resulting upward redistribution was just technology is just flat-out dishonest.
Incredibly, I have never seen any discussion of this simple and obvious point in any major outlet. I haven't seen in the NYT, WaPo, WSJ, heard it on NPR or PBS Newshour. I haven't even seen it mentioned in ostensibly liberal and progressive magazines like the New Republic and the Nation.
It is worth noting that the technology view does have the implication that upward redistribution is something that happened, as opposed to upward redistribution being something that was done through deliberate policy. The implication that the rich getting richer is just the natural state of things is convenient for the winners in this story.