The Atlantic: Democrats’ Answer for the Rust Belt

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31 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Bah. Actually having a message goes a long way.
    “I’m with hurrrr….” Zombie Clinton does not.Report

  2. InMD says:

    I actually thought the Joan Williams post linked to was even better than the Atlantic article. At some point we need to start rethinking the way our economy and social contract work. Itll be gradual but in another 30 years I think automation is only going to make the situation worse, and the traditional 40 hour work week, employer provided benefits, and a minimally decent standard of living will no longer be possible for an even bigger chunk of the population.

    Supposedly Foxconn already has a completely automated site in China that can operate 24/7 with the lights off and minimal human oversight. The next big hit will be when driverless vehicles start taking over and put millions of truckers and taxi drivers out of work. Our political situation is already showing the results of what happens when you tell the masses to suck eggs and deal with an increasingly precarious economic situation while allowing a very few to become outrageously weathy.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to InMD says:

      Yes, but thats only the fault of those greedy, lazy Chinese workers who insisted on getting paid.

      You see, its simple Econ 101…Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Meh, couldn’t be that the ‘Adults in the room’ have for the last 8 years kept minimum wage above our neighbors to the south and our neighbors to the west. Why it’s just good liberalism.

        It could be the the ‘Adults in the room’ haven’t done much to interrupt the fornication of government and corporations to double down on the thoroughfares to the cheapest labor pools in the world, while adding regulations on small american business.

        Nope, it’s that less than 2% of the population Carhartt wearin’ racist union bro-dudes pointing at those ‘lazy’ chinese folks that are screwing up the economy.

        I think you may sprain your signalling limb if ya keep this up.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Joe Sal says:

          So the American minimum wage is too high?

          How does that affect Foxconn’s decision to automate its factory?Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Is that a serious question?Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Joe Sal says:

              Yeah, seriously.

              I can’t really tell, but it sounds like you are asserting that there is some wage at which Foxconn would have humans manufacturing Iphones in America, instead of robots on China.

              I would be curious to know what that wage is.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                $440 a month should do it. (mileage with manufacturer and quantum of automation other than Foxconn may vary)Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Joe Sal says:

                So the assertion is that if American workers were to work for $440 a month, they would be competitive with robots.

                I guess we could see this two ways.
                One, assuming this were true…why would we prefer this to an alternative such as a UBI?
                I mean, why would anyone think this is a good outcome for America to do this?

                The other is, what happens when robots get cheaper and cheaper until the ammortized cost is less than $440 a month?Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                That’s a pretty broad assertion. I would just narrow it to the jobs they are looking to replace with full automation. Getting automation to the 50-60% theshold is fairly common and not overly invested. I would assume that’s where they are. Getting to 100% is costly and heavily invested, and often rigid. That’s probably a better starting point for the assertion.

                I have actually de-automated some processes, because bad automation is no better than mediocre human driven processes.(at least the humans can adapt a little bit.)

                Yeah, it sucks, yeah we’re fighting for mere scraps, but jobs open up. It becomes cheaper to repair and replace your aging infrastructure. Both velocity of money and capital formation starts picking up at the bottom again.

                I know this is going to sound strange, but automation will eventually drift to the operator. Mainframe computers eventually became desktops, that became laptops, that became handhelds. Automation will eventually make a similar shift. It really can’t do anything other than drift to the operator. You or I as a person can’t trade with a robot. We can supply it power, code or tasks, but it is not a agent of trade.

                UBI, that would take some time to unpack, but I’ll try to keep it short. To create a UBI would take social constructs from each country trying to negotiate. Those entities would never be trusted to look after the best interests of the workers.

                It’s a lot better in the trust and competition arena to just advertise to the open market that you need X widget produced for Y amount of money/gain, and let the individual workers determine if their preference to use their individual means of production fits that work.Report

          • How does that affect Foxconn’s decision to automate its factory?

            Foxconn is almost certainly automating precision placement jobs not because of the labor savings, but because robots are so much better at it than humans. There are enormous savings on rework and returns. This has become even more true now that devices are so thin that many of the components have to be glued in place — where an error means discarding a hundred dollars worth of parts rather than reworking to salvage them.

            It’s a long-term trend. I’m old enough to remember when wave soldering machines got cheap enough to come into common usage, and put a whole lot of semi-skilled solderers out of work.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to InMD says:


      I think it will need to get really bad before we start thinking about this because that is just what humans do. We still have plenty of naysayers on the idea of a post-work economy.Report

      • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Sadly you’re probably right. The question will be can liberal democracy withstand the inevitable hits to its legitimacy.Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Saul have ya ever thought about what happens to your environment when capital formation fails in that environment?
        Here is a hint, it doesn’t lead to less work.Report

        • InMD in reply to Joe Sal says:

          Serious question- does it lead to work that pays humans (and lots of them, maybe tens of millions in the US alone) enough to sustain a minimally acceptable lifestyle by first world standards?

          I don’t think the much heralded end of work is quite as close as some people. I do however think that we’re in for a long rot where technology and increased efficiency renders mass manpower unnecessary. A race to the bottom with the third world may delay the inevitable but I don’t see how we avoid getting to a place where it isn’t necessary to employ large numbers of people in the way industrial economies did or reasonable to expect it.Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to InMD says:

            (Just to clarify starting positions,) it sounds like you think the downward slide can be controlled?Report

            • InMD in reply to Joe Sal says:

              Well not to get overly pedantic but it kind of depends on what you mean by controlled. I don’t think we can do much about technology making a lot of work done by humans obsolete and trying to slow it down with laws or public policy would be counterproductive. I do think we can control how we decide to handle people who are going to lose their jobs or become substantially under employed. The latter is where I’m increasingly convinced that the mid to late 20th century model is not up to the task.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to InMD says:

                How are we going to control that and stay competitive. Do people even want to be handled that way?Report

              • InMD in reply to Joe Sal says:

                The competition question is hard and there’s no easy answer. If the proposed answer is emulate working conditions in the developing world I don’t think that’s realistic or responsible.

                Regarding whether people want to be handled I operate under the assumption that the vast majority of people want a decent standard of living.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to InMD says:

                Emulate working conditions in terms of environment conditions, or working conditions in terms of wage rates?

                That last sentence also, do they want a decent standard of living or do they want a opportunity to work for a decent standard of living from a means of production of their choice?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Joe Sal says:

                I’m still back on, where is this supposed to lead?
                Suppose we did all this, and introduced a $440 per month wage, and suppose Foxconn opened a factory here.

                Why should we want to do this?
                What outcome is this supposed to be superior to?

                This is like a comedy skit-
                The World’s Worst Revolutionary Agitator-
                Comrades- Come the revolution, we will all work 14 hours a day, in miserable conditions, for $440 a month!Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                This was the non-revolution sugar coated option. You really aren’t going to like the revolution version.Report

  3. Chip Daniels says:

    “Obsessed with cultural issues”.

    Um, yeah, no.

    Was it Democrats who immediately upon taking control of Congress and statehouses in 2010 introduced hundreds of bills about abortion?
    Who are still vehemently fighting the Scopes trial in boards of education across the country?

    Even now, after nearly 2 years of campaigning, no one has a clue as to what Trump intends to do with the economy, even Trump himself.
    His campaign was almost entirely a yelp of cultural resentment.Report

    • Kim in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Clinton, for all intensive purposes, HAD NO CAMPAIGN.
      She didn’t charge forth on one solid proposal.

      Instead, the entire idea was TRUMP IS A NAZI. (No Godwin!)

      Vote for me because the other side is INCONCEIVABLY bad.Report

      • notme in reply to Kim says:

        You forgot Clinton’s vote for me bc I’m a woman.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

        I largely agree with this diagnosis: there was no policy vision. “Vote for me because I have an awesome resume and the other side is inconceivably bad” pretty much sums up the campaigning I remember seeing from the Clinton camp. So let’s take a deep breath. Look at some numbers with me, will you? They show that Trump in no sense of the word “blew out” Clinton. This election was a squeaker.

        Trump won Pennsylvania by a margin of 68,236 votes. He won Wisconsin by 26,657 votes. And he won Michigan by 11,612 votes. Nationwide, she won the popular vote by over 1.3 million. Had 106,505 votes in three rust belt states gone the other way, Clinton would have been the electoral and popular winner. The decisive votes in this election were less than one-tenth of one percent of the total votes cast.

        So maybe what the Democrats were bringing to the table wasn’t so awful to begin with. Maybe “Vote for me because I have an awesome resume and the other side is inconceivably bad” versus cultural resentment, economic anxiety, and Big Lies is, in fact, competitive.

        Do not read this comment as “If only the Democrats were that much more liberal” or “They just need to fine-tune their message.” Because I think it’s good that Democrats are searching for ways to reach displaced manufacturing workers in the midwest, it’s good that Democrats are thinking about ways they can teach out to this segment of the electorate. They should be doing that, and whether they were the victims of elitist snobbery before, they’re doing it now. And they need to keep on doing it for the next four years, because I bet they’ll find that their proposed solutions play well in the urban areas that are going to stay within their core.

        And who knows, they might actually come up with ideas that do the country some good.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Nationwide, she won the popular vote by over 1.3 million

          Last I checked, her lead was a firm 1.7 million and projected to be somewhere between 2.2 and 2.5 by the time all the counting is done.

          Of course, that’s only if you count California and New York’s votes, which we all know shouldn’t be.Report

  4. b-psycho says:

    Y’know, sometimes you can’t go home again…

    It seems a key reason why people where it mattered most flipped to Trump was they bought his bullshrimp about Jobs! while Hillary had no real alternative. Explaining why the past is the past while fighting for a future trending against capitalism as they knew it was not a task for a Hillary — hell, it arguably was even beyond Bernie.

    If they insist on Jobs! then it’s outright Guild Socialism or Bust. Otherwise that Protestant Work Ethic is simply doomed, because productivity growth has been separated from earnings for a long time and further gains from automation are destined to all go in the pockets of management. If old school Wobbly thought is still out of bounds y’all better push UBI and *HARD*.Report