The White House is getting creative. Talking about the stalled economy last night on NBC Nightly News, the President pulled out a new talking point, explaining that the reason the economy is lagging isn’t because of his failed policies but because the economy is so automated. Huh?
“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.”
Over at Café Hayek, a grown-up and a real economist, George Mason University Economics Professor Donald Bourdreaux, challenges this simpleminded explanation in an open letter to the President:
With respect, sir, you’re complaining about the source of our prosperity: innovation and the increases it causes in worker productivity.
With no less justification – but with no more validity – any of your predecessors might have issued complaints similar to yours. Pres. Grant, for example, might have grumbled in 1873 about “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 that uses a modern safe and so employs fewer armed guards than before, or when you travel on trains which, compared to stage coaches, transport many more passengers using fewer workers.”
Or Pres. Nixon might have groused in 1973 about such labor-saving innovation: “You see it when you step into an automatic elevator that doesn’t require an elevator operator, or when you observe that polio vaccination keeps people alive and active without the aid of nurses and all those workers who were once usefully employed making iron-lung machines, crutches, and wheelchairs.”
Do you, Pres. Obama, really wish to suggest that the innovations you blame for thwarting your fiscal policies are “structural issues” that ought to be corrected?
I suspect many of us think Obama’s answer to that question would be a resounding yes.