Robert J. Samuelson: Is technology to blame for sluggish recovery?

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  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    July 17, 2013 1:00 p.m.

    It is too bad that the nation has not learned from history. The Depression was around until the Republicans started to dismantle the burdensome regulations and business oversight that FDR had enacted.

    We forget that it was because of wage controls by FDR that health insurance became standard as part of compensation. Employers wanted to attract the best minds, and to do so had to offer insurance because Federal wage controls. We also had the "Blue Eagle" price controls in place, and all sorts of fascist type policies.

    Now, under Obama we don't have as much wage control, but we do have him forcing businesses to do things they don't want to.

    The answer is simple, if we want to get the recovery going at even a moderate pace, the Federal Government needs to back down, cut back on all of its new regulations, and let businesses work.

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    July 17, 2013 8:13 a.m.

    unemployment in the teens and higher is fine by you? really?

    Europe's in worse shape than we are.

    technology has always moved us forward, improving productivity, without damaging employment. So despite bluedevil's personal attacks, it must be Obamacare and the rest of BO's anti-free-enterprise policies that are holding employment back.

  • red state pride Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2013 6:10 p.m.

    I don't know if I agree with this thesis but if Comapnies are becoming more nimble and efficient using technology then how do we reconcile a smaller albeit more efficient and productive private sector with a larger, more sclerotic Government? Can they coexist? I kind of doubt it.

  • FreedomFighter41 Orem, UT
    July 16, 2013 3:01 p.m.

    So why are so many European countries doing fine? Do they not use technology there?

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    July 16, 2013 2:16 p.m.


    You've made a valid point. The question to ask is whether the government is responsible for the personal welfare of its citizens. We are offered a "free education" through high school. Some people appreciate that education and others don't. After high school, our education falls to ourselves. If we want to move ahead, we need to make the sacrifices.

    I know how hard it is for someone in his sixties to find a good-paying job. It seems that no matter how carefully we prepare, white hair automatically closes doors that were once open.

    There are many injustices in life. Good employers know the value of hard-working people who are willing to learn new skills. Utah has had a very low unemployment rate, not only because the people are educated, but because of the work ethic found here. Good people who work hard, who are willing to learn, who are willing to be at work "clean and sober" are always in short supply.

    Many companies offer on-the-job training, after the worker has proven that he is worth retraining.

  • m.g. scott clearfield, UT
    July 16, 2013 12:28 p.m.

    Maybe we should all strive to live like they do on Star Trek. Everyone (no matter what race or planet they come from) has an advanced education, and a job, but no one gets paid for it. Think it would work?

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    July 16, 2013 12:12 p.m.

    Mike Richards.. you make some excellent points here. In the area I now live, the state has moved from being huge in manufacturing (furniture) and agriculture (cotton and tobacco) to being driven by bioMed and High Tech. These people in the rural parts of the state never saw it coming at them... and many don't have the means to go back to school.

    So that is really the only part I would disagree with you on. Many of these people are in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s - and it isn't that they don't want to work... it is just that work, particularly jobs that they have skills for, have left. In my city, the employment rate is really really low. Go one county up, and it is double our current rate. In some areas, it is triple the rate. These older generation people just don't have the skills , and even if they did, the jobs are far away.

    Not sure what the answer for these people is... because there aren't a lot of paths for them to take.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    July 16, 2013 11:33 a.m.

    For decades we've realized that a man with a shovel could not compete with a back-hoe, but some people still think that an unskilled worker should be given a job in a technological world without expecting that worker to be prepared to use the tools required.

    It's just not going to happen. A worker must add value if he wants a job. He can't just be clocking in and out each day. Continuing education is essential. Training and retraining are part of the job.

    The culprit is not "technology"; it's people who expect the world to pay them well without being prepared to work well.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 16, 2013 9:18 a.m.

    Marx appreciated the efficiency of capitalism, but in his view capitalism would become so efficient that eventually the demand for labor would decline steadily. But since (in Marx's view) profits come from labor, profits would eventually decline leading to a collapse based on unemployment and collapsed profits. This takes us into the world of abstract economics which is different from business journalism. One thing is for sure though, where we will be ten years from now is anybody's guess. My 2 cents - I see a new brand of socialism rising.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    July 16, 2013 8:59 a.m.

    I love the first couple of comments. Rather than thoughtful discussion, its back to that same old - Its Obamas fault. Lets not even get into when this whole mess started, because obviously that had no role in this. Lets look at the fact that the US economy is currently one of the most health economies in the world. The only one that is largely out performing the US economy is - gasp - the world largest socialist/communist country.

    Samuelson - who I usually don't agree with much - brings up some very valid points. Technology has replaced many jobs. When was the last time you had someone else check you in for your flight at the airport. Those jobs still exist - but in the recession, airlines were quick to replace people with automation.

    The impact of this kind of change is wide spread. We just finished a family trip up to the New Jersey Turnpike, a trip that used to mean stopping at toll stations. Now with EZ=Pass, we never had to stop at any toll booths... Technology is dramatically changing the world we live... and more change is coming.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 16, 2013 8:45 a.m.

    The fact is that human labor as a commercial commodity is becoming obsolete, unnecessary and too expensive. The problem is, that for the vast majority of us, our labor, physical or mental, is all we have to trade for the necessities of life.

    A civilized society needs a system of exchange that allows the members to survive. Lest they want to spend all their time in bloody combat with each other. Prior to the time where technology does most of the work, members of the society could easily trade their personal wealth for what they needed.

    Despite the belief of businessmen that they do it all by themselves, business is the prerogative the of society that is needed to distribute the wealth and keep the society alive. Society, all the people, needs to be recognized as a major owner of business. Not the buildings or other assets but the concept and benefits of the business.

    Failing to recognize this will probably cause us to fall back into chaos from which we would become communist.

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    July 16, 2013 8:38 a.m.

    Technology, per se, is not the cause of high unemployment. The more fundamental reason is simple greed, which is standardized in most business practices. Corporations, driven to pad the bottom line, have great incentives to minimize labor costs. They do this through hiring fewer people, paying them less, replacing them with machines, or shipping jobs off to Third World countries. But this bottom-line myopia will be the death of corporations if they can't see beyond the end of their own noses. It is in businesses' long-term interest to actually hire more people and pay them well (rather than letting all the profits rise to the few at the top of the food chain), which stifles demand.

    Without a strong manufacturing sector, our economy will always be weak. As Harvard's William Abernathy said about a service economy, "What will we do, get up each morning and press each other's pants?" Or, as my economist friend Wayne, put it, "You cut my hair, I'll cut your hair, and we'll both get rich."

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    July 16, 2013 7:42 a.m.

    BO, BO, BO, who gave us
    Obamacare and an out of control EPA

    those are the top reasons why our employment picture is not more robust.

    since the start of the industrial revolution, technology has ALWAYS been leaping forward improving technology. Blaming the low employment picture on technology is just MORE BO apologizing!

    And even the EPA has not been as damaging in the past as it has under BO.

    nope, the reason for the sluggish employment picture is BO.

  • HaHaHaHa Othello, WA
    July 16, 2013 3:03 a.m.

    Piling on employment costs (think of obamacare for one) are a major factor also, but don't tell that to the obama worshiping press and columnists!