Progressives are Stripping the Equity of Our Lives

The annual showing at the Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum is always a spectacle. It is usually due to the who’s-who list of billionaires, celebrities and world leaders in a beautiful location. In 2019, it also featured stupid ideas led by the “progressive” views of worker protection and entitlement.

A Progressive View of Automation

One of the important themes discussed at the WEF was the consideration of the “Future of Work.” The Forum put forward three alternative views of how a world of digitization and automation could develop in the future. The considerations revolved around efficiencies, how to improve the value to customers, and how technology will require a new set of skills as it transforms the job market. The discussion sought to consider the future dynamics of competing aims of shareholders, workers and customers.

While progressives tout the concept of “fairness,” their actual concern is about a particular type of “equality,” which is the equal distribution of money. The status of “wealth inequality” and “income inequality” drives the proposed progressive agenda and thereby hijacks the definition of “fairness” to be one that reaches the conclusion of wealth and income equality.

In such an orientation, the holders of mass wealth – typically owning large stakes in companies – are afforded no leniency. If the future of automation brings an accelerated and inflamed debate of competing interests between shareholders, employees and consumers, the discussion is concluded as soon as it was introduced.

The progressive rag, The New York Times had an article written about the WEF called “The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite.” As the title suggests, the article reviewed how the “elite” – those evil one-percenters – were hatching nefarious plans to destroy the workers of the world. The corporate titans at Davos were marketing how automation was going to bring all sorts of new inventions to the world with lower prices for consumers, however, the real goal was to replace people with robots, and hoard all of the economic gains for themselves.

“Automating work is a choice, of course, one made harder by the demands of shareholders, but it is still a choice. And even if some degree of unemployment caused by automation is inevitable, these executives can choose how the gains from automation and A.I. are distributed, and whether to give the excess profits they reap as a result to workers, or hoard it for themselves and their shareholders.

“The choices made by the Davos elite — and the pressure applied on them to act in workers’ interests rather than their own — will determine whether A.I. is used as a tool for increasing productivity or for inflicting pain.”

The progressive argument is plain: the elite / executives / shareholders will hoard the gains from digitization and automation, unless pressure (or new progressive tax and corporate laws) force the benefits to be distributed to workers.

A Progressive View of Employee/ Shareholder Protections

The progressive view of wealth is that it is essentially “immoral” as the recent progressive political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview. It is a view shared by many progressives who view capitalism as evil at its core.

The notion that someone could build and own a business and become ridiculously wealthy – say Howard Schultz who created Starbucks – is inherently wrong according to the far left-wing. The hard work and risks which Schultz took along the way to create a company that employed tens of thousands of people and produced a product that millions of people enjoy is somehow negated by the tremendous wealth he personally amassed. According to progressives, his earnings and wealth should have been stripped along the way and passed on to the people who made and served the coffee. The salary of the workers was clearly inappropriate compensation if the company became so profitable. For progressives, the redundant task of making venti lattes all day which requires limited skills, no education and no risk – a task that will soon be automated – is not the essence of the discussion. The objection is that the person who owned the company made thousands of times more than the average worker, a conclusion, they believe that is immoral.

This progressive logic takes a bizarre turn when employees don’t help create value but destroy it.

Consider the electric utility PG&E which is being sued for causing the forest fires that killed people and destroyed billions of dollars in property value. Employees at the company are accused of committing a series of terrible errors, including not cutting the power in dry areas suffering from high winds (when the power lines came down from the wind, the electric sparks ignited the dry brush).

Who “paid” for the worker errors? Were thousands of employees fired? Was the employee pension fund stripped? Were line workers lined up before commissions and denounced in the media? No.

The executives and shareholders took the heat. Shareholders – many “women and orphans” who own utility stocks for the “safe” dividends – paid the price. On November 8, 2018, PGE stock closed at $47.80. One week later, on November 15 it stood at $17.74.

Did progressives cry fowl that the economic “windfall” wasn’t being shared equitably? Did they suggest that the workers who caused all of the death and destruction should bear the costs? No. They passed legislation meant to protect customers from rate hikes. Democrat State Senator Bill Dodd said his bill was needed because “without it, ratepayers will be left holding the bag and communities will needlessly suffer.

The Democratic Senator from California, Kamala Harris, who just announced her intention to run for president hasn’t said a word about the large corporate bankruptcy in her state. Any ideas why she would remain mum on such an enormous story? (Please don’t suggest it’s her ties to Democrats aligned with PG&E).


As the Democratic party lurches leftward, it is swaying deeper and deeper into an economic policy based on wealth redistribution over capitalism. The progressives have determined – and are demanding – that a worker whose job can be automated should not only not be fired, but be entitled to profit-sharing.

Progressives are seeking to dramatically revamp the notion of private ownership. They are advancing an economic system where we will collect fixed payouts as determined by federal officials. Workers, one and all. Equal and protected.

Private ownership will only be at the nod of the government. Strict limits will be imposed on compensation, capping salaries and demanding a set number of worker representatives sit on the board of directors. “Private” enterprise will be managed aggressively by politicians through heavy regulation and taxes, not by market forces.

The progressive aim is to strip people of the equity of their efforts and replace the return on their passions with interest payments as bondholders of the state. An “equitable” economy liberated and succored by a large government.

Such a system stymies equity investment and risk taking. It shrinks the economy and hurts innovation. No matter.

US President Ronald Reagan once said “this country is too great for small dreams.” For progressives, the great dream is a small country.


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Palestinian Job Fair for Peace

A sad satire

The United Nations took a special interest in the high unemployment rate of Palestinians, which has led to feelings of despair and hopelessness, leaving many to resort to violence against Israelis.  As such, the UN held a meeting in October 2015 in Vienna to listen to various leaders of the Palestinian community describe their occupations to see if the global community could help advance their livelihoods.

Here are some of the presenters:

Gaza exterminator
Pest Control

Pest Control: The UN was impressed with the first presenter, the owner of a pest control company.  According to the businessman, there was a large infestation in the region that guaranteed a significant amount of work for many unemployed people.

Gaza quarry owner
Stone Masons

Stone Masons: A cleric from the West Bank described the incredible blessings of the holy land to be filled with stones of many sizes. He described the various types of rocks in the region and how they could be used in different situations.  Qatar pledged $100 million for a new quarry on the spot.

Gaza gambling
Gambling

Casinos: The casino in Jericho was reported to be doing very well.  The owner described “making a killing” in various games of chance.  He was happy to report that the gaming industry was actively hiring more people.

Gaza butcher
Butcher

Butchers:  While the amount of available meat for food consumption declined since Hamas took over Gaza, butchers continued to hone their skills.  A cleric showed off tools of the trade and urged others to get involved.

Gaza cattle ranchers
Cattle Ranchers

Ranchers:  As described above, the meat business has not been great, but Palestinian leadership was confident in their ability to corral enough when the market improved.

Gaza outdoor backpacker
Outdoor Hiking

Outdoor Activities:  Gaza developed a range of sporting centers with special backpacks, belts and other gadgetry for time outside.  While repelling has been around for a few years, preachers were just starting to advocate the activity.

Gaza behead
Bowling and entertainment

Indoor Activities:  The owner of one of the few Middle Eastern bowling alleys discussed “spares and strikes” and hoped to educate the community about fun “date-night” activities.

Gaza hide and seek
Teachers

Teachers: The Palestinian schools always need new teachers with new methods to teach the young.  A teacher presented an innovative method of teaching religion and history via a game of hide-and-seek with the children.

Gaza cheerlreader
Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders and Sports:  The UN was impressed with the progressive nature of the Palestinian schools that had a very large percentage of male cheerleaders.

Gaza surgeon
Surgeons

Doctors: The healthcare industry was still in shambles, particularly in Gaza.  However, the United Nations was heartened to listen to Palestinian doctors promoting their profession to the young.

Gaza zookeeper
Veterinary Medicine

Vets and Zoo:  The UN heard Palestinian requests to refurbish their zoos and teach veterinary medicine.  Apes and pigs were the primary attractions.

Gaza arms dealer
Arms Dealer

Arms Dealer:  Well, it is the Middle East.  The UN blessed Iran’s nuclear weapons program, so Palestinians thought they would have an easy time advancing an arms dealership in the region.  Turkey pledged to send a boat right away.

gaza journalist
Journalist

Journalism: Palestinians have taken to social media like African bees to a sweaty field worker. The United Nations promised to not only promote their posts, but to pay Palestinians for the news stories as well.

Gaza charm school
Charm School

Vocational Schools:  This was a hot topic in Vienna.  By teaching older adults new skills, more people would be able to earn livelihoods.  The graduates of Palestinian Charm Schools have a reputation of being so endearing, that they get speaking engagements paying handsome sums, even when they have little to say. The University of California school system has speakers booked through May.

Gaza ghost costume
Retail: Kids clothing

Retail: Clothing was historically a tough business in the territories, as large family sizes ensured a good supply of hand-me-downs.  This year, the UN promoted celebrating Halloween and paid for advertisements selling ghost and other costumes to stimulate the economy.

Gaza shapeshifters
Shape-shifters

Shape-shifters:  This occupation stumped the members of the UN commission.  They had heard of Jews controlling animals and sharks with their minds, but they were unsure about the nature of changing physical form.  The panel agreed to meet again later to learn more about the phenomenon and how it could be used to help the Palestinian cause.

Gaza shoe shine
Shoe Repair

Shoe Repair: The acting-President of the Palestinian Authority spoke about the basic needs of shoe repair and foot hygiene. His display of humility left the committee speechless.  One member of the committee from Ecuador commented that Abbas reminded him of the new pope.

The United Nations concluded the day-long session with a statement of support from Fodé Seck (Senegal), the Committee Chairperson.  The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power remarked that the session showed a way forward for the Palestinian economy.  “As Obama says,” remarked Power, “once economic and political despair is overcome, peace will prevail.

In Middle East parlance, it is called putting the cart before the rocket launcher, a tried-and-true method of controlling the population.


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The Explosion of Immigrants in the United States

Immigration has become a significant topic in the United States and Europe due to comments made by US presidential hopefuls about illegal immigrants and the flight of people from the Middle East due to turmoil in that region. Here is a review of some statistics from past decades and the recent unusual dramatic increase in immigrants while the general population has slowed down.

United States 1880-1930s

The population of the United States grew dramatically over a 50 year-period from 1880 to about 1924 (a period of mass migration, “MM”), at which time the US passed the Immigration Act capping the number of people from any country. From 1880 until 1930, the population of the country grew from 50 million to over 123 million. In each decade over that time, the population grew between 15% and 26%.

Immigrants accounted for a large percentage of the growth. Over that MM time period, foreign born-residents accounted for anywhere from 12% to 15% of the US population. Almost all of these immigrants came from Europe (over 83% in each decade) and a smaller portion from Latin America (from 1 to 6%) and Asia (1 to 2%). While the 1880s had immigrants principally from Germany, United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Ireland, the following decades had immigrants principally from Italy, Russia and the Austria-Hungarian Empire.

Security: The 1880s and the 1900-1909 decade witnessed particularly large number of immigrants. In those decades, immigrants accounted for 20% of the growth in the country’s population (with natural growth accounting for 80%). However, with the outbreak of World War I and enactment of the Immigration Act, the number of immigrants was curtailed, with only 3% and 2% of the population growth stemming from immigrants in the 1910s and 1920s, respectively. Interestingly, while the war raged in Europe, the percentage of immigrants from Europe declined over this period by 4% while the percentage from Latin America grew by 4%.

One would imagine that the number of people trying to emigrate from Europe to the US would have increased during WWI, and the percentage of immigrants would have spiked above the historic 87% European figure. Instead, there was a drop-off. Were Americans concerned about the safety and security of the US? Was it fearful of importing a conflict to its shores? The severe drop-off in immigration and coinciding change of place of origin suggest that may be a factor. Another was the economy.

Economy: The decades of the 1910s and 1920s saw relatively weak average GDP per capita growth rates compared to prior decades: 1.28% and 1.27% for 1910s and 1920s, respectively. These anemic figures compared to prior decades of 1.65%, 2.04% and 2.13% in the 1880s, 1890s and 1900s, respectively. The subsequent stock market crash of 1929 and depression of the 1930s severely hurt the economy. This was probably the principle factor in the US population only growing at 7% compared to prior decades of 15% to 26% growth. Fewer jobs and a weaker economy led to fewer births and a stricter immigration policy set in place in 1924.

Decade Total Population Growth Immigrants % of Growth % Foreign-Born Americans
1880s 26% 20% 15%
1890s 21 8 14
1900s 21 20 15
1910s 15 3 13
1920s 16 2 12
1930s 7%
     
 
 
 

 

 United States 1960 – 2010

The 50 years from 1960 to 2010 saw an inversion of some of the immigration and population trends from the 1880-1930 period.

With the exception of the 1950s, every decade had a population growth that was less than from the MM period (10%-14% growth versus 15-26% in MM). Foreign-born people in the US became a rarity from the 1950s through the 1970s when they accounted for only 5-6% of the population (compared to 12-15% during the MM period).

The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 removed the former quota system that capped immigration from each country.  As such the 1970s and 1980s started to see a dramatic change in the make-up of the US population. While very few immigrants came to the US in the 1960s, the 1970s and 1980s had 17% and 26% of the total population growth come from immigrants, respectively.  The 1965 Act also resulted in a dramatic change in the ethnic origins of new immigrants: they were no longer coming from Europe, but from Latin America and Asia.

Source of US Immigrants (from US Census Bureau)

Decade Europe Asia Latin America
1950s 75% 5% 9%
1960s 62 9 19
1970s 39 19 33
1980s 23 26 44

Economy: The economy in the 1960s and 1980s were the best in US history. The average per capita GDP grew 2.88% and 2.26% each year, on average, during the 1960s and 1980s, respectively. As such, the growth in the immigrant population and the changing origin of those people did not generate considerable debate or concern from Americans or politicians.

That situation changed dramatically in the 2000-2009 decade.

Security and Economy: The US population growth in the 2000-2009 decade was the slowest in American history, growing by only 6% (even lower than the 1930s). That decade witnessed the attacks of September 11, 2001, stock market internet bubble collapse of 2000, and a large scale economic meltdown and financial crisis in 2008.

Decade Total Population Growth Immigrants % of Growth % Foreign-Born Americans
1950s 19% 5%
1960s 13 5
1970s 11 17% 6
1980s 10 26 8
1990s 13 37 11
2000s 6 41 13
     
 
   

Yet, against this backdrop, the foreign-born population in the United States in 2010 grew to 13% – the same percentage as existed during the peaceful growth mode of the mass migration.  This percentage is over twice the level that existed in the country just 30 years earlier, in 1980. Astonishingly, almost half of the growth in the US is now from immigrants – a rate not realized since the founding of the country hundreds of years ago.

Consider further, that most of the new immigrants are coming from Latin America that principally speaks a single language (Spanish) in comparison to immigration from Europe or Asia that brought a diverse number of languages. Such an enormous influx of a single language could create a bilingual country.

Conclusion

In the 50 years of the mass migration 1880-1930, the country took steps to curtail immigration as the economy slowed and from World War I. Today, the US has an aggressive immigration policy during a weak economy and has significant security concerns.

It is natural for a country that focuses on its quality-of-life and feels insecure about its safety and economy to see the population have fewer children and urge for curtailing immigration.

While the US economy improved from the 2008 financial meltdown to 2015, consumer sentiment remained weak, as many Americans remained unemployed and under-employed. In addition to the weak economy, Americans watched the collapse of the Middle East through videos of the horror on their smartphones. The fear of terror coming back to the US is real.

One could argue that America had the “benefit” of slowing GDP growth in the 1910s and 1920s which pushed the country to accept many fewer immigrants. By the time the depression of the 1930s hit, there was already a 1924 immigration law in place and the reality of a slowdown in accepting new “foreigners” for a couple of decades. However, in the US today, the number of foreigners are growing at an accelerated rate for the last few decades, just as the country experienced incredible turmoil.


When a person sees the plight of refugees in the Middle East, the human and moral reaction is to extend a hand. Indeed, President Obama decided to increase the quota of Syrian immigrants from that region to 10,000 in 2016. On top of humanitarian concerns, the Democratic president scored big with Hispanics (71% to 27% in the 2012 presidential election). These facts make Obama look very in favor of accelerating immigration.

However, it is unfair to paint all people who argue for a limit on refugees and immigrants at this time as xenophobic and racist. There is a natural ebb-and-flow to immigration, which often follows the status of the economy and perceived safety concerns. Considering the current double-impact of the economy and security, and the dramatic increase in immigration over the past three decades, a review of immigration policy would appear warranted.