Plenty of people are concerned about the fact that automation may one day impact the labor market by taking over jobs that are currently performed by humans. However, far more worrying than the AI revolution is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for how to deal with it.
The long-shot presidential candidate’s plan, which would allow the government to gain even more control of private corporations, has the potential to plunge the economy into a recession and send American companies fleeing overseas in order to survive.
The first step in Mayor de Blasio’s plan is to create yet another government agency. This agency would be called the Federal Automation and Worker Protection Agency, or FAWPA. FAWPA’s job would be to oversee automation in the name of “safeguarding” jobs and communities. Any company that decides to automate any jobs currently held by human workers would be required to obtain FAWPA approval, and FAWPA would only grant this approval if the company in question either offers the affected workers new jobs with equal pay, or a severance package “in line with the workers’ tenure at the company.
Put simply, the federal government would make it impossible for a business to upgrade and use new technology. Companies that don’t offer their workers replacement jobs that are in line with FAWPA’s draconian standards would be fined up to five years of payroll taxes, upfront, for each worker dismissed. The government would then supposedly invest the money into job-creation schemes in the healthcare and green energy sectors.
There are so many flaws in Mayor de Blasio’s plan, that it’s hard to know where to start. First of all, giving the federal government control over how private companies operate is a recipe for disaster. No businessperson will put up with the inability to upgrade and improve simply because the government doesn’t like automation, and the fact that it changes the current modus operandi. Companies will leave the United States over such a law, leaving thousands of people with no employment at all.
Attempting to stop the coming AI revolution could actually be denying American workers good future employment opportunities. Job opportunities rose in 2018 even as American companies installed a record number of robots during this same time period. History shows that automation works out for the good of all involved. It lowers prices, enabling consumers to save money. As prices fall, demand rises and companies hire additional workers to handle an increase in orders. Furthermore, automation creates new products and services, thus creating brand-new job opportunities that weren’t available in the past.
It’s also worth noting that Mayor de Blasio is relying on flawed data in promoting his automation-limiting plan. As the Center for European Economic Research found in 2017, the automation risk for U.S. jobs is only 9%. That means that the country isn’t likely to lose 36 million jobs in the next decade as some other think tanks are proclaiming. Instead, workers will be assigned different tasks in accordance with their ability.
It is understandable that some people are afraid that the coming AI revolution will leave them jobless. However, the fact that Mayor de Blasio is preying on people’s fears in order to gain control over private companies is nothing short of despicable. The United States government has no business telling companies how to manufacture, sell, or promote its products.
Mayor de Blasio’s plan to limit automation could very well face court challenges as the creation of code used in robotics can be classified as “free speech” protected by the First Amendment. While de Blasio thankfully has no chance of winning the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination, there is still a danger that he will either attempt to force his plan in New York City, or influence other Democrats to do the same.