Recycling Futures

A year ago a bale of waste paper was worth $100 a ton, today you have to pay $15 per ton to get it taken away.

That’s not free to you, the cost is hidden in your charges.

recyclingI’m in the midst of switching waste/trash haulers for our HOA. The HOA took a vote last year to switch at the end of the contract. As it turns out the city service for the identical cart service is more expensive than our HOA hauler.

This is a big deal, especially in the era of everything by Amazon and e-commerce.

That’s missing the point though. The city service is aimed at reducing landfill needs, and quite rightly so. They charge by size of trash and composting bins, and whatever size recycling is thrown in for free.

Our current HOA service is mostly just aimed at taking stuff away. We were able to require the existing hauler into doing year-around composting, although a number of people have claimed to have seen the hauler just dump the composting in with the trash. I talked to the City Public Works Director about their service, only to find out that it ends in August next year, and right about the time we move HOA Residents to the city service, they’ll be issuing a RFP for a new 5-year contract.

It’s likely then we are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place. If we stick with the existing hauler, we’ll likely get charged more for a less than optimal service. If we switch, we are likely to be in a bigger pool, which could make recycling even more expensive when the contract is renewed.

At least the communities I’ve lived in, in America, have been lazy recyclers. Back in the mid-80’s, recycling/reuse increasing came into people’s consciousness, it was all pretty specific, especially around glass, and can recycling. Many States instituted deposit schemes, and encouraged collection and recycling. For most though, the deposit schemes never lasted, people were too lazy after a few years, and just reverted to trashing them.

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Single stream recycling waiting go to to the “Materials Recovery Facility” (MRF).
Single stream recycling was seen as a simple way to encourage Americans to recycle, it’s been hugely successful, and a disaster. Many Americans don’t even try to understand the recycling process, or even wonder how the materials they dump in their single stream recycling cart make it back into raw materials to be reused. If it’s paper or plastic, they just put it in the single stream cart/bin. Some people jam stuff in the Single stream cart, well, because it wont fit in the trash. It’s then someone elses problem.

In a move, mostly unrelated to the Presidents tariff war with China, the Chinese have so much low grade recycling, that they are no longer just accepting low grade recycling material. This is a big deal, especially in the era of everything by Amazon and e-commerce.

What’s the problem?

amazon-prime-514x383[1]
Doesn’t go in the recycling cart; Needs special service; Must have paper label removed.
Take for example that Amazon 100% recyclable plastic shipping envelopes, just like the one in the picture. These don’t go in single stream recycling. They have to be handled by speciality bag recyclers.

However, even if everyone does what we do and keep a large sack in the garage for plastic bags and take it to their specialist local collection point, in our case Eco-cycle in Boulder, it’s still not that simple.

Your amazon shipping bag has a paper address label stuck on it. Unless that label is completely removed, the bag is just another example of junk recycling. The only way to turn the bag back into recyclable plastic pellets, is to soak the bag, and then use a chemical mixture to dissolve the paper. At scale, ten of thousands per month, doesn’t make this practical. Picking the labels off is difficult and time consuming, better is just to take a pair of scissors and cut the label off and put it in the trash before putting the bag asides to take to specialist recycling. There are loads of other examples

We recently bought a new TV. Aside from a massive paperboard box, it came with a large amount of styrofoam packing material. Styrofoam needs specialist recycling, just because you can jam ito into your trash cart, don’t. It will get crushed and numerous stages and the styrofoam particles eventually end up in landfill and last 500+ years.

Don’t put it in recycling either. Just because you can jam it in, doesn’t mean it won’t end up in landfill, it will, only at twice the haulage cost. If you have a service that penalizes you for “bad materials” in recycling, you deserve to get ticketed. If your styrofoam makes it to the single stream recycling location, it will either be sorted by machine, or often by hand into the trash. That’s not free to you, the cost is hidden in your charges.

That’s not free to you, the cost is hidden in your charges.

The list goes on and on. Tires and inner tubes; shredded paper; food packing(if it has any kind of wax or plastic liner), broken drinking glasses or lightbulbs; almost anything with plastic packing tape, even cardboard.. It all has to be either stripped, or should go in the trash.

All this has to be sorted, cleaned, and then sent to the actual plant where it is converted. The sorting is expensive and  the less “pure” it is, the less it’s worth. Even bottle tops and can lids, carton tops should be trashed, they are not recyclable. In fact, pretty much anything under 3-inches can’t be recycled as it’s too small to pass through the machines.

The Market for recycling

A year ago a bale of waste paper was worth $100 a ton, today you have to pay $15 per ton to get it taken away.

Even the market for that stalwart of recycling, paper, has tanked. Formally cities were paid by the ton for the single stream recycling materials, after sorting. Now, they are paying to have them taken away.  While you can still find baled waste paper contracts for $100 or more per ton, thats waste paper at the mill, not ready to be shipped from the MRF. A year ago a bale of waste paper was worth $100 a ton, today you have to pay $15 per ton to get it taken away.

Interestingly, amid the recycling crisis, the same thing that has happened in other industries is also happening to US paper mills, they are getting bought by Chinese companies. It’s not clear what this will mean for recycling, but it will increasingly mean the Chinese are able to control the price.

What Can we do?

Be a conscientious recycler. If in doubt, throw it in the trash. Compost where you can, recycle diligently. Remember everything you put in recycling that ends up in trash costs twice as much to haul and still ends up in landfills. Even where landfills do NOT pollute the ground, or ground water, they do smell. Many things that end up in landfill will last hundreds of years.

Buying land for landfills; preparing them; managing them is an expensive business. Most people wouldn’t want to live near a landfill for just the noise of trucks coming and going, much less the smell. Yet we can’t live without landfills, the further away from our homes they are, the more it costs to haul trash there. The alternative would be incinerators, and while the science is good, the fear of air pollution is real. At least for now, landfill is the only alternative to recycling.

One of the best videos I’ve seen on single stream recycling comes from our own Boulder County Recycling Center. It should be compulsory viewing for everyone. While watching, remember, our taxes are paying for the locations, machines, energy, and people who make it “simple” for you to do recycling, via single stream recycling. Even after all this, we are now having to pay for many of the resource bundles to be taken away for re-use.

The second video covers hard to recycle and problem materials with answer son what to do with them.

Please feel free to leave comments and questions.

Amazon’s $15 Minimum Wage Won’t Change How Americans See Work – Bloomberg

n 2017, the real median household income in the U.S. was $61,372, which is roughly what two earners with full-time jobs making $15 an hour would make.

I remain totally confused about class as a term to classify people in America. This article is a prime example. While overall this is good news, if $15-per hour helps the middle class, how little do you have to earn to be working class? And why is that term never used?

As far as I’m aware the amazon deal doesn’t include health insurance, which effectively means before taxes, you’ll have to work for nearly 1-week in 4 just to pay for an individual plan, for a family plan, you’ll be working for just over two weeks every month just to pay your health insurance premiums. Then there’s food, rent, transportation etc. and so who knows where you are going to find the average $4,533 deductibles if you do get sick. Rather than working class, you are the working poor.

If two people have to work for a couple to survive they are working class. Telling them they are “Middle class” if they earn more than $22 is just a great example of gaslighting. To be middle class,  surely it means when one of you can chose not to work.

Source: Amazon’s $15 Minimum Wage Will Won’t Change How Americans See Work – Bloomberg

Kohl’s and Car Oriented Development

Back in July, @_anthonyhahn wrote an article which appeared in both the Daily Camera and the Colorado Hometown Weekly about a potential new Kohl’s store in Lafayette CO, and what that meant for the Louisville CO store.

While pitting the two adjacent cities against each other in a battle for sales tax is valid, it totally misses the point about all the new development around the 287 Corridor, north of Lafayette.

At the time, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Colorado Hometown Weekly and sent it in. I just got to checking, and as far as I can see, it never made publication for either space, or editorial reasons. As always, waste not, want not, here it is. Comments?

FOR PUBLICATION

Re: July 11th Anthony Hahn Kohls move to Lafayette

I’m a Louisville resident, but this isn’t Louisville versus Lafayette, it’s the past vs the future.

How much longer can we continue sleep walking into the future with car oriented development?

The city of Lafayette believes a new Kohl’s on 287 is worth, and will pay off its $2-million subsidy in 2-3 years. Add to that the limited benefit of some extra jobs, and extra sales tax receipts during construction. It still means the Residents will have to shop hard, and drive regularly to make another out of town store pay off.

Louisville development director Dejong says the McCaslin corridor tax receipts are up year on year to $420,000, but that’s from a whole lot of small stores and restaurants that are almost always busier than any of the big box stores. Kohls will need to do much more than it does with it’s Louisville store to make it work. The current store in Louisville often looks like it’s been ransacked by people on a scavenger hunt, and the parking lot is frequently less than 1/4 full.

Kohl’s itself we likely be shielded from a failure, tax write-offs against losses, writing off development and moving expenses. The development company, Hix Snedeker can do the same. It’s not the McCaslin corridor thats in economic crisis, it the whole sector.

It’s always easier to build new development, urban sprawl has funded and driven America for the last 80-years. The real question is, what does this contribute to the community? More driving, more concrete, more parking spaces? The 287 location certainly seems more attractive than the current Louisville location, it has more passing traffic in a superficial way. The question is how many will stop, rather than shop online and have it delivered at home?

Lafayette residents should ask, is this worth the money, the tax breaks, etc. ? What type of development do they want, and is this the right type of development rather than just easy development?

Mark Cathcart

Bringing Jobs Back to the USA

As the GOP push through their tax bill, without any transparency, one of the big ticket items is corporate tax breaks.

My opinion is the government are really wasting their time, and our money giving tax breaks, especially to companies to repatriate their overseas earnings, in some kind of swap for jobs. No such thing will happen, sure there will be a few winners here and there, but nothing substantial and certainly nothing overtime.

If the government wanted to do this, they’d have been better creating an incentive program, which gave them tax deductions for each net new job they created, the longer their total employment numbers were up, net new, the lower the tax rate on repatriation would go.

I posted the following on twitter… but in a debate about it today, realized I’d left the link off for the NPR article. Here it is.

From Tax to Pariah – Colorado’s TABOR history

One mans crusade to limit Government, what he wanted, how he did it, and what happened. At least Bruce was principled. A great listen, especially on the consequences for the State and Bruce(The Pariah?)

The Taxman Episode 1
The Taxman Episode 2
The Taxman Episode 3

Trains, horns and taxes

I’ve been  frustrated that my blog has been withering but I just didn’t want to be an endless stream of rants about the #potus45 administration.

So this isn’t about them, at all. While I have in mind a summery I’ll steer clear for now. So, meanwhile back in beautiful Colorado, the natives are getting worked up over a plan to install “quiet zones”  for all the railroad crossings in town.

As much as I can’t envisage enjoying the horn blowing, and we can barely hear them in the night, apparently many can and do like them and have a nostalgia for them.

Well the whole thing went  awry went Rene posted, she said.

If you don’t like the trains, don’t live near the tracks. No body would build within spitting distance of a rail road track if nobody would live there, then no body would be bothered by the noise. All the high density housing along the tracks is ruining my wonderful, small home town. I resent that people come in and then start to try to change it.

Which of course completely misses the point that most of old Town was built around the railroad out of economic necessity, which made people want to live there, rather than people who loved the sound of the horns and built a house there.

Rene, change is not only inevitable but essential.

For the most part the city carries most of its infrastructure on its book as assets, which means they depreciate it over its lifespan, and they have scramble to find ways to replace it.

In essence the only way they have to do that is to raise property and sales tax, or get new residents who make up the difference. Bonds are indirectly taxes.

If there is some road, building or other city or state asset you’ve been using since you arrived here, that hasn’t been rebuilt or replaced, then you have been subsidized by either earlier generations or the new residents. This is especially true for water, sewage, and roads.

As has been previously articulated here, essentially the quiet zones are really doing no more than returning the crossings to pre-2005 safety and horns for post 2015 traffic volumes.

It’s not the new residents that are to blame, I’m one of them. If anyone is to blame its the people that have lived here for 25+ years.

They’ve not been accounting for city resources as liabilities, not taxing enough to support those liabilities, and then selling property off to developers to make a buck for themselves.

Unfortunately development in America, not just Louisville has been a ponzy scheme for 100 years. You either keep growing or you’ll wither and die, or become Boulder. Louisville is headed for the latter since it’s mostly built out.

Edit:8/02/17 12:40 – Add links, change @potus45 > #potus45 and correct typos.

Can America afford it’s rural communities

We hear a lot about the “takers” in America, a classification for, usually inner-city people who survive on benefits, unemployment, housing, medical, food stamps and more. Mostly the venom about takers also contains a racial element, it’s directed at black and minority groups who many assume benefit from Government programs without paying in.

It’s not often directed at the President himself, but as the New York times pointed out last year, Trump himself could be the ultimate taker.

Picture of small town America decaying
Decaying Texas – Mark Cathcart

What we don’t hear much about is the affordability of rural towns, and even many of the suburbs. One of America’s greatest strengths, it’s size, is also one of it’s biggest problems, small town sustainability. I’m no expert on the economy and sustainability, but if you drive long distance in America away from the Interstates, you can see the problem everywhere. Decaying towns, decaying infrastructure, slowing or declining population growth. I own and subsidize a rental home in one such town in Texas.

Back in 2014, I made my only drive from Austin TX to Boulder CO with my Mum, on what was to be her last grand tour. What struck me at the time were the endless poor quality roads, and the nearly, seemingly deserted small towns.

We covered 2,500 miles, mostly north west Texas, also New Mexico, and Colorado. On the way back we went via Taos, Santa Fe, and Roswell and then back through west Texas.

They had almost no choice in terms of food, restaurants and shops. I wrote this blog post “Decaying Texas”. It has a couple of slideshows of pictures taken along the way home.

The question of affordability will be right in the headlights in the coming years of the Trump administration. Almost every major program that the administration seems to want to change or cut will have a major impact on these rural societies. Downsizing the Federal government, a project of the Cato Institute, says:

Even if rural subsidy programs were administered efficiently, they represent an unfair redistribution of wealth. In many ways, rural Americans are better off than urban and suburban Americans. They enjoy cheaper housing, cleaner air, less congestion, and other advantages. So people who live in rural areas should not be a privileged class receiving special subsidies.

The Cato Institute couches the benefits in the usual political-speak weasel words as “Scholars at Cato believe that cutting the federal budget would enhance personal freedom, increase prosperity, and leave a positive fiscal legacy to the next generation.”

Rural communities for the most part exist to allow the exploitation of the land and resources. Hence the reason why America’s size is a strength, there is plenty to exploit. From farming for cattle, corn, wheat, to mineral extraction, to oil and gas fracking, America has it in abundance.

However, most of the infrastructure to support the communities is decades or more old and needs investment to sustain. Building roads, laying pipelines for water, sewage, telephone and internet service are expensive per capita. Roads particularly require a massive subsidy given the distances involved and the low number of people they service.

Trump Pence sign
Image: thehill.com / Getty Images

What is clear is that the new administration wants to cut regulations, budgets, and “Make America Great Again” #MAGA. I fear though for these communities, as they are likely to become unintended consequences of poorly thought through, and rushed changes in policy.

Education
School choice has been a great boon for suburban America. It has also been a positive benefit for the re-segregation of schools. Rich, often white people move from urban centers to suburban centers where they not only have choice, but can have their choice subsidized through vouchers, funded at the expense of public schools whose budgets are impacted by funding vouchers. Forget the furor about DeVos and if she is even qualified as U.S. secretary of Education. What is clear is that if she chooses to drive her professed support for school choice through vouchers as a policy, rural education will be screwed. Rural areas, without huge subsidy, will not have choice. Private businesses are not going to rush into towns and build new alternative charter schools, they can never make money from them.
If the alternative is distance learning, it has a double impact. 1. Distance or e-learning has typically less than optimal results, 2, by opting for choice through voucher, the local public schools are further devalued by lower attendance and either great subsidy, or lower budgets. This is a major issue, as schools in rural areas don’t just teach children, they are major social hubs for community interaction. Destroying public schools in rural areas, will further destroy their communities.  The Atlantic has a great article covering DeVos and the potential impact on rural schools and communities.
Health care (ACA and replacement)
This blog post was kicked off while driving to swimming this morning. I heard this Colorado Public Radio (CPR) piece on the rural hospitals fears for post “Obamacare”. Like schools, access to medical facilities in rural America is crucial to their survival(literally). Asides from concerns of access to healthcare and the affordability of it, the thing that struck me about the CPR interview was that  San Luis Valley Health in Alamosa provides 670 jobs and is the region’s largest employer. This is consistent with what I’ve observed elsewhere in Colorado and Texas, both large and small towns with massive health care employment.
In the UK, where the National Health Service (NHS) employees around 1.6-million people, making it the world’s 5th largest employer. The NHS is notionally is single organization, the NHS employs just under 2.5% of the UK population. Using the US Bureuau of Labor Statistics data for 2009, health care employment in private-sector health care industry employees just shy of 11-million people, add to that 100,000 of the 350,000 at the Veterans Administration, and then all the small town public health care clinics that deal with vaccinations etc. and it’s safe to say some 12-million work in health care in the USA. So, nearly 3.75% of the American population work in healthcare.
Health care in the US is much more expensive than the UK and most other developed countries in the world. This is in part due to the massive over provision and duplication of healthcare facilities. The simplest way to reduce the cost of Government programs, would be to drastically cut the provisions that support poor, rural communities. Make them travel further, pay hospitals less for the procedures, make fewer people qualify for the programs. That is exactly what these rural and small regional hospitals are concerned about, as discussed in the earlier referenced CPR piece.
Environmental Protection (EPA)
As I type this blog entry, Trump Administration EPA head, Scott Pruit is making his first address to the EPA (I’m not listening). This blog isn’t about his and the administrations dislike of the EPA and it’s regulatory overreach and climate actions. However, through executive orders that have frozen grants and programmes that impact some renewal and rejuvenation projects in rural areas and poor communities. What most won’t understand are the number of programmes the EPA supports and provides for small, rural communities and also for Native Americans. It’s unclear what the side effect of the major changes to the EPA will have on these programmes, or if they will just become Pruitts shrapnel.
Infrastructure (DOT)
While the President talks up his infrastructure goals, and decries the state of the roads, bridges and airports, outside of the wall, it’s not clear the Administration understands how much we currently spend and how poorly we budget and account for infrastructure. It’s already clear that Drivers are not paying their fair share, and that we are swimming in debt for road expansion and funding. It is hard to imagine that fiscal conservatives, the GOP and the TEA party are going to swallow more debt on a massive scale to fund this. In many rural areas, pot holed roads are being downgraded already to gravel roads also known as “unpaving“. States, cities and municipalities account for infrastructure in entirely the wrong way. They assume infrastructure itself has no value in their financial statements. They depreciate the assets over the course of its useful life until it has a no value. The problem is at that point, you can’t simply walk away.
As Strong Towns pointed out “Current accounting practices do not bear any relation to the future cash flow or the actual financial health of the city. When cities take on obligations, they should be properly accounted for as liabilities, not assets.” Given Rural towns tax base, population and business are declining, they are hit even more substantially by the errors in accounting from the past.
Agriculture (USDA)
There is significant investment by way of investment and development grants in rural areas, as well through crop subsidies. The top subsidized commodities are Feed grains, mostly corn, cotton, wheat, rice, soybeans, and dairy. Many of these would be uneconomical if the mega-corporations and farming cooperatives went unsubsidized.  America currently pays around $20 billion per year to farmers in direct subsidies as “farm income stabilization” via farm bills. These bills pre-date the economic turmoil of the Great Depression with the 1922 Grain Futures Act, the 1929 Agricultural Marketing Act, and the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act creating a tradition of government support.(Source: Wikipedia).
USDA goes way beyond that, it runs three other major programs through these agencies: Rural Housing Service, the Rural Utilities Service, and the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. They spent $6.5 billion in 2016 alone. USDA has about 100,000 employees, and is represented in most counties, in every state in America. It’s responsibilities include USDA oversees school lunches, meat inspection, food stamps, the Forest Service, rural electrification and much more. It’s total budget is some $140 billion in programs. The late pick of Georgia Governor Sunny Perdue concerned many in the rural community, some of his actions as Governor raise more questions, especially on his brand of rural endorsement. As governor, Perdue was caught in a more than a few scandals involving his businesses and personal property deals. He is also the first from a southern state, where rural and agriculture challenges are very different from the mid-west.
Housing (HUD)
For many people HUD stands for the “U” in Housing and Urban Development, they mostly focus on urbans areas, nothing could be further from the truth.  HUD operates many rural programs, in many cases funds pass through state agencies or other entities to rural communities. As well as development and assistance grants, HUD invests around $6.2 billion per year to provide affordable housing to low-income residents. Much of this through guaranteed low interest mortgages. How these programs will fare under Ben Carson is unknown. But without clear differentiation between urban and rural communities, many in the GOP and Administration will be going after cutting back HUD in general. HUD is also a major contributor to disaster assistance and provides many grants, relocation programmes and more.

Image: The Daily Herald – Mark Black | Staff Photographer
In an era when the GOP have spent forever convincing everyone that TAX=BAD, and portraying city folk as moochers and takers, can we really afford rural communities anymore? It’s very likely that these rural communities will experience the bulk of the pain from the Administration policy changes. Not through a single policy change, or executive order, but but through death by a thousand cuts.
If that happens, there will be no one but the current Administration and the Republican party to blame.

Creeping automation

Automation is everywhere, but most of us don’t notice it. Every product we buy, every service we use has been touched by automation, some more than others. Think about the products you buy about the grocery store? Come in a package? Packed by machine!

I’ve had some interesting emails from regular followers/readers about automation. I don’t think people quite understand how invasive and creeping automation is.

Here is a perfectly simple example. I live on a new development in Colorado. Some 70 single family homes, and now they are moving into the multi-family condo and town homes. They’ve built two condo buildings, and a 3rd 12-plex is going up now, literally right across the street.

img_20161206_150456
Pressed Siding, Floor and Ceiling Boards from Canada
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Crane lifts pre-constructed parts into place

First, let’s be clear, this isn’t a pre-fabricated building. It’s a unique design to this location, that most would consider “traditional construction”. Only it isn’t, it’s massively labor free, and largely “skilled-labor” free.

The construction is typical timber frame, in the old days, there would have been an army of craftsmen working on site, the continuous sound of saws and hammers. While there are some professional craftsmen on site, the bulk of the construction is being done by “nail gun jockeys” using pre-cut, assembled panels and components. They just nailed them into place.

Of course, walking pass this, you’d never normally take a second look. Since it’s directly opposite my home office, everytime I look out the window I see it. What do I see?

Creeping factory assembly and automation. All the major parts arrive pre-cut to size; the joists and all the boards for the side that need holes for windows and door arrive pre-cut. The original boards come from Canada and Mexico. Anyone who has seen the home improvement shows knows that the boards are not cut by craftsmen and craftswomen, but simply cut by operator assisted laser cutting machines. What do all these things have in common? Automation.

It would be easy to simple, let’s at least bring back the board creation, prep and the component assembly to the USA. Indeed easy to say. That assumes we have the raw material, and that the factories exist that can manage the increased workload. If they can’t then let’s assume they can be built.

What happens then? Well, the businesses that do the manufacturing either produce the same goods at the same price as they are available overseas, which will be hard. The US no longer has the same wealth of natural resources. Those that we do have are harder to extract, or come with environmental, planning or development restrictions. Even if these were lifted, they would still come with a price tag.

Those costs, plus any for plant construction, or increased raw material cost would be passed onto us. Effectively doing a “Carrier” and raising prices to cover their increased costs.

Automation is everywhere, but most of us don’t notice it. Every product we buy, every service we use has been touched by automation, some more than others. Think about the products you buy about the grocery store? Come in a package? Packed by machine! Ready made meals, the whole production line from animal slaughter to food prep and cooking are all now largely automated. It’s invisible, invasive and all encompassing.

Dystopian Future it is then

In his acceptance speech, President elect Trump said, among other things:

We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

This from a man, who tweeted:

I’ve no idea what to expect now from the Trump Presidency, but it’s an amazing  coincidence that the original Blade Runner film was set in In Los Angeles in November 2019, just two years from now.

Hopefully Blade Runner isn’t a metaphor for a Trump Presidency; the weather and the blade runners, especially Gaff, do not foreshadow Trumps Immigration cops; and hopefully the Los Angeles in the film, nothing like the real LA in 2019; and the replicants not an extreme of the automation I wrote about yesterday.

blade-runner

What we don’t know is how Trump will do this. Just running up the deficit doesn’t seem likely given he’s from the GOP/Republican party. Taking much of what he’s said, closing tax loopholes, defunding Nato, closing overseas bases in place like Germany, Japan and more won’t likely save enough money. Your move President Trump.

Bring back what jobs?

Look, the jobs that are lost, are not coming back, get over it. When Trump claims he’ll bring back jobs, he either has no idea what he is talking about, or he envisions some dystopian future where Americans are more like slaves than they’ve been since, well, slaves.

China and Mexico are not the problem, automation is. Even if Trump were able to force companies to bring manufacturing back to ‘Merica, through punitive tax and trade barriers, the manufacturing won’t be the same as it was, ever.

Listen to this recent extract from NPR’s All Things Considered. Bertram de Souza of The Vindicator talks about steel mills following a recent visit of Trump to Youngstown Ohio.

The next wave of automation is coming, it’s in driverless vehicles, it will have a dramatic impact on employment. Automated delivery trucks, automated taxi’s, autonomous vehicles will make a large dent in the current employment of some 3-million in America. While many cities are salivating over the ability of self-driving, autonomous vehicles to fix their broken road and transport infrastructure, that’s missing the point.

There are many detailed, and complex reports on the impact of automation, pick your favorite organization and search their website, McKinsey and Company(2014); Stanford Business School(2015); Pew Internet(2016) and on, and on.

Equally there have been a few superficial recent reports in the news media, this one from US Today. One of the better, more recent articles is from Rex Nutting over on Marketwatch.Rex Nutting over on Marketwatch.

I’ve been horrified by the lack of actual policy discussion and examination of the context, detail and and lack of clarity even where there is policy. This is something we should have had a real debate about when, what and how we handle the future of automation.

It’s not as if the impact of automation is new. Depending on how you classify automation, it’s been going on since the invention of mills, but importantly since the computer became pervasive in business.

As far back as the late 1960’s it was a discussion topic. In the early and mid-1980’s automation had become a key issue for governments and businesses. This was a classic of it’s time.

A human teller can handle up to 200 transactions a day, works 30 hours a week, gets a salary anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000 a year plus fringe benefits, gets coffee breaks, a vacation and sick time… In contrast, an automated teller can handle 2,000 transactions a day, works 168 hours a week, costs about $22,000 a year to run, and doesn’t take coffee breaks or vacations. – Bennett, 1983

This is a well used quote from a report called “Bank Systems and Equipment” by Bennett et al 1983 and often misquoted and attributed to Nobel Prize winner, Wassily Leontief and  Faye Duchin, who used it in their seminal 1986 work “The Future Impact of Automation on Workers“.

img_20161107_125230I worked on an IBM Corporate study in 1998, following the release of Dunkerleys book, the jobless economy.  I still have the books on my home office book shelf.

Many of us were uncomfortable with what technology was capable of doing to our society, much more than our jobs. I’d seen it first hand and contributed to the loss of hundreds of jobs. When I first arrived at Chemical Bank in New York city in 1983, there were hundreds of people, mostly women, sat in large rooms, processing incoming credit card authorization phone calls. Within 3-years, they were all gone. Their positions had been eliminated. Replaced by simple automation of the repetitive tasks they did using search and a “database” lookup.

Some of the information and outlook from that IBM study found it’s way into this presentation I gave at meetings and conferences around the world at that time.

Automation was, and is unstoppable without a much bigger debate. Trump alone can’t fix it or stop it. Automation is a result of three, equally powerful trends.

One. The absolute fear and revulsion in America of Unions, their impact, power and influence. Sterns 1963 paper “Automation-End or a New Day in Unionism?” captured the potential impact of automation on Unions.

Two. Big corporations and the way the market values them, their ability to balance investment against revenue and more importantly profit. Investors and the market don’t care how business makes profit, and the tax authorities allow investments to be written off against profit. So removing expense, in the form of employees, and improving profits is always on the agenda.

Three. The continual consumer march towards ever more consumption and disposable, cheap goods. Perhaps more than the loss of jobs, if pernicious tax and trade barriers were implemented by any politician or President, we would see a revolt among the people, who more than anytime in history, want their stuff as a measure of their value.

So, we can’t stop automation, the jobs are not coming back. Where does that leave us?

I’m inclined to agree with Musk. The only way around the impact of automation is a universal basic income. That’s what we should have been debating this election cycle. Not fucking emails, walls, muslims and pussygate, let alone if somewhat left leaning Bernie Sanders proposals were socialism by the back door. Without serious discussion on these difficult topics, America will continue to into social conflict and fear.

Even if Trump gets elected today, those 5-million jobs we’ve already lost, and another 5-million are not coming back.