Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Progressives Against Progress: Maybe the Saddest Thing You’ll Read All Day

 

shutterstock_320442644_productivity_better_futureIt is discouraging, sad almost, that Robert Atkinson felt he had to write “The Progressive Case for Productivity Growth: How a pro-productivity agenda can raise wages, lower inequality and sustain the middle class.”

If the left and the right cannot even agree that economic and productivity growth are good things, well, I dunno. Depressing. Atkinson:

Unfortunately, a growing number of progressives in the last few years have become decidedly ambivalent, if not downright hostile, toward the idea of increasing productivity, seeing it as a threat to progressive goals of full employment, fairness, and stability. Many of today’s progressives believe that average American workers no longer benefit from gains in productivity, and that productivity growth through technology-based automation will ultimately kill jobs. Gains in productivity, the logic goes, mean that fewer workers are needed to do the same work. Robots and artificial intelligence are the poster children for these fears.

But in truth, the only sustainable way to increase wages for Americans and to help increase government revenues is what it was a century ago: to raise productivity. That’s why a truly progressive economic agenda must include pro-productivity policies that drive growth. This includes policies such as increased public investment in research and technology as well as tax policies that spur investment in equipment and machines.

The left has been suffering from a bad case of economic nostalgia for the immediate postwar decades of high taxes, high levels of equality, and strong unions. (I give you: Bernie Sanders.) But they ain’t coming back (and I think the left’s perception of that era is mistaken.)

Technology’s gonna do what technology does. The “gig” economy won’t be legislated away. Kiosks at Panera Bread or delivery drones at Amazon won’t be banned. We are not going to slow economic growth in name of lower carbon emissions. The challenge, rather, is too ensure a future of meaningful work, broadly shared prosperity, and rising living standards while also increasing prosperity.

I don’t want to, as Atkinson writes, “consign our children to a world no better than the one we have now.”

There are 17 comments.

  1. Percival Thatcher

    Progressivism: the ideology that never fails to fail.

    • #1
    • December 1, 2015, at 3:29 PM PST
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  2. HVTs Inactive

    The downward pressure on wages for low-skilled workers due to illegal immigration depresses demand for productivity growth, does it not? It also is a major factor behind stagnant middle class incomes and, therefore, rising inequality. Unless we control our borders we’ll never get the economic outcomes that Progressives claim to want. Yet it’s Progressives like Bernie Sanders who think calls for border security are simply the cry of xenophobic bigots.

    • #2
    • December 1, 2015, at 3:58 PM PST
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  3. Z in MT Inactive

    HVTs:The downward pressure on wages for low-skilled workers due to illegal immigration depresses demand for productivity growth, does it not? It also is a major factor behind stagnant middle class incomes and, therefore, rising inequality. Unless we control our borders we’ll never get the economic outcomes that Progressives claim to want. Yet it’s Progressives like Bernie Sanders who think calls for border security are simply the cry of xenophobic bigots.

    Actually, Bernie Sanders is less of an open borders guy than Republicans like Bush and Ryan.

    • #3
    • December 1, 2015, at 4:03 PM PST
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  4. HVTs Inactive

    Z in MT: Actually, Bernie Sanders is less of an open borders guy than Republicans like Bush and Ryan.

    Which is why I despise Bush and Ryan, but has Sanders ever used his Left Wing political capital to do something about stagnant wages caused by immigration? It’s an honest question . . . I’m not aware of him doing anything to buck the Progressive narrative on immigration, but maybe he has . . . ?

    • #4
    • December 1, 2015, at 4:11 PM PST
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  5. Larry3435 Member

    A $15/hour minimum wage will do wonders for productivity growth and for automation of low wage jobs. The left should make up its mind.

    • #5
    • December 1, 2015, at 4:28 PM PST
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  6. HVTs Inactive

    Larry3435:A $15/hour minimum wage will do wonders for productivity growth and for automation of low wage jobs. The left should make up its mind.

    We won’t need the government arbitrarily setting a minimum wage if we make it do its job of securing our borders and controlling immigration. The prevailing wage will rise to a level consistent with the marginal productivity of workers. It’s exactly like Fiorina says: government creates the problem then wants to “fix” it for us.

    • #6
    • December 1, 2015, at 4:58 PM PST
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  7. Profile Photo Member

    Z in MT:

    HVTs:The downward pressure on wages for low-skilled workers due to illegal immigration depresses demand for productivity growth, does it not? It also is a major factor behind stagnant middle class incomes and, therefore, rising inequality. Unless we control our borders we’ll never get the economic outcomes that Progressives claim to want. Yet it’s Progressives like Bernie Sanders who think calls for border security are simply the cry of xenophobic bigots.

    Actually, Bernie Sanders is less of an open borders guy than Republicans like Bush and Ryan.

    Funny you should say that. Here is Bernie’s immigration policy – he is a sellout: https://berniesanders.com/issues/a-fair-and-humane-immigration-policy/

    • #7
    • December 1, 2015, at 5:26 PM PST
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  8. Paul Erickson Member

    HVTs:The downward pressure on wages for low-skilled workers due to illegal immigration depresses demand for productivity growth, does it not? It also is a major factor behind stagnant middle class incomes and, therefore, rising inequality. Unless we control our borders we’ll never get the economic outcomes that Progressives claim to want. Yet it’s Progressives like Bernie Sanders who think calls for border security are simply the cry of xenophobic bigots.

    What you describe is only anomalous in a world with secure national borders. The outcomes progressives strive for know no borders. If American wages are pushed down, the world becomes more “equal.” And that’s progress.

    • #8
    • December 1, 2015, at 5:44 PM PST
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  9. True Conservative™ Member

    James Pethokoukis: The “gig” economy won’t be legislated away.

    Sadly, I don’t think progressives realize this. DeBlasio tried to stave off Uber’s ascendancy to no avail. The progressive meddling in the free market is almost always, a dismal failure.

    • #9
    • December 1, 2015, at 6:09 PM PST
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  10. HVTs Inactive

    Carol:

    Z in MT:

    HVTs:The downward pressure on wages for low-skilled workers due to illegal immigration depresses demand for productivity growth, does it not? It also is a major factor behind stagnant middle class incomes and, therefore, rising inequality. Unless we control our borders we’ll never get the economic outcomes that Progressives claim to want. Yet it’s Progressives like Bernie Sanders who think calls for border security are simply the cry of xenophobic bigots.

    Actually, Bernie Sanders is less of an open borders guy than Republicans like Bush and Ryan.

    Funny you should say that. Here is Bernie’s immigration policy – he is a sellout: https://berniesanders.com/issues/a-fair-and-humane-immigration-policy/

    Thanks for the link. Here’s a quote from Bernie:

    Now is not the time for us to succumb to racism and bigotry. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by the anti-immigrant and xenophobic hysteria that Republican presidential candidates are ginning up.

    Gosh, without ever seeing his web site I predicted his exact words . . . ain’t because I’m smart . . . the Left is so, well . . . predictable!

    • #10
    • December 1, 2015, at 7:31 PM PST
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  11. Jamie K. Wilson Member

    I’ve been a productive member of the “gig” economy for over a decade now, ever since I figured out that military wives who are not teachers, nurses or government employees haven’t a snowball’s chance in The Really Hot Place to build a career not involving lattes or fries. I was forced into the freelance economy – and you know what? There’s lots of room here, and I mean lots, plus you get to work in your pajamas.

    It’s funny how liberals resist change – but the conservatives I know embrace it or at least learn to work with it.

    • #11
    • December 1, 2015, at 8:55 PM PST
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  12. The Reticulator Member

    hokiecon:

    James Pethokoukis: The “gig” economy won’t be legislated away.

    Sadly, I don’t think progressives realize this. DeBlasio tried to stave off Uber’s ascendancy to no avail. The progressive meddling in the free market is almost always, a dismal failure.

    In what sense is it a failure? It gives them power, doesn’t it?

    • #12
    • December 1, 2015, at 9:00 PM PST
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  13. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Now is not the time for us to succumb to racism and bigotry. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by the anti-immigrant and xenophobic hysteria that Republican presidential candidates are ginning up.

    Bernie seems to imply that there is a time for racism and bigotry. Like when black Republicans run for office?

    • #13
    • December 2, 2015, at 3:23 AM PST
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  14. Henry Castaigne Member

    Productivity growth is essential for every other good thing in economics.

    We treat the physical results of capitalism as though they were an inevitability. In 1955, no captain of industry, prince, or potentate could buy a car as good as a Toyota Camry, to say nothing of a 2014 Mustang, the quintessential American Everyman’s car. But who notices the marvel that is a Toyota Camry? In the 1980s, no chairman of the board, president, or prime minister could buy a computer as good as the cheapest one for sale today at Best Buy. In the 1950s,.. As the first 199,746 or so years of human history show, there is no force of nature ensuring that radical material progress happens as it has for the past 250 years. Technological progress does not drive capitalism; capitalism drives technological progress — and most other kinds of progress, too.

    The problems facing poor people are serious but because of our increasing productivity they pale in comparison to what it meant to be poor in my grandaddy’s day.

    • #14
    • December 2, 2015, at 3:21 PM PST
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  15. Henry Castaigne Member

    Larry3435: A $15/hour minimum wage will do wonders for productivity growth

    No it will not. It will increase productivity growth for people who aren’t fired or managed to keep their jobs. It will make many other people produce $0.00 per hour.

    Collectively it will lower our national productivity as well as lower our national happiness and health. (Unemployment is a breeding ground for depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.)

    • #15
    • December 2, 2015, at 3:23 PM PST
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  16. Titus Techera Contributor

    Henry Castaigne:

    Larry3435: A $15/hour minimum wage will do wonders for productivity growth

    No it will not. It will increase productivity growth for people who aren’t fired or managed to keep their jobs. It will make many other people produce $0.00 per hour.

    Collectively it will lower our national productivity as well as lower our national happiness and health. (Unemployment is a breeding ground for depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.)

    I think he means it will force mechanization / robotization / computerization & by ridding the economy of low-productivity workers–for whom the future may be a soft version of hell–will in both ways increase productivity for the rest of the work force

    • #16
    • December 2, 2015, at 3:28 PM PST
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  17. PsychLynne Inactive

    I have just started using Uber (yes, call me a late adopter). My first two drivers “paid for (insert degree here)” driving for Uber. One is going to be a physical therapist, the second has an MBA and teaches high school in a business ed program. The third is driving while he gets his own business started.

    Progressives can’t see any perks of the gig economy, can they? but it sure helped there 3 guys more than Obamacare did.

    • #17
    • December 3, 2015, at 4:19 AM PST
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