US politics thoughts. How to fix things. November 9, 2016 cliffski Relatively non partisan thoughts incoming… I was strongly against trump, he won, I’m not going into a debate about him, or individual policies, but thought I would try to articulate what I think is going wrong in the US (also the UK and Europe) and how (maybe) to fix it. Most pundits are suggesting (I’d guess accurately) that trump won because of the disillusionment of blue collar workers on low wages, or with no jobs. Putting aside a lot of the surrounding fluff that the campaigns were wrapped up in (personal accusations, talk of misogyny, who-slept-with-who, size of peoples hands and so on), I think it basically comes down to blue collar American workers saying that economically they are losing out and something must be done, and they are absolutely right about that, and have been for a while. Trump tapped into that, and has become president as a result, and although his identification of the problem is spot on, his remedies are absolutely wrong, and in my opinion will actually make things worse, for those very blue collar workers who see him as their saviour. There is a fairly watchable film released way back in 1991 starring Danny De-vito called other peoples money. Its not comedy gold, but it has a very well articulated point about, bizarrely the US election in 2016. Here it is: For people who don’t want to watch it, its basically a rant by Danny DeVito as an ‘evil’ wall street guy telling cable factory workers that fiber optics killed their industry, and the company is dead, and to deal with it. Its harsh. It’s also true. Fact: Kodak in 1998 employed 145,000 people worldwide. It went bankrupt in 2012. Its one of many companies that have been technologically vaporised. Facebook employs 14,495 people, almost exactly a tenth of kodak at its height, and provides a lot more than the sharing of photographs. Arguably facebook provides 10-20 times the ‘end consumer services’ that a mere photo printing company did, for 1/10 the staff. We are talking about a situation where we need 0.5-1% of the people now to do the same work in terms of providing value. And facebook lets me share a photo (for free) with the entire planet. Kodak gave me a blurry cardboard feeling thing at high cost that fades and was a fixed size (and only 1 copy). Yay for technology. People complain about unemployment in the US. The US unemployment rate is 4.9%. There will also be an issue of under-employment and low wages, but still…thats actually not *that* bad. When every company does a Kodak and gets replaced by a Facebook, that 4.9% will be a far off dream, a paradise that people think back to. Technology vastly improves and transforms our lives, but its killing jobs, and replacement jobs are not being created fast enough. The BIG problem, (and here is where it becomes relevant to the US election), is that when it does create jobs it only creates very highly skilled, high pay ones. If you do not have an absolute familiarity and understanding of computers, and preferably some computer programming knowledge, engineering knowledge, or maths/science skills, the future economy is not going to work out for you. Trumps blue collar jobs are gone. They are not coming back. Its not the Mexicans who took them, or the Muslims, its these dudes: Robots. Stuff can be made anywhere. Trump bemoans outsourcing to India/China, but with global trade, stopping that is impossible, and walling the US off from its biggest markets will only accelerate the death of the US economy, and encourage facebook, google , apple etc to relocate outside the US. Trying to stop global trade or automation / technology is liking trying to stop the tide. The only solution for trumps voters is to find a way to be useful in the post 2016 automated high-tech economy. That means skills, that means education. (I know some people think that means universal basic income instead. Personally I’m not a fan, but thats a whole different topic). If I had to pick one single policy that would fix the problems in the US in the medium to long term, it would be adult education. Not schoolkids, they already understand and use computers. They aren’t scared of them, they will eventually realize that they need to knuckle down and ensure they study hard enough to get a job programming or high tech engineering/science. Young people in the US are pretty tech savvy. The people who need education NOW in the US are the age 40+ blue collar workers who used to work in factories, on assembly lines, or in warehouses. They need to skill-up, NOW. They have no money, because tech killed their jobs, so they need help, and the government HAS to step in and fix this. I refuse to believe that you cannot re-skill at that age. I refuse to believe that you cannot transition from manual work to complex tech work. When I was 24 years old I hammered rowing boats together for a living. It was the technological opposite of what I do now. I’m 47 and work as a computer programmer. Transitioning from one to the other is HARD, but it can be done. When I wanted to learn programming, I qualified for free evening classes in C and advanced C programming, paid for by my government here in the UK. I also attended a 2 week crash course on C++, paid for by the government because I was unemployed. I also studied my ass off, spent a LOT of time in libraries and the few books I could afford, and it worked out. The government could have made it a LOT easier, but at least they did something. Despite my hatred for him, Trump DOES know what is wrong in America, and identifying the problem is actually very helpful. Now is the time to help focus on the real long term solution, not short term knee-jerk misdirected anger. The USA does not need a wall, it needs a program of adult education & training.