Jeb Bush is Extremely Woke About Automation Job Loss

Getty Images / Mark Makela

Former Florida Governor Jeb (!) Bush wants us all out in the streets to bring change to America. No, the former Republican presidential candidate isn’t trying to revive his campaign, he just wants to warn us of the imminent crisis facing the American workforce if the government doesn’t prepare workers for the rise of the automated workplace.

Bush told AM 970 New York’s John Catsimatidis that the country is essentially training its children to do jobs that will belong to robots by the time they graduate, according to the Washington Examiner.

“People should be marching in the streets demanding that we change how we educate K-12, higher education, job training,” Bush said. “We need life long in skills development so people can live purposeful lives.”

Bush has actually presented education as a central part of a strong job market for years, and used claims of Florida’s success in this area as part of his 2016 campaign. In Florida, one of his primary methods of improving the state’s jobs number was to invite the sort of manufacturing work that is now under serious threat of automation.

“This is not something that’s science fiction,” he said. “This is happening as we speak. And yet we still have this big skills gap.”

Last week, the National Bureau of Economic research published a study claiming that automation was taking jobs at a surprising rate — up to three jobs per every new robot in a 1000-man workforce — supporting the idea that automation will need to be offset by education and re-training programs.

Bush also took the opportunity to get in a dig at his former rival, President Donald Trump. “We have got to sort out what we stand for,” Bush said. “Presidential leadership would be helpful here.”

Trump has been largely silent on automation, although his treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin isn’t worried about the prospect.

But where American jobs will inevitably decline, it’s worth noting that automation will create jobs in other fields as well. The world needs more talent in certain areas like advanced database management and machine learning, even as other white collar professions also start to feel the heat.

The Examiner’s article also hits on another common thread in the conversation around automation: just what in the hell life is going to be about, if not work? Bush worries that Americans are in danger of losing the opportunity to lead “purposeful lives” in which they contribute to the economy. While that’s probably not the biggest concern for people trying to generate enough income to pay the rent, it is something worth thinking about. A Jeb-style mass reorientation toward computer skills and other, more academic areas of study could produce a workforce full of highly educated people with low or no incomes, or at least exacerbate that problem. If that doesn’t work, a system of guaranteed minimum income, might just institution of work entirely — which probably doesn’t match up with Bush’s conservative ideals.

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