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Letter: Heading Toward a ‘Survival Society’

To the Editor:

We don’t have to wait for automation to kill our jobs (“Get Ready for Automation to Kill U.S. Jobs,” March 28). As writer Harold Meyerson himself points out in this op-ed piece, automation has already eliminated millions of jobs. Indeed, employment in America is under siege from many directions: automation; NAFTA and the globalization scramble; the war on unions, where membership in the private sector has shrunk to negligible numbers; etc. People need to work. They need to work for their bread, for their self-esteem, and in order to take their place in a society in which the differentiation of roles has, over the past two centuries, made us all dependent upon each other’s efforts. Nothing short of rewriting our social contract will stem the unemployment tide that threatens to destabilize our society. The main provision of that new contract should be a guaranteed job at a living wage to every adult 18 to 65 who wants one. Anything short of that — fiddling with the minimum wage; pumping billions into nebulous recovery programs; beefing up a safety net that is already inefficient, ineffective, humiliating, and a ridiculous waste of public funds — is only prolonging the agony that has been developing slowly over the past 35 years and accelerating at a frightening pace since 2007. We are heading at breakneck speed toward the “survival society” Meyerson speaks of, in which income is wrested from the wealthy and redistributed among those who want work but cannot find it. Reversing this trend is going to take some doing, and we had best get about it, because time is not on our side.

Dale Copps