George Will: President Who Believes ATMs And Airport Ticket Kiosks Cause Unemployment

[h/t Heather at Video Cafe]

So, George Will actually said this on This Week:

WILL: We have a president who believes, because he says so, that ATMs and airport ticket kiosks cause unemployment. So that gives you some sense of his grasp of how the economy works.

To my amazement, not one person at that table blinked an eye or even attempted to make a correction. It was amazing to see Will get away with that little snarky meme which is entirely untrue.

So here's my correction, just for the record. This is what Barack Obama said about ATMs and airport ticket kiosks in his major economic speech in Kansas last December. The one that was so powerful and true that the right wing had to focus on this one section, take it out of context, distort it, then use their Fox News tool to mock it along with the right wing blog network out there:

Today, over 100 years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and it’s made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100 -- or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the Internet.

This is what he said, and it's true. Every word of it. Don't take my word for it, wingers. You can read it in one of your favorite publications, BusinessWeek. And it's not going to stop with bank tellers, directory assistance operators and travel agents. As I write this, ALEC is working alongside many state legislatures to make teachers obsolete, or at least, teachers who belong to a union. I cite as evidence their most recent "School Report Card," a 140-page document which includes model legislation and bragging rights to how they're changing the entire landscape of public education. This report card was funded by Richard Mellon Scaife's Allegheny Foundation alongside the Gleason Foundation, another right-wing school choice private foundation.

After grading each state on whether its education policy comports with the privatization movement's idea for union-busting and efficient, market-based education, ALEC argues passionately for the value of online learning. Indeed, online schools are a huge focal point of the entire report. Here's just a little taste:

Around the country, states and localities are trying to do more with less. Many lament the need to cut spending on education, wrongly assuming that more money is the key to student achievement. The good news is that increasing the use of information technology to support or provide instruction can significantly improve efficiency and lower governments’ costs for teaching students.

As Moe and Chubb write, “schools can be operated at lower cost, relying more on technology (which is relatively cheap) and less on labor (which is relatively expensive).” Moe and Chubb estimate the fiscal impact of replacing some traditional instruction with technologies like online learning, they write: “If elementary students spend but one hour a day learning electronically, certified staff could be reduced by a sixth. At the middle school level, two hours a day with computers would reduce staff requirements by a third. High schools, with three hours of usage, could reduce staff by up to a half.” In addition to relieving budget pressures, these savings could be reinvested to improve teacher quality through higher pay and more training or through other mechanisms.

The potential for savings is not a theoretical concept anymore. There are already real-world examples of how online learning reduces costs for public education.

There it is in black and white, right off page 106 of the ALEC report. By forcing students to take at least one online course, staff requirements can be reduced. Or to put it in right wing-speak, online education means less teachers need be hired.

What President Obama said was entirely true, no matter how much the right wants to mock it. I'm not saying ATMs and ticket kiosks aren't great innovations. They are. But I do have a problem with them mocking it even as they're promoting the same technology-replacement strategy for schools, and someone at that table should have put Will on the spot and made him defend that bogus snark.


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