The results are in from New Hampshire, the two outsiders have won. Most pundits talk about the anger at Washington the anger at the establishment, what missing is the true explanation why Trump and Sanders are doing so well. Their support reflects the growing sense of unease among most Americans. There is the growing sense that their children will not be as well off as they are. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have answers for that, and both are wrong. Sanders blames the banks and other large corporations and Trump blames the illegal immigrants. Both make excellent bogeymen but neither is the cause. The banks and the big corporations are the symptoms and the immigrants are simply the wrong target.
The real economic culprit is technology, and no one is willing to say so. How may jobs have been taken by computers in the last few years. How many people answer the phones, act as secretaries, How many jobs has Amazon replaced? How many printers are out of business thanks to E-=books? How many newspaper jobs have been lost thanks to Google taking all the advertising revenue?, How many jobs will be lost when the driverless car becomes a reality? How many more jobs will be replaced by robots? The list is long and growing, and it gets event longer the better computers become and the closer to true Artificial Intelligence becomes
For centuries there has been a balance between capital and labor, technology has upended that balance and now capital is ascendant. The growing wealth gap is a direct result of this change. The wealth created by Google, Facebook, Apple and others have helped fuel that growing gap. Many of the financial instruments that have made many in the financial sector so wealthy are possible only because of ever more powerful computers. When almost any worker can be replaced by technology the ability of workers to negotiate for better wages is very limited. Politicians talk about preparing our children for 21st-century jobs, but I would love to know what they are. How many programmers do we really need? How many Apps? The answer is many less than we need taxi drivers, truck drivers and all sorts of other drivers that will soon be replaced.
Voters understand that there is problem, but it’s hard to blame technology. In the past new technologies always brought new opportunities. The end of the wagon, heralded the era of auto manufacturing, this time, that is unlikely. In the past technology replaced our muscles, now it replaces our brains, which means it essentially replaces us. Its a hard concept to fully understand, and even a harder concept to find solutions for. Since there are no clear solutions we have politicians who have created false bogeymen. I fear that the fear in the land is very real, and without some honest discussion of the issues by someone fear will win out, and we could end up with one of these candidates as President of the United States. A truly scary thought!
Three random thoughts of the last few days. The first and the first and most disturbing was the information that Hadar Cohen, the young Border Policewoman killed yesterday, was still in basic training when she was killed. It surprised me and saddened me to learn how little the army has learned in the 40 years since I was in basic training. In 1975 they sent me and my fellow soldiers, who at the time had been in basic training for all of one week, to the Casbah of Nabulus to patrol. I even spent a day guarding Joseph’s tomb and having stones thrown at me, after having fired my rifle all of once. Now forty years later they send a soldier early in her training to one of the most attacked locations in Israel.
The second totally unrelated news was from a Knesset committee on public relations. The Foreign Ministry reported that the total budget worldwide was approximately 10 million dollars and that their budget for Sweden was $17,000. For over a year I have been amazed at Israeli chutzpah on the matter. They wonder why they fail at Hasbara- and while Israeli policies are sometimes to blame the failure to fund any serious effort is certainly a major factor. I have never understood how Israel can receive over $2 billion a year from the US and not think it needs to do any serious marketing.
Final thought relates to recent stories on the F-35, the US new front line fighter jet that Israel has contracted to buy at over $200 million a plane. The F-35 does not seem to living up to expectations and by some measurements is inferior to Israel’s current aircraft. I have always been very skeptical to the idea of buying a plane that cost $200 million. But then what do I know.!
I had a marvelous discussion last night that I have to share. I review books and movies from time to time on my website, historycentral.com, and thus I am often approached to review books, movies or given the opportunity to interview people. I was approached recently by the PR firm working for Disney who is promoting the film Bridge of Spies. The movie chronicles the freeing of Gary Powers and the defense that James Donovan, who is portrayed in the movie by Tom Hanks, gave to Rudolf Abel who was convicted of spying for the Soviets and whom Donovan arranged to be exchanged for Powers. I was giving the opportunity to discuss the film and their father with Donovan’s three children, John, Jan and Mary. I had a delightful chat with them. They gave me a unique perspective on a man who was clearly devoted to the law, while at the same time, devoted to his family.
I asked them if they saw much of their father during the height of the trial and they proudly told me that their father was always home for dinner, and how he worked at home in the evenings. Their father had a great den where he worked, but that door was always open for his kids. I asked the children whether they had any problems in school from other children who were upset that their father defended a “Commie”, and they said only once in a while. It did not bother them when strangers attacked them, but it did hurt when people they knew criticized their father. Donovan was committed to explaining to his kids what he was doing and why. He took one of the kids with him on a visit to the Soviet Union and even took one of them with him to Cuba when he was negotiating for the release of the rebels captured in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Their father had put together with some short films on the Holocaust to be used at the Nuremberg trial, and were thrilled that Steven Spielberg, the director of Bridge of Spies, spoke highly of the short films their father made.
The sibling, who must all be in their late 60s and 70s, seemed close and although they claimed that each were very different were certainly tied together by their love of their father and appreciation of his work. When the sibling got on the phone they had no idea that I was talking to them from Israel, but when they heard I was in Tel Aviv it seemed to become even more animated and one of them told me about his visit to Israel 40 plus years ago. It was a fascinating and inspiring 30 minutes and I wish I had time to do more similar interviews.