First-time readers, this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020).  Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution.  More about Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  List and general description of entries to date.  Annual assessment whether Revolution plausible.

Note: most characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.  Profile of characters.  You’ll catch on quickly.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments.

Scene: Jordan’s Office, on phone with nephew of long-time friend.  Nephew is taking advanced economics course and been assigned paper to determine if  trade agreements cost US workers jobs.  Conversation begins Entry #214.

Jordan:  “Billy, you asked if automation might be costing jobs in the service industry.  What do you think?”

Billy:  “I’ve never really thought about it.  All the hype in the 2016 presidential election student clip_art_free_-_school_clip_art_free_20121124_1951589029was on manufacturing jobs.  I don’t remember much talk at all about service jobs.”

Jordan:  “That’s because many jobs in the service are not affected by trade agreements.  As we talked about, if you want to stay in a hotel in Manhattan, a hotel in Cancun is of no value, no matter how inexpensive it is.”

Billy:  “Where should we start?”

Jordan:  “We’ll look at some general categories of service sector jobs.  Let’s start with bofa-logobanking.”

Billy:  “As best I can tell, automation and the internet have been responsible for a major loss in banking jobs.  You know, the only time I’ve been in a bank is with my grandparents.  Other than needing some cash now and then, which I can actually get at the grocery store, why do I need a bank?  If people need a bank, put it in the grocery store.”

Jordan:  “What about safe-deposit boxes for valuables – jewelry, old coins, pictures, important papers?  That kind of stuff.”

multi-story_self_storage_buildingBilly:  “People store furniture and other items in self-storage units.  Why couldn’t you have a self-storage unit of safe-deposit boxes?  Most of those self-storage places are open 24×7…and banks sure aren’t.  You could make the place as secure as a bank.”

Jordan:  “What about the food service industry?  We know most jobs are unaffected by trade agreements…but what about automation?”

panerakiosksBilly:  “Lots of places…at least the ones I go to…have an iPad-like device on the table for ordering.  In most places, people still bring your food but there aren’t many servers around.”

Jordan:  “What about automation in the kitchen?”

Billy:  “I see more automation all the time, especially at fast food places.  And you know what?  I think the quality is more consistent and overall, the food tastes better.”

fedex_logoJordan:  “What about delivery services – pizza, FedEx, UPS, even the Post Office?  How much has automation affected employment?”

Billy:  “From what I understand, a lot.  Most of the automation is in areas we don’t see – back office stuff.  Also, a lot of drivers are being eliminated by self-driving vehicles.  Again, those are in areas we don’t see – one warehouse to another.  The deliveries in the neighbor are still by humans…but who knows how long that will last.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Two more categories and then we’ll call it a wrap.”

Billy:  “OK, you’ve really got me thinking.”

Jordan:  “What about skilled trades – carpenters, plumbers, electricians, brick layers?”

Billy:  “Did you know another uncle has a construction company?  Mostly new residential.”

Jordan:  “No, tell me more.”

construction_clipart_houseBilly:  “When I was 7 or 8 years old, he used to take me to the job sites to watch homes being built.  Lots of people hammering, sawing, installing stuff.  People everywhere.”

Jordan:  “You still go?”

Billy:  “I did this past summer and wow, what a change.”

Jordan:  “What’s so different?”

Billy:  “Most all the heavy-duty construction is done in a factory.  The job site is more like assembling Lego’s.  He’s even got robot installing lots of bricks.”

Jordan:  “Where are all the skilled trades?”

modular-home-assembly-and-construction-on-siteBilly:  “Some skilled trades are in the factory to make sure everything installed correctly and a few at the job site for final hook-up.  But a lot of skilled trades have been replaced by machines at the factory and workers with fewer skills.”

Jordan:  “But none of the people replaced by robots or constructing in a factory were the result of trade agreements, right?”

Billy:  “All affected by automation.  What’s the final category?”

Jordan:  “There are many more industry categories we could address – medicine, legal, auto technicians, for example – but I want you to think about the effect of trade agreements on software development.”

brick-wall-square-hiBilly:  “Well, it’s really hard to put a wall around electrons.  I suppose you could put some sort of tariff on software development.”

Jordan:  “Any ideas how?”

Billy:  “Not really.  Companies could develop software and then put on servers in another country.  People in the US could easily access software and their files though the cloud.  I just don’t know.”

Jordan:  “Billy, what’s your conclusion now?  Do trade agreements affect employment in the US?”

Billy:  “Some.  The real culprit seems to be innovation.  And innovation is going to occur with or without a trade agreement.”

Jordan:  “What about trying to bring jobs like it used to be in America?”

Billy:  “You mean like the Trump slogan from 2016, ‘Make America Great Again’?”

Jordan:  “Possible or not?”

running_stick_man_clip_art_22430Billy:  “One thing is for certain.  If you try to recreate a by-gone era, it’s guaranteed the rest of the world will run past and the US will fall behind.”

Jordan:  “Now you have the foundation for your paper.  Countries should try to make sure the playing field is reasonably level for any trade agreement.  However…”

Billy:  “…thinking one can recreate the past and avoid being realistic about the impact of technology on jobs is fool hearty.  Right?”

(End of segment on trade agreements.  I know there’s more to cover but enough for now.)