The Worst Job In The Supermarket, The Limits of AI, And That Tablet Essay

About three years ago I wrote about the ethics of stealing from automated supermarkets. In the short space of time since then, theft from the machines is way up, perhaps aided by attitudes like this. Looking back at that little essay, however, I think I missed one of the most important aspects, perhaps the most important aspect, of the changeover to self-checkout, namely:

How to turn four unhappy-ish jobs into a single miserable one.

So let’s talk about that. And we’ll look at that hotter than hot essay on TabletMag, too, because they’re directly related.

A friend of mine (okay, it was Mrs. B) was at the grocery store yesterday. She watched a woman go through the self-checkout with a case of beer, then leave. At that point, my friend stepped up for her transaction, and put her loyalty card up against the scanner. She had to do this, because the supermarkets have made loyalty cards an unavoidable part of shopping now; at some stores, you can’t even do self-checkout without a loyalty card, which relegates you to the single half-hour line for a human cashier.

After scanning her card, she realized that the previous shopper was actually a previous stealer; the case of beer had been scanned, but remained unpaid. This was a problem. Ohio is not a Prop 47 state; we prosecute theft here. As far as the machine was concerned, that case of beer was now in her custody. So her choices at this point were:

0. Walk away from the machine, knowing that it would register her as the thief of that beer once all the data was reconciled;
1. Pay for the beer in addition to her own stuff;
2. Get the attention of the teenaged girl who was the checkout-station minder.

She chose the last of these options. The girl in question, when told about the theft, responded with an expletive then blushed for having done so. “Go to another machine,” she exhaled, “it’s fine.”

“No,” my friend responded, “I need you to take my card off this transaction.”

More sighing. “I’ll do that, go ahead and use another station.” In our conversation afterwards, my friend had a unique insight:

“Every interaction that girl has with people is negative. A supermarket checker would have mostly positive, or neutral, interactions with people. Maybe one out of five, or one out of ten, interactions would have some unpleasantness. It would be mixed in, you know? But this girl… every single time she talks to someone, it’s someone who is having a problem. And she has to have those conversations constantly, because the machines are constantly having problems.”

This is very insightful, and absolutely correct. The same thing is true of all the automated fast-food order stations that pop up everywhere the minimum wage pops up to $15 or more. These stations, like the self-checkout machines, are about an 80/20 solution. They are designed to handle the easiest eighty percent of transactions. The difficult twenty percent gets sent to a person whose job has gone from “take food orders from everyone” to “take the worst food orders from the worst people”.

I’ve designed a few self-service and trouble-ticket systems in my time, so at least I understand why it works like this. Coding the obvious “use cases” for a human-interaction system can be done in a hurry. All the non-obvious stuff takes a lot of additional time. So what most companies do is to code up the easy stuff and leave the hard stuff to human beings, whose lives will be made significantly worse as a result. You take four half-decent jobs running supermarket checkout, and you replace it with the uneasy combination of four lazy machines and one miserable person.

Of course, we did this with call centers and customer service a long time ago. Banks, too. To be a bank teller nowadays is to be confronted with a constant stream of problems, corner cases, unsolved mysteries. I’ve even noticed this phenomenon at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Ohio has made it fairly easy to renew or change existing registrations online. If you need something else, you go to the BMV. There used to be ten people working there; now there are three. Which seems okay, because the line is only thirty percent of what it would have been in 1990. But guess what? All of those people have corner case issues. Out-of-state transfers. Bad VINs on a title. Transfers where someone writes “Jack Baruth” instead of my legal name, which is “Johann von Baruth II”. (Maybe.) Each one of these corner cases takes significant time and energy to fix. So you end up waiting a lot longer than you did in 1990.

There is a supreme irony at work here. We were told that automation would take the dangerous work and the drudgery away, and that’s kinda-sorta true. The real truth, however, is that automation takes all the easy and livable labor away first, particularly in the service industry, which as you recall is where we all have to work since the factories went to China and the IT work was given to visa-holders. Take four people. Eliminate three of their jobs. Make the last job worse. Yay, progress!

It wasn’t meant to be this way. In the Isaac Asimov future, machines freed us to live more completely as humans. It turns out, however, that artificial intelligence is a sham and computers are, in fact, only good at doing stupid things, albeit quickly. This is why self-driving is Never Gonna Happen the way people think it is. When it Does In Fact Happen, it will be horrifying. They will have to clear all the unpredictable human-operated cars off the roads and limit the speed of the Self-Drivin’ Pods to something well below the velocity at which the occupants would be seriously injured by hitting a concrete barrier. I’m thinking 40mph is probably the maximum. Less in bad weather. So you’ll just be sitting in a pod that takes twice as long to get somewhere as it used to. On the positive side, you’ll be able to watch the new Michelle Obama documentary on Netflix, and by “able to” I mean “forced to”. Keep your expression neutral as you do it, because only a supremacist would frown while watching an Obama documentary. The telescreen will be able to tell if you’re frowning.

Viewed in this light, it’s easy to understand just how predatory our technological revolution has been. We are all Ned Ludd now, looking on in horror as a new machine does all the easy stuff and leaves us the nightmare occupations. The profits, naturally, go to the owner of the machine, who uses them to do things like ridiculous prole-level social engineering and/or buying up all the farmland a la Bill Gates.

There is an answer to this societal misery, of course, and it’s drawn directly from old-school liberal thought. You tax the proverbial living shit out of the machines’ profit, distribute that to the unemployed as “basic income”, encourage them all to do something meaningful with their lives like paint or sing or cut bonsai trees, then significantly raise the salary for the remaining miserable jobs so the incentive to fill them is positive (you can buy more stuff than the basic income crowd) rather than negative (you can afford to eat a meal when others can’t). You would think that almost everyone could agree on this. Even a red-state normie conservative like Brother Bark could probably go for it; the moral equation of taxing machine profits at an 80% marginal rate is nothing like taxing a doctor or even an attorney at that rate.

Alas, we live in Neocon and Neolib world now, with “neo” denoting the part of their platforms which are absolutely indistinguishable from each other. Both sides of the house (also, House, as in House of Reps) are in complete agreement on: rock-bottom labor costs, free movement of capital, lowering the standard of living, lower taxes on investment gains, public incentives for private gain. The “con” and “lib” part is mere moralizing dress-up, the same way they used to put a Buick nose or an Oldsmobile nose on a C-body sedan. Increasingly I’m seeing the horseshoe bend at the ends of “extremist” thought. You get stuff like this woman (warning: kinda NSFW), an ultra-lefist sex worker who uses the proceeds of her sex work to buy AR-pattern rifles and .300 WinMag sniper rigs. This up-cannoning (to use an Iain M. Banks phrase) of both the left and right doesn’t really worry the Neo-X crowd because they know that with the gentlest of pushing, the armed “extremists” can be manipulated into attacking either

* the cops
* each other

rather than, say, an Amazon distribution center or various Alphabet points-of-presence. The armed right openly pines for the day they can fire for effect at an Antifa pr(i)otest; the armed left imagines a day when they can kill racist whites en masse. If you could sit all of them in a room and let them talk it out, they’d come out with a very different, and largely mutual, agenda. Which is why nothing of the sort will ever be allowed to take place. The reader with more than a fruit-fly’s worth of memory will recall that “Occupy Wall Street” met a very public, and very swift, demise in December of 2011 when they briefly blocked some ports on the West Coast. This disruption of commerce with China, had it been allowed to continue, would have had nontrivially positive consequences for downtrodden Americans of all political stripes — but the spice must flow, so they got swatted like the proverbial flies.

At the intersection of these trends (tech-based misery, false polarization of America’s citizens) we have the remarkable essay Everything Is Broken, published earlier this week. I think you’d benefit from reading the whole thing, but I’ll excerpt two critical parts here. In the first part, the author addresses the “Seen It All, Internet” viewpoint very effectively, in words I wish I’d written before she did;

Let’s say you believe the above to be hyperbolic. You never fell through the cracks of the medical system; as far as you understand it, there are plenty of ways for a resourceful person to buy a home in America these days; you easily met a mate and got married and had as many children as you wanted, at the age you wanted to have them; your child had a terrific time at college, where she experienced nothing at all oppressive or bizarre, got a first-class education that you could easily afford and which landed her a great job after graduation; you actually like the fact that you haven’t encountered one book or movie or piece of art that’s haunted you for months after; you enjoy druggily floating through one millennial pink space after another; it gives you pleasure to interact only with people who agree with you politically, and you feel filled with meaning and purpose after a day spent sending each other hysteria-inducing links; maybe you’ve heard that some kids are cosplaying Communism but that’s only because everyone is radical when they’re young, and Trump voters are just a bunch of racist troglodytes pining for the past, and it’s not at all that neither group can see their way to a future that looks remotely hopeful … If this is you, congratulations. There’s no need to reach out and tell me any of this, because all you will be doing is revealing how insulated you are from the world inhabited by nearly everyone I know.

I think that from now on, I’ll just copypasta that any time one of my commenters gives me some world-weary drivel about how Everything Is Fine and It’s Always Been This Way. The second excerpt gets to the heart of the author’s point as to why, indeed, everything from medicine to journalism is broken:

The internet tycoons used the ideology of flatness to hoover up the value from local businesses, national retailers, the whole newspaper industry, etc.—and no one seemed to care. This heist—by which a small group of people, using the wiring of flatness, could transfer to themselves enormous assets without any political, legal or social pushback—enabled progressive activists and their oligarchic funders to pull off a heist of their own, using the same wiring. They seized on the fact that the entire world was already adapting to a life of practical flatness in order to push their ideology of political flatness—what they call social justice, but which has historically meant the transfer of enormous amounts of power and wealth to a select few.
.
Because this cohort insists on sameness and purity, they have turned the once-independent parts of the American cultural complex into a mutually validating pipeline for conformists with approved viewpoints—who then credential, promote and marry each other. A young Ivy League student gets A’s by parroting intersectional gospel, which in turn means that he is recommended by his professors for an entry-level job at a Washington think tank or publication that is also devoted to these ideas. His ability to widely promote those viewpoints on social media is likely to attract the approval of his next possible boss or the reader of his graduate school application or future mates. His success in clearing those bars will in turn open future opportunities for love and employment. Doing the opposite has an inverse effect, which is nearly impossible to avoid given how tightly this system is now woven. A person who is determined to forgo such worldly enticements—because they are especially smart, or rich, or stubborn—will see only examples of even more talented and accomplished people who have seen their careers crushed and reputations destroyed for daring to stick a toe over the ever multiplying maze of red lines.

I was surprised to find out after the fact that the author of this essay wasn’t some Christian “tradwife” but was, rather, the founder of Tablet herself, a 45-year-old Jewish woman. Like I said, the ends of the horseshoe are bending. They recognize a common enemy — the “flatness” that renders labor, art, and culture down to a single fungible commodity to be distributed at lightning speed in any manner necessary to keep costs at a bare minimum. The opposite of flatness is “friction”. It’s friction that keeps small businesses and individual artists and anything unique alive. Friction preserves choice. Virtually all of what we think of as “culture” is a product of friction. Regional accents, regional cuisine, the fact that the Japanese love their kei cars and the Australians love their “utes” — that’s all friction at work. In a world without friction, there’s only one store, and it’s Amazon. There’s only one social platform, and it’s probably Facebook. There’s only one Party, and it’s the Uniparty. Anything else would be… inefficient.

Should the ends of the philosophical horseshoe ever meet, what formalized belief system would result? Perhaps it would boil down to a single rule, one acceptable to pagans and Christians alike: Treat corporations, and governments, and people, like they treat you. What would this mean? It’s not for me to say, obviously, but I can see interpreting that rule like so: You can steal from machines, but not people. If a politician sends jobs overseas, we send his job to someone else. If a government doesn’t interfere with its citizens, those citizens will choose not to interfere with the government.

Note that I’m not talking about Libertarianism here. I have no respect for that philosophy; like many other Good Ideas including classical Marxism, it tends to break down when applied to communities of more than two hundred people. A bent-horseshoe society understands that government is going to exist and that it is going to perform tasks and that the nature of those tasks will represent a compromise among various interests. This society would also work to maximize friction. It would agree that every household is better off owning a single domestically-produced television rather than an endless proliferation of “screens” that create opportunities elsewhere while denying them on our own soil. It would suggest that you’re better off owning fewer things, if those things are produced and sold by your neighbors.

That’s how community is built and maintained. In that world, if you saw someone stealing from a grocery store, you’d say something — because the grocer is your neighbor. And you’d know that the person who was stealing from the grocery store wasn’t stealing out of hunger, because you’d know that he or she had a decent job. We would once again turn one miserable job into four unhappy-ish ones, understanding that in doing so we are preventing both the automated Utopia they promised us, and the automated dystopia they actually delivered.

Ah, but maybe the ends of the horseshoe will never touch and we will just keep flattening the world, worsening the jobs, shrinking your house, confiscating your cars, producing more Peak TV, giving you an endless supply of Two Minutes Hate against the all-powerful Emmanuel Goldstein enemy of multi-racial White Supremacy. What do you do then? Well, there’s Netflix, there’s legal weed to dull you into complacency, there’s the pleasure of hating someone who is much like you but who believes something slightly different. Oh, and there’s free beer. If, of course, you’re willing to steal it.

78 Replies to “The Worst Job In The Supermarket, The Limits of AI, And That Tablet Essay”

  1. AvatarCJinSD

    A friend of mine observed today that the Democrats are going to kill off their street terrorists just as the Nazis and communists did before them. It seems likely they’ll do it by convincing them to dress up as Trump supporters and act like they’ve been acting since Obama did something about the threat that racial harmony posed to his party. The national guardsmen who survive their marxist purity tests will wash the streets with their blood, providing justification for making guns as easy to own private jets and for clamping down on anachronistic idiots who think the founding fathers didn’t poison the well with their ideas about individual liberties.

    “I was surprised to find out after the fact that the author of this essay wasn’t some Christian “tradwife” but was, rather, the founder of Tablet herself, a 45-year-old Jewish woman.”

    She has her grasp on reality because reality almost cost the health of her son. If she has a sister, I bet this experience wasn’t close enough to home for her sister to wake up.

    Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        I think there’s more evidence for the Loch Ness Monster than there is for a gay Hitler, but the thought seems to make a lot of people happy.

        Reply
          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Sadly, the bar for proof is now set at the 2020 election. If you can’t deliver more than 300 sworn affidavits, hours of videotape, 100 dead registered voters, and two standard deviations of statistical variance from all previous elections, then what you actually have is a “conspiracy theory”, and you’re eligible to lose your job.

        • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

          I’ve always thought the “pink triangle” thing was hyped by gay activists and not exactly in line with the actual history of and practices within the Nazi party. The only gays and lesbians the Nazis put in camps were political.

          That Ernst Röhm and the leadership of the SA brownshirts were gay didn’t seem to have bothered Hitler until those leaders became expendable. I wish I could remember the source, but apparently some of the killings in the Night of the Long Knives were set up by gay SS members inviting SA members to orgies. Speilberg’s version of Schindler’s List, perhaps to mirror Oskar Schindler’s behavior, has Amon Goeth, the Nazi commander of the labor camp, as a womanizer, but Thomas Keneally’s book makes it clear the Goeth was bisexual who had relations with other Nazi officers.

          As for Hitler’s own sexuality, my guess is that he was either asexual or far weirder than just gay.

          Reply
          • AvatarJohn C.

            Interesting the gradual walk back of the early post war claims that 5 million homosexuals and gypsies also being killed/died at the camps in addition to the Jewish victims. Israel must have researched this. What is their current number?

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            Only two groups were targeted for extermination by the Nazis, Jews and Roma. For example, there were millions of Poles who were murdered but no attempt was made to exterminate Poles in general as there were for Gypsies and Jews.

            The number of gay and lesbian victims of the Nazis has typically been inflated by assuming 10% of all of their victims were g&l, so if 1.9 million Poles were killed, gay activists will say that means there were 190,000 gays that were killed.

    • Avatarstingray65

      Democrats to kill off street terrorists by telling them to dress as Trump supporters so that National Guard can wash the streets with blood? I don’t think so. From what I’m hearing the Democrats in DC are terrified of the National Guard who are all over the streets of Washington to protect the “peaceful transition of power”, because the Guard is overwhelmingly white, male, and conservative (i.e. not many voted for Biden). Meanwhile rumor has it that the Biden people are worried about the loyalty of his Secret Service detail, as they are concerned they might be secret Trump supporters who won’t protect him from the loving citizens who supposedly overwhelmingly elected him with the most votes ever.

      Don’t be surprised if the Biden administration soon announces that subversives have taken over much of the National Guard, Police, Military, Border Patrol, and other security apparatus of the nation, and for the safety of the nation the Antifa/BLM types have been recruited to form a new and racially/gender diverse police/military force who have sworn allegiance to protecting the party in power from radical seditionists who insist on Constitutional law, blind justice, and fair elections. The only thing left to do is give the new force a name – too bad that Gestapo, SS, KGB, Cheka, Stasi, and Guoanbu names have already been taken.

      Reply
  2. AvatarWidgetsltd

    Where does change start? How about with the interactions among our neighbors. I’ve been walking around the neighborhood lately, after dinner, in order to get some exercise. There’s this house on the next street over where they continue to literally fly a Trump flag to this day. Sometimes I get the urge to say something antagonistic to the guy when I see him outside. So far, I have not done so. He seems like a nice guy, and we say “hi” to each other when I pass by. I see him several evenings per week hanging out around a bonfire ring in his driveway with his neighbors and their kids. He’s probably not too different from me. I’m not looking for a pat on the back – just providing a personal example. Like Jules says at the end of Pulp Fiction, I’m trying to be the shepherd. It beats being the tyranny of evil men.

    Reply
      • Avataryossarian

        since the tablet girl’s name is newhouse, there is more than a passing chance that she is a scion of s.i. newhouse, the publishing magnate. this is relevant because conde naste and it’s ilk are the ones “breaking” the world. children shouldn’t be held responsible for the sins of the parents but it does raise an eyebrow.

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn Marks

          There’s no shortage of variants of that name in Western Jewish culture. That’s because during the Middle Ages, Jews were forbidden from owning real estate–that would put them into the feudal system; but, how could they swear the oath everyone else did?

          So, it was a matter of celebration when upwardly mobile and, to a degree assimilating, Jews could buy a house. The famous name “Rothschild” is not “Roths-child”; it is “Rote-shield.” Because they were able to buy a house that happened to come adorned with a red shield. That was back before streets had house numbers.

          That does not mean that that lady could not come from a media family. It does mean that assimilating Jews often faced narrow choices in names.

          jm

          Reply
          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            In college I knew an Israeli girl whose last name Ruth Newman, not an uncommon surname among Ashkenazi Jews, from Neuman in German/Yiddish. My mother’s best friend’s name was the same. As it happens, Ruth’s father was born in England and his family were Sephardi. I asked her how did Sephardim end up with a Germanic last name and she told me that the name was originally Ne’eman, Hebrew for faithful, but was anglicized when the family ended up in the UK.

            As for Alana Newhouse, she attended Jewish parochial schools before college while the publishing Newhouses haven’t done anything seriously Jewish for at least a couple of generations. S.I. Newhouse lived in Manhattan, while Alana grew up in the suburbs in the “five towns”. They might be related but I doubt she’s a scion of the publishing empire.

  3. AvatarLynnG

    Your point in the referenced article from three years ago was on target. DC politicans have been blackmailing various retailers to serve the food deserts in the DC metropolitan area for yera and the retailers just will not go there. Walmart promised to open three stores east of the river, built one and said that is enough and closed it two years later. The DC government threatened and screemed but Walmart said that they are not a charity and that they do not build stores to loose money. Likewise on self checkouts, in the DC area the two largest grocery stores, Giant and Safeway, have been racing to install self checkouts while their stores in many areas inside the beltway continue to age. However I have found one exception, the supermarket chain, Publix (sorry all stores located south of Virginia) has not installed self checkouts, their stores are well staffed, clean, and well lit. It is the only chain I been in that has a bagger assigned to each open checkout, which I find to be amazing… Now this may be the same in other regional chains, Meijers which is in Jack’s part of the country I hear are really great but I never been to one. One thing I would point out, yes Whole Wallet passes out free samples, but they over charge their customers by multiple fold for what they do buy, so the free samples are really not free…. 🙂

    Reply
    • AvatarBob S.

      Sad to say that Publix here in Florida is now installing self checkouts also. I talked to one of the checkout women when the company started doing that, and she was quite displeased with the likely effects on their continued employment. I make it a point to never use the self checkout line, but you can already see the jobs disappearing. Nothing like taking jobs away from middle-aged women with high school educations.

      Reply
      • AvatarS2kChris22

        Around here (Chicagoland) grocery store self checkouts have only taken over for the Express 15-items-or-less aisles. They’re fine for the proverbial gallon of milk and load of bread, but when you have the weekly cart full, no one wants to deal with self checkout.

        Reply
    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      Meijer stores have self-serve checkout lanes but I’ve found the Meijer stores to be variable in terms of cleanliness and general operation. That industry is dependant on having good store managers. I think they might have changed managers at the store nearest to my house as things have improved there. When my mom was alive I would sometimes shop at the Meijer near her senior facility and it was almost like a completely different chain.

      As for the automated checkout machines, the employees who staff that part of the store have to do overrides for alcohol and other age restricted items, so they deal with more than just complaints. I’m friendly to them, they’re friendly to me.

      One thing I didn’t like about the automated checkouts at Meijer is the first generation of machines would snatch the money out of your hand so quickly that if a human cashier had done it, you’d be offended. Also, am I the only person who is tired of having a machine thank me for shopping? At least change the damn recording to “Meijer and our employees thank you.” Don’t get me started on the automated phone systems that play recordings of fake keystrokes when they transfer your call. At least the fake shutter noise on your phone makes a little sense, so you know you took the shot, but why the fake keyboard stuff?

      Reply
      • AvatarDean in AZ

        I suspect in some older parts of the world still rely on the tones to send the call to the right place. Take them out and the call goes nowhere, if sent to such a system.

        Reply
  4. Avatarstingray65

    Most people have already become helpless idiots in finding their way to any moderately new location without getting yard by yard instructions from their navigation systems, so taking all but the most difficult 5% of the driving away with self-driving cars will be the death of many. Each fall during the first light dusting of snow you almost always see lots of fender benders because drivers have become accustomed to the grip of dry pavement over the previous 6+ months and don’t make adjustments for the lower friction of snow covered pavement. Now imagine that driver watching Netflix for the 6 months of dry pavement “driving” and during that first snowfall having alarm bells start ringing as the computer tells the passenger that he is now the driver and to take control because conditions have become too slippery for automation – that lack of friction ain’t goin to be pretty.

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      I have always made it a habit, learned from my old man, first snow storm of the year, hit the high school parking lot and do donuts. Pound on the brakes, gun the engine, intentionally crank the wheel hard, turn any traction control controls off.

      “OK, this is what it feels like. Like I remember”

      Reply
      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        Every year, after the first significant snowfalls, my adult children get the same phone call from their father, telling them to go find a parking lot and relearn how to drive in snow.

        Also, winter tires are not only much better on snow and ice than three-season tires, they’re also a great excuse to run performance tires the rest of the year.

        Reply
        • Avatarstingray65

          Such parking lot practice is where I learned that rear drive (or rear biased) cars are a lot more fun in the snow that front drive.

          Reply
          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            I think Erik Carlsson and Paddy Hopkirk might disagree.

            Driving FWD cars in snow can be just as much fun, it’s just a different kind of fun. Keep the wheels spinning and make sure that when you do find grip that the front wheels are pointed in the correct direction.

  5. Avatar-Nate

    Food for thought here .

    I use the self checkout lanes and the ‘minders’ are mostly okay and friendly / helpful .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      Same here. Have never hit a surly one.
      I doubt ALDI will ever go self service. They want speed, the stores are too small and they’d have to have someone to mind the self service registers. I love ALDI. 80-90% of my stuff comes from that store.

      Reply
      • Avatar-Nate

        Just up the hill from me are the new ALDI & Grocery Outlet, both have checkers and are clean if smaller than most stores .

        I hit them up 15 minutes before closing time or at opening time and am in and out fast, so far no covid cooties….

        Stealing is a simple matter of self respect .

        -Nate

        Reply
        • Avatardejal

          Lidl is a slow rollout from the looks of it. I’ll be dead by the time they, “If” they ever make it into my neck of the woods. But from what I’ve read, I’d agree. I really do like ALDI. I can do that store blindfolded. Their chicken sucks. And I wish they had scallions. But, the big grocery store is just across the parking lot.

          Reply
          • AvatarCJinSD

            ALDI is great for bell peppers, cheap wine, eggs, and their Roma-branded sausages; which don’t contain corn syrup. Twice I have bought their 96% lean ground beef, saving myself a stop at a preferred place to buy meat. The first time I bought it I used it to make hamburgers, which were fine on the grill. The second time I was going to use it to make chili, but an odd thing happened while cooking. At some point during the browning process, something broke down in the meat and about a third of its volume turned to liquid. I shudder to think what I ate in the form of medium rare hamburgers, and I’m definitely not as adventurous with sourcing some things from German grocery chains.

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        Kroger just closed a store a mile away and opened up a huge store with all sorts of premium foods literally next door to an Aldi that’s been there for years.

        It will be interesting to see how the Aldi store does with such close competition.

        Reply
  6. AvatarDisinterested-Observer

    At the risk of missing the forest for the trees, I have to say that it is mind-boggling that caring about your neighbors and your country has now been painted as “white supremacy.” Although I have noticed that on the occasions when the MSM mentions Ruby Ridge for whatever reason, they always say that the Weavers were “White Supremacists.” Which they decidedly were not, they were white separatists. It is an important distinction, especially in their case, as I don’t think they were in a position to oppress any minorities up on that mountain in the middle of nowhere.

    Reply
    • AvatarNewbie Jeff

      “I have to say that it is mind-boggling that caring about your neighbors and your country has now been painted as ‘white supremacy'”

      Except it’s not mind-boggling… we live in a clown world of “white supremacy”, “climate change”, and “orange man bad” for a pretty simple reason: the “senior partner” in our two-party system wants it that way.

      That’s it. That’s the answer. Look at just about every “crisis” in recent memory… look where our attention was directed… look at the cars that our rabid, pack-of-wild-dogs media was sent to chase after: “Russia collusion”, “children in cages”, “shithole countries”, the Ukraine phone call, “climate arson”, George Floyd, BLM, “white supremacy”… it’s simply a narrative construct to give the Democratic party political relevance. Trump is a “white supremacist”, Republicans are “white supremacists”, the Weavers are “white supremacists”, Tucker Carlson is a “white supremacist”, the Baruths are “white supremacists”, I’m a “white supremacist’, you’re a “white supremacist”… We’re all “white supremacists” simply because that’s what the Democratic party needs us to be.

      I once read about an experiment with lab rats… they were trained to activate a switch that would deliver a pleasure response directly to their brains. There was no limit to how often the rats could pleasure themselves. In the experiment, the rats activated the switch thousands of times every day. They stopped eating, they stopped drinking… their entire existence became hitting the pleasure response switch….

      Now imagine you’re a Democrat. You’re in the “senior partner” party. You can fabricate any narrative that elevates your profile and destroys your political opponents. The media amplifies your message, they carry your narrative. Tech companies censor your opponents, but you get to keep your platform. Hollywood has your back, all the way. The money from corporations and wealthy donors is never in doubt. Election “anomalies” will always go in your favor. You are a politician, and your rat’s brain pleasure response is lying, distorting, obfuscating, and deception and there is literally nothing that keeps you from hitting that switch.

      That’s why it’s all “white supremacy”.

      Reply
      • AvatarDan

        Disagree 100%. The progressive race war isn’t migrant children or Wu Flu or any of the other molehills that they amplify for one campaign and then memory hole. This isn’t an interchangeable label on the morphine button. They’ve been beating the drum on this one for a generation because it’s for all the marbles. Of course America was a white supremacist country. Illegitimize that and they can burn down everything. They have and they are.

        Multicultural, functional, democracy. Pick any two.

        Reply
  7. AvatarJohn C.

    It is interesting to think of the fate of the big box stores in the hopefully later stages of the pandemic. There is of course a lot of contrasting on the right of large chain stores being open while churches and schools remain closed. With their being a large group of fans of shutdown, inside and outside of soon one party government, If I were an executive at a grocery store chain, I would curtail investment in replacing humans in the big box, instead understanding that a few of the stores become warehouses, and think instead of how standard delivery packs would work with no customers in the former stores, but big government payouts to those who could deliver a basic standard no touch pack regularly under single payer.

    Reply
    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      If I were an executive at a grocery store chain,

      Probably the smartest business move for the next four years would be to give an equity stake in your firm to Hunter Biden and learn Mandarin.

      Reply
  8. Avatarstingray65

    As the Biden administration and Democrat controlled Congress are about to take over and making daily announcements about their policy priorities, I can’t help but think how much the “party of science” is ignoring all the evidence from the last 4 year experiment in governance and public policy. For the first time in modern history, Trump eliminated more regulations than he implemented, he also negotiated more favorable trade deals and got tough on corrupt Chinese trade practices, set up relatively effective border control and reduced legal immigration levels, lowered taxes on all but the top 1% by capping the SALT deduction that only benefits the 1%, and the result pre-Covid was the lowest unemployment since 1969 for all racial and gender groups, the largest expansion of wages for the bottom half of the income distribution in modern times, while the Feds collected more tax revenue than ever. During Covid the US also had a national experiment in economic policy at the state level, and Republican run states generally locked down their economies and societies the least and also had the least detrimental economic impact and among the lowest Covid infection and death rates. In contrast Democrat states locked down everything the most (especially small businesses, schools, and religious/civic institutions) and become economic and mental basket cases with among the highest infection and death rates, which is leading blue state citizens to leave their states in droves.

    Sadly due to mainstream and social media malfeasance and corruption, and massive Democrat efforts to get out the dead, felon, illegal vote the Democrats have gained control of the elected part of Federal government (they have always controlled the unelected bureaucracy), and Biden has announced plans to reverse almost all the successful Trump policies by opening the borders to huge Central American caravans already on their way through Mexico, a massive expansion of legal immigration to keep the tech lords happy, pushing the “reset” button to resume China trade, enact a nation-wide $15 per hour minimum wage and a massive expansion of regulations for energy, medicine, education, and locker rooms that will make all of them more expensive and less effective. Pelosi and Schumer have also announced their highest priority is to rescind the caps on SALT deductions so that the 99% can again subsidize the 1%.

    Can anyone tell me how any of these things will help the less educated people working the check-out at the grocery store who are automated out of a job and will be struggling to pay higher utility bills for “clean” energy, or how continued lock-downs and mandated higher minimum wages and benefit packages will help the small business owner struggling to stay out of bankruptcy? Can anyone tell me why the party of the “poor and downtrodden” are enacting policies that will only help the rich get richer and keep them amply supplied with cheap nannies, maids, and gardeners?

    Reply
  9. Avatarhank chinaski

    A patient leadership would understand that the SALT cap is more effective in encouraging blues to metastasize with their politics than most other policies, and hastens the electoral takeover.

    The checkout story rhymes with that of last year’s ‘Target Tori’ or of the hospital scenes in ‘Idiocracy’.

    Reply
  10. AvatarS2kChris22

    The SALT deduction benefits far more than the 1% here in the blue states. Even my last house, a 1700sq ft split level worth $375k, had property taxes of nearly $10k here in the Chicago suburbs.

    Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      56% of the benefits from rescinding the SALT cap would go to the top 1% and 96% would go to the top 20% (see link). So only the very economically comfortable and filthy rich mostly living in Blue states who claim they love paying high taxes (and vote for candidates who propose high taxes) are hurt the the SALT cap, which brings me back to my point about why red state residents should be subsidizing blue state governments with spending so far out of control that they put $10K in property taxes on a $375K home?

      https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxvox/high-income-households-would-benefit-most-repeal-salt-deduction-cap

      Reply
      • AvatarS2kChris22

        I’m not arguing for or against the SALT tax deduction, I was just telling you that it is a wider benefit than just the 1%. If you’re a homeowner in a northern/blue state it probably benefits you. I will tell you that the first year under the Trump rules we had a small tax cut, maybe a couple grand versus the year prior, at an income level around $250k (dual professional couple). I think that puts us in the top 5%, but certainly not 1%. We’re also in our 30s so we are HENRYs, not wealthy. Tax year 2019 was a harder comparison for me as we sold some rental property for a paper loss.

        Reply
        • Avatarsilentsod

          That you unironically state you have a combined quarter million a year income and sold a rental property because it was good on your balance sheets suggests you are a 1%er whether you know it or not.

          Reply
          • AvatarS2kChris22

            A couple of $125k/yr jobs outside Chicago and a house I couldn’t sell (bought at the peak of 2008 and didn’t get back to even until 2019) ain’t Rockefellers my man. To be a 1%er you need more than twice my income, and a balance sheet with a lot more assets and a lot fewer liabilities. Don’t cry for me, but I’ll be lucky to squeak into the top 5% this year. There is a huge difference between the top 10%-2% and the 1%, or more accurately the 10%-1% and the .1%.

  11. AvatarGene

    If automated supermarket checkouts are bad, whither “push button, get mortgage?”

    I’m not smart enough to know if technological advance has caused the increased human desire to limit physical interactions or enabled it; I just know this is all of a piece with the suggestion that we should all just go and have actual (rather than ideological) conversations with our fuckin’ neighbors.

    Reply
  12. AvatarMatthew Horgan

    More and more I envy my Mennonite neighbors. They run a few cattle, farm, grow up tough, have a strong community, possess values Independent of both sides of our modern Clown show, raise families, and aren’t hooked on the Globotech machine feed. When my thoughts turn to impending Apocalypse, I think religious communities stand the best chance of survival.

    Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      They are a few lines of freshly drafted tax code away from being stripped of all of their possessions any day of a Democrat administration.

      Reply
      • AvatarJMcG

        Yep, don’t think that the pictures of the Amish wagons with the Trump flags went unnoticed by the eye of Sauron. They don’t wear masks either. Examples will be made.

        Reply
  13. Avatardanio

    “You tax the proverbial living shit out of the machines’ profit, distribute that to the unemployed as “basic income”, encourage them all to do something meaningful with their lives like paint or sing or cut bonsai trees, then significantly raise the salary for the remaining miserable jobs so the incentive to fill them is positive (you can buy more stuff than the basic income crowd) rather than negative (you can afford to eat a meal when others can’t). You would think that almost everyone could agree on this. Even a red-state normie conservative like Brother Bark could probably go for it; the moral equation of taxing machine profits at an 80% marginal rate is nothing like taxing a doctor or even an attorney at that rate.”

    I’ve seen this blockbuster; Return of the Luddite. At least the Soviets had the pretense of productivity and didn’t intentionally inflate the fixed costs of the things that were available to the proles to buy by 80%.

    The Pandemic has provided opportunity for some of these ideas to stretch their legs. Here in Canada, our Liberal governments had been itching to roll out a UBI program. They hastily rolled out a program to pay people $2,000 (canuk dollars) a month to Stay Home and Stay Safe. There was no applicant screening; apply online and get money deposited within days. Predictably, unemployment skyrocketed to levels never seen, yet open employment positions rose to unseen levels at the same time. Particularly labor jobs that pay around the $14 minimum wage.

    I live in an area with a booming multi-billion dollar greenhouse agriculture industry which produces among other things, food. I know many of the owners and operators and in speaking with them, many were panicking as they couldn’t get enough workers to keep things running smoothly, even with COVID “bonus pay”. This led to food supply shortages and significant increased costs while the food factory workers sat at home clipping their bonzai trees. Other “essential” industries saw the same problems.

    I get the populistic appeal of UBI, but like meme goes, Sounds Great; Doesn’t Work.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      What I’m suggesting is that there is a threshold beyond which it’s the only option that doesn’t leave blood in the streets.

      Scott Locklin notes, trenchantly, that when they say “AI is taking jobs” they really mean “Aliens & Immmigrants”. He’s not wrong. But if we get to a situation in the United States where the vast majority of revenue goes directly to the holders of capital — as would be the case in, say, a McDonald’s with just five or six employees — then something has to be done or the wealth disparity will become too high to see.

      The only way to do UBI is if it’s funded via specific taxation, not via printing money (which just destroys the value of savings and pretty much everything that isn’t capital) or through some weird borrowing-from-the-future scheme.

      In truth we already know how to do it, although we won’t admit it. You charge a tariff on every single item entering the country that isn’t made in accordance with on-shore United States regulations. In other words, if you’re not paying $15USD minimum wage to make it, then POW you get a 200%, 300%, one thousand percent tariff. That tariff funds UBI. So if the proles are going to sit around buying Chinese stuff, you get most of that money back for the next round.

      We cannot have the combination of these three things:

      0. Effectively unlimited immigration, outsourcing, overseas production
      1. Truly free (low-to-no-tariff) trade
      2. Any social welfare program whatsoever

      We’ve seen what it does. The jobs go to China or are done by foreign citizens on this soil. The resulting unemployment is handled with welfare. The welfare money goes to products made in China or by foreign workers. It’s the most massive transfer payment in world history, and it’s been going on for the better part of thirty years.

      Reply
      • Avatardanio

        Modern day Bread and Circuses, but I’m not sure we’re there.

        One principle of tariffs is protectionism of local producers; raising goods prices on your people to enable paying some of them enough to go to farms or factories to produce it on your own soil. I think there’s some virtue in that, but I think (as I believe you do too from your direct tariff-to-UBI approach), that we’re past the point where our proles are even willing to show up to the factories as many of our immigrant forefathers did.

        People from established communities (rich or poor) around here won’t pick hydroponic peppers for $2,700 a month. From that perspective, it’s hard to justify paying them $2,000 a month to pick none, no matter how it’s paid for. Even if the alternative is blood in the streets.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Right, so that takes us to further discussions like:

          * I think you have to pay UBI to *everyone*. Maybe you have an income cutoff, like $200k/year or something like that, but you have to make it universal so that picking peppers results in you clearing $55k/year instead of $32.7k/year.

          * How much *should* farm work pay? Letting the farms, particularly the corporate ADM-style farms, set the wage at illegal-alien levels and then complain that nobody will do the work but illegal aliens — that seems disingenuous.

          Outsourcing, off-shoring, and illegal labor have allowed corporations to rebalance for white-collar jobs. I can think of fifty companies that went overseas, didn’t cut the price of their product a dime, and promptly used the extra profit to staff up with marketing people, extra corporate officers, diversity mandarins, and a veritable fusillade of other non-job jobs. If the price of basic labor and production went up, you’d see some leaning-out as a consequence, I think.

          Here’s an example. Abercrombie & Fitch has a MASSIVE corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. I even went there once to hear about a few jobs. I have no idea what most of the people in that building did. The company doesn’t MAKE ANYTHING. It’s a warehouse reseller for Chinese and other Far Eastern factories! Why does it have THOUSANDS of people in an office building?

          Reply
          • AvatarLynnG

            Jack, to answer your question which you most likely know the answer. A&F and any other mass market retailer has to have a corporate staff to perform non-revenue producing functions such as: Human Resources (payroll, time/attendence, labor regulation compliance, hiring, tranining, record keeping, exc.), Purchasing/Buyers (negotiate contracts, review new products, negotiate delivery schedule/terms and conditions), Marketing (advertising, promotion, sponsorship, exc), Realestate (lease negotiations, market saturation determinations, exc.), Finance (invoice payments, cash flow/control, budgeting, exc), Executive Office (company officers, staff, and usually public relations, exc.), Transportation (shipping negotiations, also may inculde the management of distriubition centers if utiized).
            I think I hit the 40,000 ft view of a retailers corporate headquarters major departments. This is true for A&F or Woolworths (remember the Woolworth Building was the tallest building in the world for a ffew years in the early 20th Century), Sears (remember the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world in the later 20th Century), or Walmart (HQ Bentonville Arkansas because old Sam Walton had his first dime and died with it 🙂 ) Anyway Jack, there is a reason why there are so many non-store people at the A&F HQ…. You knew that. 🙂 🙂

          • Avatardanio

            “How much *should* farm work pay? Letting the farms, particularly the corporate ADM-style farms, set the wage at illegal-alien levels and then complain that nobody will do the work but illegal aliens — that seems disingenuous”.

            The ones I’m talking about pay all their workers the so called living wage.

            We’ve gone from talking about taxing ourselves for buying things we don’t build to directly subsidizing the labor of the things we do at a rate of around 500% over that of the same basic food item picked in Mexico.

            Either way we pay, and pay hard for nominal benefit. I’ve lived with and am related to members of the perpetual underclass and I can assure that paying for nothing yields nothing, and doesn’t add value.

            I get it though, those ideas are old and tired. I’ve gotta run to catch a flight with Mitt Romney. I’ll see myself out.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I hope you’re kidding about seeing yourself out. I’m also not suggesting I have a lot of good answers.

          • Avatardanio3834

            Nah I’m not leaving here. I like what you have to say and certainly don’t mind the few points on which we disagree.

            I was just making a euphemism for what’s eventually going to happen to people like me because of ideas like mine.

      • AvatarDaniel J

        I just don’t get the UBI stuff when we are already taxed, assuming everyone gets a UBI regardless of how much they make or what they do. How much would UBI be per year? Would it be as simple as giving everyone a UBI of 15K a year, and then what, just have everyone pay taxes that would, for many people, negate any UBI?

        The more I’ve thought about it, I’d be for a UBI if: Medicare, Medicaid, and SS taxes are gone. Foodstamps are gone. Have everyone be accountable for all their money.

        We will never get their though. That’s the problem. Even some leaders on the left have problems with UBI because they know that they have voters who have no idea what to do with their money.

        Reply
  14. AvatarJohn C.

    This UBI talk is reminiscent of the labor troubles at 1970s industrial corporations. People assume it was just that unions were greedy. The fact was though the dole had gotten much more generous in the years before and the wages of a hard days work had to rise with it so that the value of a man’s labor was real. Management might claim dole generosity has nothing to do with them or the competitive situation they faced, but it simply did in regard to the number one expense.

    Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      That is the big problem with the welfare state – most people don’t have “careers” and instead work in miserable jobs they hate and if the government offers to pay them not to work a very high percentage of them will take that deal even if it means taking a “pay cut”. Do this for a couple of generations and such welfare will kill off any residual “work ethic” and “personal responsibility” the underclass formerly had and they become total parasites who will always complain (along with the large and generously paid welfare bureaucracy that manages and distributes the free stuff) that payments to not work are insufficient for maintaining a “decent” lifestyle and “fair” distribution of national GDP even as medical and criminal justice costs continue to rise due to their obesity, drug abuse, and criminality. Throw in an education system that teaches this underclass that they are victims of Capitalism, racism, sexism, xenophobia and evil Republicans and allow the Democrats to harvest their votes and you get Venezuela.

      The other problems with the welfare state is that it doesn’t change basic economics. If the grocery clerk, burger flipper, or light manufacturing job provides $10 per hour in value to the employer and the “welfare” wage premium, “free” employer funded health insurance, social security contributions, and “living” minimum wage add up to more than $10 per hour that job is not going to get filled by any “legal” or “living” worker, which is why you are seeing all the automated systems in fast food restaurants and retail stores, and why many assembly line jobs have been automated (or shipped overseas to cheap labor markets). Decently paying one competent employee to oversee many machines is a lot cheaper that paying above productivity wages to low productivity workers to incentivize them to give up their welfare. On the other hand, a generous welfare state and open borders will also attract a lot of low value “immigrants” who would also prefer to get paid to do nothing, which not only bankrupts the welfare state but also causes ethnic/racial resentments and loss of national identity.

      Reply
      • AvatarDaniel J

        Work ethic is reciprocal with employers. I am a late gen x-er or early millennial depending on the sources. My parents both taught me to have a strong worth ethic growing up, but they even admitted, as my parents were laid off even for being the “good” little worker bee, that gaining loyalty from employers is dreams of dragons and unicorns. I was working for a smallish business working 50-60 hours a week, underpaid, and it took me over 7 or 8 years to realize that it simply didn’t matter It was about the bottom line for most employers.

        I’ll agree in that much of the workforce isn’t as hard working or career minded as it used to be. But who can blame them? Employers no longer want to pay for training, so now the employee shoulders the cost of college education. Employees would be much more loyal and hard working if employers actually gave two sh!ts about their employees. Even the company I work for now, as large as it is, has all but killed off any training or college reimbursement.

        Reply
  15. AvatarNoID

    I’m surprised you have zero respect for the Libertarian philosophy, considering the current Libertarian party is about the only place in this country where the two ends of that horseshoe meet.

    I understand that there is an anarcho-capitalist strain within libertarianism which has dreams of a utopia about as practical as those of the lefties, but in my experience most libertarians really aspire to the government simply doing no harm, not eating itself and disappearing so we can all just spontaneously play nice in the global sandbox.

    I get the criticism though…there are a bunch of people in this camp who idolize Ayn Rand and Adam Smith, and actually believe that a bunch of individuals acting out of 100% self-interest will have enough foresight not to destroy everything and everyone around them in pursuit of happiness. I think experience in the 20th century shows that people need at least a little bit of guidance, that while markets are good for MANY of things they aren’t good for EVERYthing.

    Reply
    • AvatarDan S

      Any government which is okay with providing some guidance or direction will eventually wind up providing too much. We’re seeing that now.

      As far as the idea that you can have people all pursuing their own self interest without limits: it’s unlikely to work with 330 million people. But I think it would certainly work with a million or so, if you had the right set of people. Per, I think, one of Jack’s earlier points in another article, maybe we need to work on breeding better people. Not mentats in this case, but people who could actually live and function in a totally free society. Many of our antecedents in America fit that bill already.

      Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      The problem isn’t that people acting in their self interests can’t be trusted. The problem is that the government is acting in favor of the interests of the least trustworthy people at the expense of the ones who see their self interest as supporting their families and passing on their values. Regulations are weapons of powerful people used to keep unpowerful people from ever troubling their balance sheets.

      Reply
  16. AvatarDaniel J

    I fundamentally believe we’d actually be better off with more libertarian values, so I’ll disagree a bit here. Some of the automation was preparedness for the increase in minimum wage which libertarians are against. Sure, libertarianism on its extreme could be zero government, but I’m not sure that’s what the someone like Ron Paul is asking for.

    I also believe the notion of “livable” labor is a pipe dream. Sure, it exists to some degree now, but it’s more a product of government intervention than anything else. It’s the lowest common denominator. Pull a parts assembler off a plant line because now its automated. There are thousands of trade jobs unfilled that this person can go do. Plumbing, HVAC, and electrical can’t be automated well.

    The reason why the big tech giants are where they are at now is not due to free markets like it seems everyone things we have. The tech giants got in bed with the government a long time ago, and have been helped along the way. Even Ron Paul who was taken down from facebook, still believes that ingenuity, choices, and the people can solve this problem, not more government. Big tech has set the rules, and the rules are so insane that no one can enter unless the one who enters already has billions of dollars to play the game.

    I’m reminded by a story I once read about Matell toy corporation. Other toy companies came along and started making cheaper toys. Some were unsafe. Who did the feds go to to “devise a plan” to make toys safe? That’s right, Matell. Because Matell was the only company large enough to implement such a plan. All the non-libertarians will say, but at least we have safe toys.

    If that were the case, then why do we have UL? IIHS? Intertek? The free market can easily handle these issues. Too many people expect way too much from their government.

    Reply
    • AvatarDan S

      Ironically, thanks to Amazon, were back to having unsafe toys and other goods that aren’t compliant with regs. Straight out of china.

      Also, since we’re getting all libertarian here, taxation is theft.

      Reply
    • Avatardejal

      Regs have always been a weapon against the little guy. The big players are against them until they become huge players, then the regs are weaponized.

      I’ve been “Software Engineer” for decades. If knowing what I know now how the market is for talent these days, I’d probably go the plumbing, HVAC, and electrical route. I’d do small jobs, just show up and the client will name their child after you.

      Reply
      • AvatarLynnG

        dejay, you make an interesting point Software Engineer to plumbing or HVAC repair. In that statement you have said what has been occuring over the last 40 years. The movement to a service based economy. What a lot of people forget is that they think the post war years (1945-1975) were normal where in the US there was a emphysis on production (factory jobs, mining jobs) where wages were greater then most service jobs. However this was a outlier event. One has to remember the means of production was distroyed in most all of Europe and Asia. The USA was physically untouched by and had put tremendous resources into building up production. Think about it this was an outlier event. One constant in business is that the means of production always flows to the lowest cost region. A simple example is the textile industry which originated in New England (think Burkshire Hathaway) flowed to the Mid-South (VA-NC-SC), to Mexico and then to China. Now today we comment on GM moving production to China (which just happens to be their biggest market for specific brands). It is not the people working in places like Lordstown that resulted in the factory closing it was the normal course of production flowing to the lowest cost region. Why do you think MB, BMW, VW manufacture cars today in the Mid-South to ship home to Germany, simple because Americans will do a quality job building cars at a lower overall cost then their German counter parts. But, I digress. the major point is that the huge middle class produced by the post war economy in the USA was an outlier and poliiticans can not do anything about it because it was economic not political. And it is true if your childern are not going to be Hedge Fund Manager (that contibute nothing to society, just ask Warren Buffet) then building a small business dedicated to Plumbing, HVAC, Electrical services will be the key in the future of having a nice 4 BR Rancher with 2 car garage in a nice neighborhood.

        Reply
      • AvatarDaniel J

        dejal,

        I’m in software/hardware myself. I’m a big dude, so I can’t do either of those jobs. I had to hire a plumber to replace a sink faucet simply because I couldn’t fit under the sink to undue all the nuts holding the faucet in.

        Small companies are all for free markets until the get big. Then they will do everything they can to keep out competition.

        Reply
  17. Avatarshocktastic

    “ Meanwhile rumor has it that the Biden people are worried about the loyalty of his Secret Service detail, as they are concerned they might be secret Trump supporters”

    Because Lunchbox Joe is reviled by the ss as a first class jerk who groped the breast of the wife of one of his ss detail during a holiday party. The presence of a woman on his ss detail invariably used to involve him walking around nude when home or when he would swim. The only worse assignment for secret service details is Hilary which is considered a punishment assignment.

    To loosely quote a character from Harry Potter books; The measure of a man is how he treats his inferiors.

    Reply
  18. AvatarMike

    I’ve made the same observations about self checkout aisle myself. Every time I’ve ever used a self checkout aisle there has been a problem- scanning error, card errors, etc. But my kids “helping” me check out has caused the most problems because of the built in scales that are used to try and track theft. Where my kids have always been excellent helpers with a normal check out aisle, the scales trigger theft alerts every other item in the SOC aisle. SCO might work for people w/ 15 items or less but not someone shopping for a family.

    My solution is to not use the self checkout aisle. I go to the service desk and point out that they need to open another lane. They have taken my suggestion EVERY TIME. If they don’t open a new lane, they have the SCO person do the scanning and bagging for customers to speed things up. Either way, I am not forced to scan and bag my own groceries.

    I HATE those little video game/electronic server replacements at many sit down restaurants. We don’t go those businesses. It does limit our choices when eating out sometimes, but it saves the headache of dealing with that business and their practices.

    Hopefully I’m teaching my kids to lead themselves. You don’t have to passively stand there and accept being content sheep. Think of an alternative, make the suggestion or argument, and use your manners. People will often listen. And if they don’t, you don’t HAVE to shop there. You do have a choice and you can have some control over your situation. Your alternative to the choice may mean altering some of your habits, and it may mean acting outside of your comfort zone, but as they used to say, “It builds character.”

    Reply
    • AvatarHarry

      I started out hating SCOs, and still hate the stupid video game check outs at restaurants, but I have come around on them. I do not dispute all the valid points about how they are probably bad overall for society at large BUT

      I am a better check out operator than those knuckleheads.

      In my area there are very few baggers, even for large double cart shopping sprees. I can scan, sort, bag and re-cart my large shopping trip faster and with less waste then they can. I don’t have to argue with them about how more items can fit in one bag, or how that thing they think needs to be double bags doesn’t, or care about if something wrapped in plastic is in the same bag as some meat that is also wrapped in plastic. I don’t have to waste time check if there is a cracked egg in my dozen. When was the last time there was a broken egg in someone’s dozen? It has never happened to me! The first time I loose out on one egg will be the first and I am glad for all the time I haven’t wasted worrying and checking on it. My frozen and refrigerated items will be packed together to help maintain temperature for the ride home and convenient unpacking. Most importantly no one will stick the Snickers bar I stuck at the end of the conveyor into a random bag so one of my freeloading family members who chose not to go grocery shopping can snatch it will I pack the fridge.

      Reply
  19. AvatarMichael Wangler

    Hey Jack, long time lurker here, current friend on Instagram, thanks for providing such excellent content not only in your automotive writing but on here as well, truly thought-provoking stuff. I must say, I rarely find myself disagreeing, we are truly in for some hard times. George gammon lays it out pretty well in this YouTube video https://youtu.be/hJ9iZD_wcao

    Reply

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