One of the Sixty Minutes segments last night covered robots in the workplace.  It made the point that even if jobs are brought home, they may be done by robots, and that more and more functions are being performed by robots.  This gives rise to a serious question:  If our society makes people permanently unemployed through mechanization, does it not have a responsibility to those citizens who will never find another job?

There are several options for carrying out that responsibility.  The first option would be providing retraining in an occupation in which employment is growing.  This option might be best utilized for younger people.  For those who become unemployed at age 45+, retraining might be less feasible.  Then we might need to consider lowering rather than raising the age at which they qualify for 401K, IRA withdrawals without penalty, SS and Medicare.  This would also involved reworking the number of quarters of employment within the last ten years.  Or subsidized training & employment in anything from Community Gardens to Child Advocates to Home Health Aides.  What about grants to run a small business -- not loans but grants?  It might also help if restrictions on home businesses were lifted.  Texas has made it possible to home bake without requiring health inspections.  Other businesses should be possible -- plant propagation, wood-working, knitting or crochet or even seamstress/tailor, to name a few.

The basic question is this:  Is the United States of America a society  -- people organized around common goals, laws, beliefs -- or simply an aggregation of people all pursuing their own ends without respect to the conditions of others


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