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.As has been pointed out by economists everywhere since the speech, Obama is fighting against the very roots of wealth creation and growth and our economy. Productivity improvement has always been the main engine of a better life for Americans, but here Obama is decrying it.
This reduction in employment in major industries due to productivity is not new. It began with the agriculture. Check this out from the always awesome Mark Perry
This is exactly what Obama is criticizing. Without productivity improvements of the type Obama seems to hate, nine out of ten of you would be laboring in a field rather than reading this on the Internet. Are you poorer because you don’t have to grow your own food? Of course not. Every time we increase productivity in a major industry, we fee up labor for the next big thing. We couldn’t have had the steel or auto or oil industries if agricultural productivity improvements had not feed up labor for them. The computer revolution would be impossible if we all were working in steel mills.
PS- of course this does not work if the next big thing, say domestic gas productions through fracking, is blocked by the government and private investment capital is diverted by the government to cronies with a solar panel factory.