I know you read the title of this post and thought to yourself “no shit Sherlock.” Well it’s worse than we thought because it seems Obama believes automation which increases productivity and frees up labor for other areas is actually the cause of unemployment:
There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.
I think Obama desperately needs to read some Hazlitt, namely Economics in One Lesson [PDF] which can be found freely available at this link. Specifically Obama needs to read chapter 7, The Curse of Machinery:
After the machine has produced economies sufficient to offset its cost, the clothing manufacturer has more profits than before. (We shall assume that he merely sells his coats for the same price as his competitors, and makes no effort to undersell them.) At this point, it may seem, labor has suffered a net loss of employment, while it is only the manufacturer, the capitalist, who has gained. But it is precisely out of these extra profits that the subsequent social gains must come. The manufacturer must use these extra profits in at least one of three ways, and possibly he will use part of them in all three: (1) he will use the extra profits to expand his operations by buying more machines to make more coats; or (2) he will invest the extra profits in some other industry; or (3) he will spend the extra profits on increasing his own consumption. Whichever of these three courses he takes, he will increase employment.
In other words, the manufacturer, as a result of his economies, has profits that he did not have before. Every dollar of the amount he has saved in direct wages to former coat makers, he now has to pay out in indirect wages to the makers of the new machine, or to the workers in another capital industry, or to the makers of a new house or motor car for himself, or of jewelry and furs for his wife. In any case (unless he is a pointless hoarder) he gives indirectly as many jobs as he ceased to give directly.
Claiming that machines cause unemployment does nothing besides demonstrate ignorance in economics. People that blame machines for unemployment doesn’t stop to think about who builds those machines, who maintains them, who manufactures more raw materials to handle the increase in consumption due to ability to produce more, etc. Basically those who believe automation is the enemy of employment are unable to see the whole picture and instead only concern themselves with the part they’re looking at right then and there.
If automation were the enemy of employment then a large portion of the population should have remained unemployed after the Industrial Revolution where automation took over a huge amount of work previously performed manually by people.