A page-two article in the “Business” section of my local paper (that’s The Washington Post) is headlined “The working-class job that Trump could actually save.” There are about 100 reasons why I knew from the word go this piece would be ridiculous, a list at the top of which I’d find don’t take advice from The Washington Post.
The “working-class” job in question is—wait for it—cashiers, the second-largest occupation in the country according to government types who are paid to keep track of those things. The article’s author, a Mr. Allan Sloan, says that “supporting [editor’s note: I’m reaching for my wallet here] the nation’s 3.5 million cashiers could help preserve the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of low-paid people…”
And it can be done “at minimal (or perhaps no) cost to consumers!”
(Exclamation added. Sentence, sadly, all too real.)
The author’s evidence?
Mandated gas station attendants in New Jersey.
I swear to Jeebus.
In 1949 the State of New Jersey banned consumer-operated gasoline pumps, among other things enshrining the employment of gas station attendants all over the state. At no cost to the taxpayers! One-eyed economists everywhere have been smiling for nearly seven decades.
Mr. Sloan writes that the number of cashier jobs in the United States was the same in 2015 (the most recent year for which such numbers are available) as it was in 2005. Ten years of no growth in the cashier industry even though the U.S. population has increased by 7.6 million!
Those cashier jobs have obviously been exported to China, no?
Of course it is automation that has rendered some cashier jobs unnecessary. Ex-cashiers can say hello to bank tellers, buggy whip makers, and Blockbuster Video employees. Personally I think that self-checkout lines are the greatest thing since pump-your-own gas devices, but that’s me. Or rather, it’s all of us. Think about it. If those things weren’t being used, they wouldn’t be there. If customers still wanted a guy to pump their gas (paying a little more to do so), they’d be there too. The answer to this question always involves a mirror.
Mr. Sloan’s advice to President Trump? He can “do a lot of good for cashiers and himself by publicly leaning on retail chains to preserve those jobs or even add to them.”
I think just outlawing new technology would be a lot simpler. And in the words of Mr. Sloan… “We’d all win.”
Because going around like 19th century Luddites breaking all those self-check machines would just be silly.