Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty tweet-attacked President Obama today for comments the president made about ATMs Tuesday.
In her interview with the president airing yesterday on NBC, Ann Curry cited a New York Times report suggesting that “since the recovery began, businesses have spent just 2 percent more on hiring people, while at the same time spending 26 percent more on equipment.”
“Well, I don't think it's a matter of me being unable to convince them to hire more people,” the president said. “They're making decisions based on what they think will be good for their companies. A couple of things have happened. Look, we went through the worst crisis since the Great Depression. We are now in a process where the economy is growing again, and we've created 2 million jobs over the last 15 months. But it's not as fast as it needs to be to make up for all the jobs that were lost.”
The president said that “the other thing that happened, though, and this goes to the point you were just making, is 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. So all these things have created changes in the economy, and what we have to do now — and that's what this job council is all about — is identifying where the jobs for the future are going to be; how do we make sure that there's a match between what people are getting trained for and the jobs that exist; how do we make sure that capital is flowing into those places with the greatest opportunity. We are on the right track. The key is figuring out how do we accelerate it.”
Pawlenty tweeted in response “Since when did businesses becoming more efficient become a bad thing for our economy @BarakObama (sic)?”
White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki told ABC News that “the President was making the point that many in the private sector have already made, the workplace and the skills needed to succeed have changed and we need to do everything possible to prepare the next generation with the skills and training they need to compete globally in the job market. That is why he announced a partnership between the manufacturing industry along with government and community colleges just last week to help graduate 500,000 people with the credentials they need for good manufacturing jobs and why he embraced an announcement made by his Jobs Council earlier this week to train 10,000 engineers.”
That same New York Times story quoted various economists discussing automated machines displacing workers. William C. Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business, for instance, said "We don't have 11 million unemployed farmers today because over time farmers and their children transitioned into different sectors. We don't usually have this kind of shock, though, that displaces a lot of workers at once."
But conservatives are trying to use the president seizing on the example of an ATM machine – hardly new technology — is to paint the president as unaware of how the economy works.
In a column titled “Barack Obama Thinks an ATM Ate Your Job,”Red State’s Erick Erickson wrote: “Without actually using the words, Barack Obama admitted he is completely and utterly ignorant about job creation and economics. In an interview with the Today Show, Barack Obama declared that the unemployment rate remains so high because of ATMS. Sadly, many people will agree with him because they lack the vision to see the whole picture. They see less bank tellers and more ATMs — much as Barack Obama does — and presume this must mean higher unemployment. This myth, and it is a myth, is older than even the great lament that cars put blacksmiths on the unemployment line by getting rid of the need for horse shoes.”
And Mike Lee, CEO of the ATM Industry Association, told the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein that “President Obama should never use ATMs as an example of how technology replaces human labor because ATMs today play a critical role in providing extensive employment in the ATM and cash-in-transit industries…The whole purpose of the invention of the ATM back in 1967 was to make cash available outside of bank hours, liberating citizens to access their banked money 24 x 7, a huge increase in convenience. Given these major roles of the ATM, it would be quite irrational to turn the clock back to the 1960s to a time before ATMs.“