If you tuned in to ABC‘s This Week (5/27/12) to hear the panel of pundits discussing the economy, you may have George Will say this about Barack Obama:
He’s made clear what the choice is this fall, and it really became clear, I think, this week. The president wants capitalism without casualties. He wants dynamism but no dislocations. Now, remember, this is the president who says that ATMs and airport ticket kiosks cause unemployment. That gives you his grasp of the economy.
ATMs and ticket machines–what’s George Will talking about? it turns out there’s some back story here–none of which helps George Will.
This ATM story was popular on the right for a little. During an interview on the Today show last year, Obama was asked a question about a report that said businesses were spending a lot more on equipment than on hiring workers. He responded by saying that businesses were “making decisions based on what they think will be good for their companies.” He went on to mention ATMs and ticket machines as examples of such spending:
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.
The right-wing media laughed about Obama’s apparent cluelessness. But what exactly is wrong with the understanding of the economy he expresses here? Plenty of economists will be happy to explain to you that, yes, technological advances contribute to unemployment. But people like George Will find it self-evidently absurd. From a guy who doesn’t believe in climate change and dismissed talk of a housing bubble, that’s pretty rich. Thanks to ABC, we get to enjoy this kind of wisdom almost every Sunday morning.