Monday, July 14, 2014

Raise The Minimum Wage

We need a higher minimum wage in the United States but not for the reason you may think.

The real problem is that millions of illegal aliens are flowing thru our porous border attracted to "a better life" which in practice means "a job paying at or below minimum wage." Illegals are drawn into working in fields, fast food and service jobs and generally are treated to near-slave conditions. To staunch this flow of instant criminals we need to raise the minimum wage.

You might be wondering how a pay increase would make the Rio Grande biathlon less attractive but it is really quite simple. They come here for the jobs and significant increase in the minimum wage will price those jobs out of the market.

Then who flip our burgers and pick our berries?

Robots will.

We live in an age where an internet search company is making cars that drive themselves and aircraft are pilotless. You'd think we could make a machine that picks strawberries. Since the good ole US of A has been behind the rest of the industrialized world in minimum wage we simply have not had the need for low-wage replacing automation to the degree other countries have.

Japan has vending machines with face recognition that offer suggestions based on gender and body type. Mickey Dees uses kiosks in high-wage Europe to replace ordering and cashier duties. Can a smart phone app be far behind? Amsterdam sports vending machines for hot foods including burgers and fries.

Processing is increasingly automated. Again Europe leads the way. The Germans developed a re-hang robot that automates the process of moving chickens from the kill line to the eviscerating line which remains a manual job in the US. The brits are using robotic milking machines to address farm worker shortages and to move labour up the value chain.

And it goes all the way back to the dirty end of the supply chain. The EU sports a program, cRops (clever robots for crops) currently targeting high value crops. In Salinas California they have automated lettuce thinning. Research in Europe and the US are exploring the use of computer vision to ensure that crops are picked at peak freshness. Others detect pests. Big data is going down to the square metre with micro-management of water, fertilizer and pesticide application. Wine grapes are being picked by machine. The world has an automated cucumber harvester.

So let's raise the minimum wage and give automation a sporting chance at improving all our lives.