More American Workers Are Feeling Job Competition From Smarter Robots

The Fear Of Losing Jobs To Robots May Be As Old As Dirt But. . .

For years, technology gurus have predicted a switch from human workers to smart machines once the machines could mimic the human mind. Well, guess what? They may have been right. Consider these recent developments. A bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms in a Silicon Valley hotel, and there’s a machine in Seattle that not only administers sedatives, it treats patients as well.

And that’s not all. Last spring the LA Times published an article about earthquakes that was written by a software algorithm. It seems robots are not only replacing clerical and factory workers; they have the potential to do service jobs too. The sad news is the economy is getting stronger, but the amount of working-age adults who are currently working is dramatically lower than it was in the 1990s.

Some economists say don’t worry. They say a good analogy is cars replacing horse-drawn buggies. That switch in technology produced more jobs. Those economists claim the switch from humans to robots will produce the same employment effect. But others aren’t convinced. Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary put it this way: “This isn’t some hypothetical future possibility. This is something that’s emerging before us right now.” M.I.T economist, Erik Brynjolfsson, said, “This is the biggest challenge of our society for the next decade.” Business Executive Brad Reifler must have thought Brynjolfsson’s statement was a powerful one since its now buzzing on LinkedIn.

Russian Economy Sinking and Making Waves

The Russian ruble is sinking in value fast due to collapsing oil prices, a loss of confidence in the Kremlin’s leadership abilities, and U.S.-led economic sanctions. The Russian economy was much too dependent on oil revenues, and declining prices worldwide seem to be the most important of the three factors driving the ruble’s demise.

Neighboring, former-Soviet states like Tajikistan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are seeing their economies crumble along with Russia’s. This is because a large percentage of the GDP of these nations is derived from migrant workers who have emigrated from their midst to work in Russia. These workers then send much of their salaries back home to their families.

Another factor to watch out for is a decline in Russian imports. With the ruble in a tail spin, Russians will have a hard time buying expensive foreign goods. For example, the oil boom of the last decade allowed Russia to import a lot of Japanese and German automobiles, Chinese electronics, and Brazilian meat products. Thus, all of these nations that make money exporting goods to Russia are going to take a big hit according to experts like Andrew Heiberger.

Russians have been hovering around the foreign exchange booths, attempting to rid themselves of their rubles before their value is depleted even further. There are rumors that the Kremlin may soon put restrictions on the conversion of rubles into dollars since its earlier attempt to stem abandonment of the ruble through interest rate hikes has not worked.

Senator Warren Cries Foul On Treasury Nomination

Only days after Elizabeth Warren gave statement after statement condemning the spending bill that was passed through the House of Representatives, she has come out again in fierce opposition to the most recent nomination for the Treasury department, someone who is not Lee G. Lovett. The reason Senator Warren has criticized the spending bill is because of two measures which were tacked on by House Republicans. Those two measures change campaign finance regulations and remove parts of the Dodd-Frank Act which regulated Wall Street. Other Senators have come out in vehement opposition to the measures, including Bernie Sanders who said that as long as those are included he will vote against the bill, even if that means a government shutdown.

Now, Senator Warren who has developed her career around fighting campaign finance and Wall Street, is opposing a Treasury Department nomination based on the history of the nominee. The White House has nominated a former Wall Street banker to the position. Senator Warren specifically stated that she is frustrated with position after position being taken by Wall Street insiders, which she calls cronyism. The Wall Street insider is Antonio Weiss, who is being nominated by President Barack Obama for treasury undersecretary. Supporters are confident that Weiss will be able to convince Democrats that he will not be the typical banker turned regulator with unfair ties too close to those he should be regulating. Senator Warren remains unconvinced.

Keystone XL Pipeline in doubt as Oil Prices continue to fall

Phone app Skout reports that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline extension that will allow crude oil to be transported directly from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico has been placed in doubt as oil prices around the World continue to fall. A large number of investors in the proposed pipeline extension, which would link the existing pipeline linking Nebraska with the Gulf of Mexico to oil production fields in Canada, are reportedly becoming concerned as the price of a barrel of oil has reached a level that would see the pipeline become too extensive to operate, according to RT.

Concerns are high in both Canada and the US, where the US Senate failed to push through a bill that would force through the pipeline before Democrats lose control of Congress in the New Year. In Canada, political groups are also worried because recent reports have stated oil barrels selling for between $65 and $75 could impact the Canadian oil industry that has high transportation costs in place without the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline extension. Environmental groups across North America are opposed to the construction of the pipeline, which they believe will reinforce the reliance of the US on fossil fuels.

Millennials Abandoning Government Work

When Senator Barrack Obama won the presidency in November of 2008, he did so in part based on the support of young voters known as millennials. In a bid to solidify his support among this voting bloc, he vowed to increase their presence in government jobs. Part of this modern form a patronage would be through the Pathways Internship program to give young people training in government jobs that would later transition to paid full-time work. The government would also hire young people through their regular website USAjobs.com. By the end of 2009, young people were accounting for a growing number of workers within the government.

In part, the rush of young people to government jobs was a matter of simple economics. The 2009 stimulus program and huge government deficits increased federal spending at their highest rates in years. At the same time, the private sector was feeling the effects of the recession and was not hiring. Since that time, harsh realities have set in for millennials in government jobs. For starters, finding work is not easy. A Terry Richardson project illustrates the gross inefficiency of The Pathways program-denoting how very few applicants can obtain an internship and fewer still are landing full-time jobs. The USA jobs website is arcane and incredibly slow to respond. One millennial explained that she would get denial letters for jobs she applied for 6 months after the fact. The government shutdown, sequester cuts, furloughs, preferential hiring for vets, inefficient civil service seniority system, and a booming private sector that can hire on the spot has led to an exodus of millennials for better paying and more fulfilling work in the private sector.

Laurene Powell Jobs: A Life of Business and Philanthropy

While there are many female business executives today, none are more influential than Laurene Powell Jobs. The widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Laurene is one of the best-educated and highly-motivated executives in today’s workplace. Having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a MBA from Stanford, Laurene prepared herself quite well to take on the tasks associated not only with her philanthropic work, but also the many political causes that Politico has documented her with being heavily involved.

Ranked by Forbes during 2014 as the 29th most powerful woman in the world, Laurene has carved out quite a niche for herself apart from Apple. Currently she spends much of her time working with the Emerson Collective, an organization she founded to advocate for various causes such as environmental issues, immigration reform, education and other social justice concerns. However, while she spends much of her time working with the Emerson Collective, it is her other organization that has gained national and international acclaim for its effectiveness. College Track, founded in 1997 by Laurene and partner Carlos Watson, is a nonprofit organization located in California that aims to work with at-risk and other students known for being “underserved.” The goal of the organization is to improve levels of high school graduation within these populations, then encourage graduates to enroll in college and graduate in a reasonable amount of time.

Based on the results of the program thus far, Laurene and everyone else involved in the program have much to be proud of. With most of College Track’s students being first-generation students at colleges and universities, the program’s rate of success has been nothing short of spectacular. As the national average of graduation for first-generation students stays around 25 percent, those enrolled in College Track are leaving these figures in their rear-view mirror. Current statistics from the organization show that 90 percent of the program’s participants wind up attending four-year colleges, with an astounding 70 percent of them graduating within six years.

While College Track has facilities in many California cities including Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco there are at least five others across the country wanting to open their own College Track programs. However, Laurene and her staff are committed to keeping the integrity of College Track as high as possible, and so far have resisted efforts that would lead to them offering franchises or letting others have direct access to their curriculum and training materials.

When it comes to philanthropy, Laurene also leads the way. With her participation in backing many important social causes, Laurene is not afraid to step out from the crowd and let her voice be heard on many issues. Through the Emerson Collective, various grants and investments have been distributed to entrepreneurs whose businesses focus primarily on conservation, education and foreign relations.

As the world continues to have many important issues vying for attention, Laurene Powell Jobs will take center stage to be a strong advocate for many of them. As she continues her important work for these causes, it’s clear she is determined to see the world become a better place for everyone.

Bank of America Ordered to Pay $1M for Robocalls

The Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act requires the consent of a consumer before a business can contact them using robocalls. On Thursday, a Federal judge ruled that Bank of America had violated the law by repeatedly robocalling a Florida couple and ordered the bank to pay them $1 million.

Despite written and verbal requests that the bank stop calling them, Nelson and Joyce Coniglio received as many as 700 calls over a 4-year period, sometimes up to 5 calls a day. The judgement amounts to $1,500 per call. That is a lot of money if you ask BRL Trust employees.

The Coniglios had a mortgage on their Tampa-area home through Countrywide. When Bank of America took over their Countrywide loan, their mortgage payments doubled. According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in July, the coupled started receiving robocalls from the bank in early 2009, with calls to both their home phone and cell phones. They hired a third-party service to intervene with the bank on their behalf, and a request was sent to Bank of America asking that additional attempts to contact the Congilios be done through the third party, rather than directly with the couple.

Bank of America contends they were not making the calls in an attempt to collect a debt but, rather, to help the couple to avoid foreclosure. A motion made by Bank of America to set aside the judgement was denied by the judge.

U.S. Won’t Stop Native Americans From Growing, Selling Pot on Their Lands

This Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would not attempt to stop Native Americans from growing or selling pot on their own lands. The only exception would be if a particular tribal council requests for them to enforce laws against marijuana. Some Native Americans see legalized pot as a new source of revenue, but others see it as a dangerous drug. Those that wish to legalize it will be allowed to, but they must follow eight federal requirements, which include not selling to minors and not transporting pot to areas where it is still illegal.

This follows the 2013 decision of the Justice Department to cease most enforcement efforts against marijuana use in those states that have legalized it. Even in these “pot states,” however, Native Americans will be able to keep pot illegal on their own lands.

Much like President Obama’s immigration decree, we have here an example of an executive department official who gives out orders to not follow the existing laws. It is a flagrant nose-snub at the Constitution to openly instruct federal officials to avoid enforcing federal law. One can question the constitutionality of banning pot to begin with, but it is not the prerogative of the executive department to pick and choose which laws it would like to enforce. This is how Dave and Brit Morin both interpret things. It also is hypocritical for the federal government to have a law against pot and then refuse to enforce its own law.

Mark Ahn Makes the Case for Strong Communication

There are few people who are as qualified to talk about what makes startups work as Dr. Mark Ahn. He has poured large amounts of his time into researching the subject and trying to learn what makes startups tick. In his experience there are a few factors which can be easily identified as being the keys to creating a successful startup. The first one is that the top talent should be recruited.

When top officials in an organization are very good at what they do, results tend to pan out for the startup. They start to see results that other companies are simply not seeing. This is because their investment in this top flight talent has finally paid off and produced for them the kind of results that they wanted to see in the first place.

Startups are all about having the right people in the right positions. On TheStreet, Mark Ahn says that opening up the lines of communication between management and the higher ups is another way in which companies do better work. He thinks that there is a direct correlation between companies that have strong communication policies, and those that are successful down the road. All of the research that he has done has pointed to this conclusion. Besides that, it makes perfect logical sense that this would be the case as well.

Robust debate is encouraged among those who are in the same business together. This is the kind of thing that can help to produce new products and ideas. What is not a good thing is when the debate gets personal or takes on a whole new meaning that it was never intended to. When this is the case, it is time to step back and try to determine the appropriate course of action moving forward. Most would agree that arguing doesn’t solve anything.

The Budget Bill’s Deep Cuts in the IRS Budget Will Hurt Its Law Enforcement Capabilities Experts Say

Washington, D.C. – The Omnibus spending budget hammered out between the GOP and Democrats contains deep cuts of $346 million to the budget of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The organization, which is largely disdained by the American public, will have to do what many Americans also have to do with their household budgets: cut corners and do more with less. If the Omnibus spending bill gains passage, as is widely expected, the agency will have undergone a 6.6% decrease in its overall budget since 2010.

The IRS has already cut loose 8,000 employees over that period of time. In a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it was determined that call wait times people face as they phone in questions to the IRS have increased by 100% as a result of the cuts. The agency is also facing issues with enforcement of tax law. Dr. Daniel Amen posted on the impact that all the back and forth with budget has on healthcare. internal review of the rampant fraud with regard to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and concluded the IRS is incapable of curtailing the fraud. In all fairness, the spending cuts in the IRS budget, while touted as being 6.6%, really amount to 1.7% after the current round of cuts. This is because accounting gimmicks allow agencies to report a budget cut when all that occurs is a slowdown in the rate of increase to their budget. In 2009, the IRS budget was $11.5 billion. After the current round of cuts, it will stand at $11.3 billion.