The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes, Says Bill Gates

Quartz: “Robots are taking human jobs. But Bill Gates believes that governments should tax companies’ use of them, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment.”

“In a recent interview with Quartz, Gates said that a robot tax could finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools, for which needs are unmet and to which humans are particularly well suited. He argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it.”

The Need for a Digital Geneva Convention

“Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace.  And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.  The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world’s trust,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith writes.

“While there is no perfect analogy, the world needs an organization that can address cyber threats in a manner like the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the field of nuclear non-proliferation.  This organization should consist of technical experts from across governments, the private sector, academia and civil society with the capability to examine specific attacks and share the evidence showing that a given attack was by a specific nation-state.  Only then will nation-states know that if they violate the rules, the world will learn about it.”

Millennials in Many Countries Are More Open Than Their Elders on Questions of National Identity

Pew Research: “Across a number of countries that are wrestling with the politics of national identity, younger people are far more likely than their elders to take an inclusive view of what it takes for people to be truly considered “one of us” – whether the measure is being born in their country, sharing local customs and traditions or being Christian.”

The Biggest Economic Issue Facing America Is Not Job Creation

Quartz: “The biggest economic issue for the future is closing the skills gap and retraining workers who have been displaced from their old jobs that have been automated. Both the US unemployment rate and the total job openings have been relatively unchanged in the past year. The unemployment rate in January was 4.8%, down only 0.1% from the same time in 2016. The total job openings were 5.5 million in Dec. 2016, up from a mere 100,000 the same time in 2015. We simply don’t have people with the right skills to fill millions of jobs, yet many of them are still underemployed or living in poverty.”

“The problem is that one in every five adults globally has no formal education, which is a total of 682 million people, and jobs that require formal education are the ones expected to grow by nearly 8% in the next seven years.”

A Tax Overhaul Would Be Great in Theory. Here’s Why It’s So Hard in Practice.

Neil Irwin: “A short list of the plan’s potential benefits looks awesome: It would give companies more incentive to keep jobs in the United States, less to overextend themselves on borrowed money and provide vast savings by reducing what companies spend on tax lawyers, who help them game the current system.”

“Yet these changes could also set off a cascade of more harmful effects. The plan could shift trillions of dollars of wealth from Americans to foreigners; set off an emerging markets financial crisis; wreak havoc in global oil markets; and cause sustained harm to the American higher education and tourism industries (including, as it happens, luxury hotels with President Trump’s name on them).”

“Welcome to the real world. The tax code has been flawed and inefficient for a very long time, precisely because fixing it could be so terribly disruptive.”

Which States Pay Teachers the Most (and Least)?

Education Week: “Alaska and New York pay teachers nearly double the salaries of those working in Mississippi and Oklahoma, says a new study by GoBankingRates.”

“The average teacher salaries in 50 states (not including the District of Columbia) were calculated using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The authors averaged the mean salaries of elementary, middle, and high school teachers to get the average salary in each state. The calculations did not include the salaries of special education teachers.”

The Damaging Impact of the Relentless Pace of Automation

MIT Technology Review: “The White House report points in particular to the current wave of AI, which it describes as having begun around 2010. That’s when advances in machine learning and the increasing availability of big data and enhanced computation power began providing computers with unprecedented capabilities such as the ability to accurately recognize images. The report says greater deployment of AI and automation could boost economic growth by creating new types of jobs and improving efficiency in many businesses. But it also points to the negative effects: job destruction and related increases in income inequality. For now at least, ‘less educated workers are more likely to be replaced by automation than highly educated ones.’ The report notes that so far automation has displaced few higher-skill workers, but it adds: ‘The skills in which humans have maintained a comparative advantage are likely to erode over time as AI and new technologies become more sophisticated.'”

“The problem is that the United States has been particularly bad over the last few decades at helping people who’ve lost out during periods of technological change. Their social, educational, and financial problems have been largely ignored, at least by the federal government. According to the White House report, the U.S. spends around 0.1 percent of its GDP on programs designed to help people deal with changes in the workplace—far less than other developed economies. And this funding has declined over the last 30 years.”

Donald Trump’s Wall May Stop Immigrants Who Want to Return to Mexico

Ana Raquel Minian: “Donald Trump’s executive order to build a wall between Mexico and the United States overlooks how the fences, walls, and border-control measures that already exist between the two countries have come to act as a barrier—or a ‘cage of gold’—that discourages migrants from leaving the United States, rather than preventing their entrance in the first place.”

“Trump has never acknowledged that since the Great Recession the net outflow of Mexicans is larger than the inflow, and instead, continues to insist that the wall is necessary to curtail Mexican undocumented migration… But it’s a wall that will likely reinforce the bars of the cage of gold and discourage those who are already here to continue leaving as they have done since the Great Recession.”

How Microsoft Avoided Billions in Taxes, and What the GOP Says It Will Do About It

Washington Post: “On paper, Microsoft’s facility in Puerto Rico was wildly profitable. With just 177 workers, the plant recorded $4 billion in earnings in 2011, a Senate investigation found.”

“The gimmick was entirely legal. According to the Senate’s report, the software company’s lawyers were channeling its profits from sales all over the country through the Puerto Rican operation, getting Microsoft out of about $1.5 billion in taxes a year.”

“It was the kind of scheme that designers of congressional Republicans’ tax proposal hope to eliminate. The vast sums Microsoft saved hint at how much money is at stake for corporations that rely on similar strategies to reduce their taxes, which are especially common among technology firms and other companies with valuable brands, patents and copyrights.”