Bill Gates recently called for a tax on robots that take jobs from humans. Does this proposal have merit?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent– Taxing robots certainly has merit for the government, which relies on taxing humans to feed its spending addiction.

It’s presumed a corporation that employs robots will be responsible for paying the robot tax. How will that be assessed if robots don’t receive compensation similar to what human employees receive? Should it be based on the robots’ productivity? And how should those tax dollars be spent? It makes the most sense to spend robot taxes on displaced workers who can’t find jobs because of automation. However, anyone who believes that government will faithfully dedicate all collected robot taxes to helping displaced workers, there is still plenty of swampland for sale in Florida.

The reason for not taxing robots who take human jobs is more compelling and the one that shows the folly of a robot tax. Machines have been taking jobs away from humans ever since the wheel was invented. The printing press eventually put copyists out of work. The cotton gin put human cotton separators out of work. The combine put farm laborers out of work. Why start taxing machines now? Just because we can make a machine that looks human enough to treat it as some sort of taxable entity? The government doesn’t tax the animals who perform jobs that humans might otherwise have to do, like guide dogs, service dogs, police K-9, search and rescue dogs, drug and bomb detection dogs, horses that pull wagons and carriages, etc.

If it makes sense to tax robots, we should have been taxing any and all machines as soon as the first taxes were imposed on human workers. To propose a robot tax now is merely another ploy by big-government advocates to grab as many tax dollars as possible. The idea should be dismissed as folly.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent– As long as we earn a penny, we owe it to the Government to as it were “give Caesar’s things to Caesar.” That is why we pay our taxes, irrespective of how cumbersome and overwhelming they are.

With advanced improvements in technology, artificial intelligence or robots, are now snatching jobs from beneath man. Yes, jobs that once required human eyes and supervision, are now being tackled by robots. A great deal of employment is being tackled my robots.

Bill Gates, the mind behind Microsoft, recently made claims that robots should be allowed to pay taxes. Those companies who are using robots to automate their processes and kick people out of jobs, should be allowed to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. As a techno-optimist, advocate, and innovator of technology, many are appalled by Bill Gate’s disposition. However, I believe that the man is a genius and should be commended for coming up with such a proposal.

Why? Well, it’s bad enough that robots are leaving humans unemployed but it’s also ridiculous that a hardworking man with real feelings has to pay out a great deal of money in taxes while robots seamlessly, without emotions, and use for money, be acquitted.

I know, I sound foolish, but I believe that those companies should pay.

To add, a robot tax may also provide the finances needed to at least fund elderly people or aid in situations where disabled kids need to be taken care of.

To add, those workers who are left redundant could benefit greatly from a robot tax, as the funds could be used to train them. Pay up or allow workers to keep their jobs.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Bill Gates’ recent proposal for a tax on robots has merits in his own mind as he is looking at using robots in the workforce so citizens can engage in more socially directed kinds of work. He does emphasize that there will always be jobs for people to do and that there will still be a need for people in general, but he would like to advance what speaks to freeing up labor.

Tax funds would be used to retrain and support workers who are displaced and can be moved on into new jobs in health care, education and other areas. He would like to see time spent on reaching out to social causes, such as helping the elderly, aiding special needs kids and reducing public school class sizes across the land.

He is not clearly thinking how industry would be affected by his proposal, but Gates is a gazillionaire who lives in an income tax-free state and can make statements about anything directly or indirectly related to technology and how it impacts society.

There are, however, a few problems with Gates’ proposal. In comparison to a person, how does one define what a robot is and how something like it or some similar automated technology is to be taxed? Also, with industries trying to beef up productivity, doing away with innovation is going to hurt them, especially if America does recover the manufacturing sector. Different automated technologies are going to be of help in any resurgence.

Automated technologies improve the efficiency in industries and a robot tax is simply going to be inundated with questions and arguments as to what defines a robot. Any improvements in industry efficiency from investments are going to lead to greater industry profits and higher tax levels on the profits, so taxing the technology is unproductive.

Industries that are using or plan on using robots would likely want to use them and any new technologically related advances as an investment in their industry. It would seem that industries would rather see a tax write-off on such equipment as opposed to a tax liability. Also, as robots would probably be considered more of a tool than an actual employee, any industries investing in their use would want to allow for depreciation on them and reinvestment rather than paying taxes on them. Anyone running a business that plans on using robots might have different ideas than Bill Gates does about paying taxes on their robot employees.

If the United States is going to return to a leading role in manufacturing and industrial production, it will have to maintain and sustain investment in advanced technologies in order to restore its status as a world leader. Manufacturing upsurges will not be possible without concentrated investments in automation and robotics. Taxes placed on robots or other industrial equipment would hinder progress for companies in America to compete around the world, which would slow any manufacturing and industrial surge in America.

Instead of discouraging companies from investing in new technologies and promoting a robot tax, Gates should be encouraging investments in robotics and other automated programs. It is inevitable that some jobs will be replaced by advanced technologies, and there will be fears and trepidations with technical advancements, but those anxieties should not stop progress. If there are going to be disruptions in employment because of advancements, then retraining programs for various technical aspects of an industry need to be in place to follow along with changes in manufacturing and other industries.

Taxing innovative programs and efficiency is not the right approach. When taxes lead to reduced economic growth and stifle American companies from becoming leaders in global markets, it is clear that taxing the robot way is not the answer.

Though Gates is correct that robots and other applications will likely automate work over the next 20 years, he does need to realize that computer automation alone will actually increase employment in many industries, plus his robot tax idea would slow job growth and limit economic opportunity. Mr. Gates needs to reevaluate his proposal.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Bill Gates has up until now proven to be a model for billionaires who realize their fortunes have outgrown their needs and decide to give back to society in a big way. He and his wife, Melinda, have started a foundation in their names which funds projects around the world that will improve the lives of millions in the years to come. I guess we can allow him a moment or two of insanity and the occasional wacky idea.

The idea of taxing jobs taken by robots is going at the problem from the wrong angle. Technological progress is inexorable, and the simple fact is that if a robot can be designed to do the job of a human, it’s going to happen. The best way to deal with it isn’t to try to retard the progress by taxation, it’s by funneling money into retraining programs to make the displaced workers more able to compete and find employment in the new society.

A robot tax won’t generate nearly enough money to set up such a program unless the tax rate is set exorbitantly high, which will never fly with a business-friendly administration in place. The money will have to come from government funding, which is also a difficult proposition. However, if the proposal is written properly and depicted as a jobs bill that will improve the lives of workers, rather than as a handout, it just might have a chance of passing.

There are already job retraining programs available in many states, sponsored by everything from labor unions to local community colleges, but the system needs to expand. Today’s workplace is far different from the one of 10 years ago, and a decade from now it will be even more high-tech and robot-friendly. The time to jump on the wagon is now.

Gates is a smart guy. My bet is that he’s proposing the tax to get the discussion going, rather than to actually have the tax put on the books.

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