Other Voices: Technology, immigration and the pope’s resignation

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Farm Forum

Better technology eliminating jobs

The Associated Press recently moved a provocative series about the changing landscape for jobs in the United States. It made a good case that middle-class jobs eliminated by technology and the recession aren’t coming back.

This is not the first time to hear such dire warnings. Imagine the fuss in the horse carriage industry 100 years ago as it tried to compete with the fledgling automobile. More recently, the typewriter vanished after being conquered by the personal computer.

Generally, a disruptive improvement such as the automobile winds up creating more jobs than it eliminates. Historically, such changes have been good for the economy.

However, the AP report indicates that this time may be different — due to the rapid improvement in computer software that allows machines to do more jobs with greater accuracy.

Another difference is that a lot of the jobs being eliminated, such as an accountant or office manager, involve a college degree. So far, the recent improvements in technology are eliminating more jobs than they are creating.

The statistics bear out this argument. The U.S. lost 7.5 million jobs in the recession that started in late 2007. So far, only 3.5 million jobs have been created, but few of them in the so-called ‘‘mid-skill, mid-pay’’ category. Most new jobs are in lower-paying, lower-skill categories.

The AP report is informative because it addresses a subject that politicians were unwilling to in last year’s elections. It’s easy to say that all the jobs are going to China, but a more accurate answer is that some of them are not going anywhere. They’re just disappearing

— Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth

Immigration reform long overdue

The more complex and important the debate, the more likely a single word can sway public opinion, which in turn exerts irresistible pressure on members of Congress who face the voters again soon enough.

So no matter how much we might agree that the nation’s immigration system is a broken mess in desperate need of reform, one word swells into a Jabba-the-Hut barrier to sensible advancement: amnesty.

It has become almost tiresome to argue over the definition. Supporters will point to fact upon fact to show that comprehensive reform is anything but amnesty. Instead of granting guilt-free citizenship, plan after plan requires illegal immigrants to pass background checks, pay fines and back taxes, learn English and start their path to legalization at the back of the line.

Opponents shake their heads and dig in: ‘‘They broke the law, didn’t they? Secure the border, and enforce the laws we already have.’’

Everyone remains stuck in an angry place that precludes progress toward a smarter, fairer system. It needn’t be this way.

Opponents remain stung by memories of the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which effectively legalized 3 million illegal immigrants, but never provided the promised enforcement and border security. That truly was amnesty, and it’s no surprise that it led to more, not fewer, illegal crossings over the years.

Opponents would have a point today if the Senate framework or President Barack Obama’s similar plan were as feckless. Instead, their goals are to make legality a stronger inducement than illegality and finally put the amnesty argument in the shadows, where it belongs.

— Dallas Morning News

Church comes first in pope’s decision

The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to retire at the end of this month shocked many Catholics — and even non-Catholics — around the world.

But the pontiff’s decision is entirely in keeping with his beliefs. He laid the groundwork for the decision years ago, saying popes have the obligation to resign if they can’t carry on.

When he was elected the 265th pope on April 19, 2005, at age 78, he was the oldest pope elected in 275 years and the first German one in nearly 1,000 years. As of Feb. 28, he will become the first pope to resign since 1415.

One of his most popular acts was his beatification of his predecessor, John Paul II, in record time, drawing 1.5 million people to Rome in 2011 to witness the late pontiff’s move a step closer to sainthood.

Conservatives cheered his championing of the pre-Vatican II church and his insistence on tradition, even if it cost the church popularity among liberals. Benedict favored Masses heavy in Latin and the brocaded silk vestments of his predecessors.

It has been obvious to all that the pope has slowed down significantly in recent years, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. He now goes to and from the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the long walk down the aisle. Occasionally, he uses a cane.

History likely will determine how important Benedict XVI has been to the direction of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, we extend our goodwill to Catholics on the news that the current papacy is about to expire.

— Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain