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Should the U.S. Tax Robots?

Do you support a tax on robots?

by Countable | Updated on 3.13.19

What’s the story?

  • Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is again promoting the idea that robots who replace human workers should be taxed as if they were alive.
  • “Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things,” Gates told The Verge. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

What are people saying?

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) agrees with “distributing wealth created by automation.” The freshman rep told an audience at South by Southwest festival this weekend:
“We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.”
  • AOC explained that “what [Gates is] really talking about is taxing corporations. But it’s easier to say: ‘tax a robot.'”
  • Researchers at Northwestern wrote in 2017 that the government should only tax robots until there’s full automation. “Routine workers do not work, so taxing robots distorts production decisions without reducing income inequality,” they said.
  • Johannes Moenius, director at the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis, agreed.
“Taxing robots will reduce income inequality during the transition to a more automated society, no doubt,” he said. “But for the income and wealth inequality issue, it is simply the wrong tool.”

What do you think?

Should the U.S. tax robots? If so, at which rate? Should the tax be imposed only until there’s full automation? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / PhonlamaiPhoto)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(244)
  • operaman
    Voted Maybe
    03/13/2019
    ···

    I will finalize my vote right after I have a chance to confer with my robots. They don't have much free time. However, I lean NO. Many of my close friends are robots, right Alexa?

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  • Leslie
    Voted Yes
    03/13/2019
    ···

    If a Company or Corporation has replaced Human Beings as workers then I say TAX THE HELL OUT OF THE COMPANYS OR CORPORATIONS INSTEAD OF GIVING THEM TAX BREAKS (CORPORATE WELFARE.) I'M SICK OF AMERICA'S REPUBLICANS SAYING THAT BY GIVING THE COMPANYS OR CORPORATIONS TAX BREAKS OR SUBSIDIES SAME CORPORATIONS WOULD CREATE JOBS, THAT WAS OBVIOUSLY BULL CRAP. NOW LET THEM PAY "WE THE WORKERS" BACK FOR ALL THE YEARS OF PROSPERITY SAID CORPORATIONS AND COMPANIES HAVE ENJOYED. Same for ALL OUR ELECTED PUBLIC SERVANTS WHO HAVE BEEN DESTROYING AMERICA'S SOCIAL SAFETY NET FOR THE PEOPLE THEY SWORE AN OATH TO UPHOLD AND PROTECT. AS OUR CONSTITUTION WHICH CLEARLY STATES IT'S A GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE AND BY THE PEOPLE. NOT JUST THEMSELVES AND THEIR ALREADY WAY TOO RICH "F" ING DONORS

    Like (24)
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  • Miles
    Voted No
    03/13/2019
    ···

    AOC said this should be a 90% tax on corporations. I wonder how many companies would stay in business with a 90% tax? I would guess very few. Very evident she wants govt control over all goods & services & leftists are dumb enough to want that. When corporate tax is low, economy performs very well. But she wants to put greed over the country’s well being.

    Like (14)
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  • eliyak
    03/13/2019
    ···

    Then robots will want representation, and you know how that goes...

    Like (13)
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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    Voted Maybe
    03/13/2019
    ···

    I made my Robots all Corporations, so it will have more rights than humans and less taxes than humans and more votes than humans...... it’s the Conservative way.....😁

    Like (23)
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  • Dave
    Voted Yes
    03/13/2019
    ···

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) agrees with “distributing wealth created by automation.” Many industrialized countries are looking at this for that every reason, so many people are being displaced by automation and fewer and fewer jobs are becoming available. Progress and automation has transformed the world to produce more consistent quality with less people. The problem is how are these consumers going to buy the products. When everyone is fighting for the same low paying jobs. It is a race to the bottom in the economic ladder. There will be at one point, everyone will get payed no matter what, just to keep the economy going! Jobs are going to be automated by plants on where they are! What will help a country, is the country with the cheapest operating costs and it will not be people, but energy.

    Like (20)
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  • ManfromNebraska
    Voted No
    03/13/2019
    ···

    Let’s tax democrats 100% and after a year ask their opinion again. Raising taxes = poor economy.

    Like (13)
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  • Marian
    03/15/2019
    ···

    I feel taxing robots is a way to collect more tax but how about taxing polluters or stop tax subsidies to corporation etc Just repeal Trumps tax cuts for the extreme rich like Bill Gates to start. Bill Gates promoting taxing robots? It Is odd to me...He benefited with tax reform by Trump. Is Bill looking at emerging markets?just my thoughts...would Montana want this tax? Probably not. People here generally don’t want more taxes.Bill is making suggestions how to widen the base. Humm

    Like (1)
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  • BananaNeil
    Voted Yes
    03/14/2019
    ···

    The only way to prevent the economy from collapsing entirely when the rise of automation comes into play is to tax the organizations that are profiting from it, and to give that money back to the people that would’ve had those jobs in the first place. We need universal basic income, and proper taxation or the wealth disparity in this country will only get worse.

    Like (13)
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  • burrkitty
    Voted Maybe
    03/13/2019
    ···

    A tool, at best. Maybe not THE tool, but there was never going to be just one answer. The problem is to complex and multifaceted for just this.

    Like (13)
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  • Valerie
    Voted Yes
    03/14/2019
    ···

    Taxes pay for the needs of society. As we automate, it is important that the jobs replaced by automation will generate tax revenues necessary to pay for the needs of society.

    Like (9)
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  • SneakyPete
    Voted Maybe
    03/13/2019
    ···

    🙀 Another Typical Way That Democrats Finagle Things Their Way 🙀 This is made by Democrats to have Robots made Corporations, so they will have more rights than humans and less taxes than humans and more votes than humans...... it’s the Democratic Socialist way of gaining control and getting things accomplished their “Way Or the Highway”. 😈 SneakyPete..... 🤔😈😂🤣😈🤔. 3*13*19......

    Like (9)
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  • Nathan
    Voted Yes
    03/14/2019
    ···

    The displacement of human workers when these automated processes take over will disrupt many families and the economy will suffer.

    Like (6)
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  • Brittney
    Voted Yes
    03/14/2019
    ···

    Taxing workers and not taxing their robotic replacements is subsidizing robotic labor. I know it’s confusing to some, and I wish I had a better way to explain it. Human workers and robotic workers perform the exact same tasks. The robot is cheaper for several reasons. There are the typical expected responses that are natural expectations like no need for sleep, they need maintenance but less frequently than humans rest, and they don’t need to be paid. However, there are other government-imposed factors. Robots provide a tax write off as their value depreciates. Employers pay no payroll taxes on robotic labor (even though they reduce funds to programs like social security by reducing the size of the workforce). There are no unemployment taxes on robotic labor (robots absolutely cause unemployment as they replace human workers). This absolutely needs to be addressed. Anyone that’s pro-worker needs to be pro-robot taxes that are equivalent to costs paid by employers to hire human workers. This money will go a long way toward helping social security and Medicare stay solvent.

    Like (6)
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  • Gary
    Voted No
    03/14/2019
    ···

    Is your car a robot? How about your can opener? So we would need a clear definition which we do not have. If you’re not careful, we would all have to pay payroll taxes as domestic employers as we continue to apply technology to our everyday living, smart homes, etc.

    Like (4)
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  • Robert
    Voted No
    03/13/2019
    ···

    Ridiculous!

    Like (4)
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  • tituswife
    Voted No
    03/13/2019
    ···

    Get them Workmen's Comp Insurance, too. 😂 🤪 🤣 😆

    Like (4)
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  • KansasTamale
    Voted Yes
    03/14/2019
    ···

    It’s the only way to keep the money that is now coming in, coming in since the Republicans REFUSE TK TAX YHD RICH WHERE THEIF SPECIAL SALARIES COME FROM.

    Like (4)
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  • Tooluser1
    Voted No
    03/13/2019
    ···

    They're already taxed. Sales tax, capital gains tax, property tax, etc. Just like WE are taxed... Income tax, sales tax, property tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, ad nauseam. The American Revolution was fought over 3% taxes... Current income tax rates alone are 20 to 35% *without* factoring in all the OTHER ways faces less bureaucrats have found to steal your income for the "privilege" of doing the things you could do for free before their involvement.

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  • Sean
    Voted No
    03/13/2019
    ···

    No! What a stupid idea! Example) If a company doesnt want to pay $15/hr to a burger flipper then they shouldn’t be punished by pursuing an alternative. . AND where will it end? What’s considered a “robot?” That line will slip further and further until we end up paying a tax on our vacuum cleaners. . It’s just another way for certain members of congress to bring in money instead of legislating for the best interest of Americans.

    Like (4)
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  • Jason
    Voted Yes
    03/14/2019
    ···

    The principle is sound. But implementing it will be difficult. For too long productivity has been moving from labor to capital. In a perfect world, we would fund a UBI with the excess of productivity brought on by automation. But the fat cats are unwilling to recognize the source of their wealth.

    Like (3)
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