Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the quiet part out loud last week. As the executive of our public lands agency, she does not believe that Americans need jobs because there are already so many jobs available. It’s better to lock up land, and lock down mining because who wants those jobs, when there are so many others?
Before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Haaland told Sen. Josh Hawley, “Senator, I know that there’s like 1.9 jobs for every American in the country right now. So, I know there’s a lot of jobs,” which was her explanation for canceling cobalt mining permits for Twin Metals Minnesota, an underground mine proposed for the northeastern part of the state. America won’t need those jobs, she was saying.
Let’s unpack the Haaland job fantasy.
First, the secretary doesn’t get the jobs numbers even close to correct. There are not 1.9 jobs for every American. That would be an absurd level of available jobs, along the order of 629 million open positions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 9.6 million job openings and roughly 6 million unemployed people in America.
The job openings rate was 5.8 percent in March, down by 1 percentage point since December, according to the bureau.
Sen. Hawley wasn’t buying what Haaland was selling. During the past 20 years, Hawley responded, over 3 million jobs have been lost to China, and they are coming from blue-collar towns across America. “And you’re telling me we have too many jobs in this country. Are you serious?”
Facts, stubborn as they are, are not the secretary’s strong suit.
Second, Haaland revealed herself as a relic of the past, incapable of looking toward the future. She cannot see what is coming around the bend toward our country like a freight train, because she is wedded to a romanticized notion about what America should be, with high plains, headdresses, and hunting for deer and antelope.
Haaland is on a mission to reshape the Department of Interior to the days before Manifest Destiny, with all its good, bad, and ugly, shaped the nation. She is trying to return to what will never be.
With a push from the Biden Administration, Haaland is preparing to adopt new regulations that make conservation the No. 1 priority for the Department of Interior, which owns 246,393,048 acres, with 99.99 percent of that land in the West. There go the jobs.
With Haaland’s narrow view of the world, she cannot see that jobs are on the brink of disappearing across every sector, when, in fact, artificial intelligence is here and has taken the driver’s seat.
This week, for example, IBM’s CEO said it won’t fill nearly 8,000 open jobs because the positions will be shifted over to artificial intelligence in the next five years. Hiring humans for office functions such as human resources and compliance is not a good investment for Big Blue, when those humans will have to be laid off so soon.
That 8,000 represents 2% of the entire IBM workforce, one of the largest employers in the world, who are being replaced by AI. And this phenomenon is just getting started. Those workers will join hundreds of thousands of workers who are being released into the wild in the same general time frame, as AI only gets better at replacing people.
Last week DropBox reported it will lay off 16% of its workforce, switching those jobs over to AI.
Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs reported that AI will soon wipe out as many as 300 million jobs.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Duluth Complex is one of the world’s largest undeveloped mineral deposits for cobalt, copper, and nickel, all needed in massive quantities for the electric future the Biden Administration is designing.
The project is less than 20% of what an open pit mine would be, and mining operations would be between 400 and 4,500 feet below the surface. It’s in an area set aside for mining.
When Haaland signed the order to deny permits needed, she shifted thousands of more jobs to China, where forced labor will do the work.
Her order says the mining embargo is needed to protect “fragile and vital social and natural resources” as well as the “traditional cultural values” and “subsistence-based lifestyles” of Native American tribes.
These qualities are ill-defined and have shifting goalposts. What is a fragile social resource as it pertains to an underground mine? Which tribes are actually living subsistence lifestyles in northeastern Minnesota?
Here’s what is not poorly defined: Unemployment among American Indians in Minnesota is over 13%, which is 10% higher than the national unemployment rate.
The Haaland traditional lifestyle initiative is to continue the government inducement of intergenerational poverty, reservation ghettoization, and cradle-to-grave dependence on entitlement checks.
That’s not subsistence, that’s not a lifestyle, and there is no dignity in keeping Indians down on the reservation, unable to find work, purchase a home, or enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.
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