First, how would you tax the robots? Would it be a sales tax on robots purchased? Would it be on their production? Would there be a stamp tax? I certainly don't put it past the governments (state, federal and local) to choose the worst (or all) of these means by which to tax robots, but if you thought about it there's already a tax in existence to tax robots.
The corporate income tax.
If a robot replaces human labor for a fraction of the cost, then the labor expense of corporations would go away. These DRAMATICALLY increased profits would be taxed at the 40% statutory rate in the US, resulting in a boon to state and federal corporate tax revenues. In other words, the tax to tax robots already exists.
But there are two subset problems arising from this fact.
1. Since the robot tax is already in place, that means NOTHING has to be done. Normally, a logical person would say, "Great! The problem will solve itself! No work required on our end. Corporate income tax revenue just goes up for the government and they take those proceeds and create some make work jobs with them!" But politicians and aging virtue signalers (like Mr. Gates) need to "do something" to show they care, they're good people, and to win votes. Why, they just can't let a problem solve itself! They need da feelz and da gimmedatz. So I'm afraid an increase in the corporate tax rate or (worse) and additional tax (resulting in additional costs and burden to the system) on robots would be unnecessarily implemented.
2. I don't know if you noticed this, but (especially) leftist corporations like Google and Apple like to ship their taxes overseas using corporate inversions and other tax loopholes while hypocritically claiming to be good "corporate socially responsible citizens." And I'm sure if I looked into Mr. Gates personal taxes and Microsoft's, they're actively engaged in hiring tax accountants and lawyers to lower their tax bills as well. Unless you were to effectively close these loopholes to ensure increased corporate profits due to the elimination of labor costs could be taxed, these virtue signaling lefty corps (as the rest of them) will merely squirrel away their profits offshore resulting in no funds to create new-make-work-warm-fuzzy-jobs according to Gate's plan.
A second simple question I have is "what if China doesn't implement a robot tax?" This question is preciously moot because the robot argument is being precisely paralleled in China in terms of
What if China decides not to tax their robots?
Assuming the US adds an ADDITIONAL robot tax beyond letting the corporate tax rate capture increased profits OR they increase corporate taxes for virtue signaling reasons, corporations will simply do what they've been doing since Clinton. They'll ship their manufacturing facilities and robots overseas where they'll not only be able to keep more profits, but enjoy lower production costs as well. The trade balance will worsen (for the US anyway) and no free happy warm fuzzy wuzzy money for make-work-touchy-feely-jobs will exist for Americans.
The point is any country willing not to tax their corporations or robots will have a HUGE manufacturing edge over the United States. But, as I eluded to before, this argument is moot because nothing is physically produced in the US anyway.
And finally, BGI or "basic guaranteed income."
I do like Bill Gate's (or whoever really came up with it) idea because there is a seed of truth to it. Robots would free up American labor to pursue easier, loftier, and more noble professions. The only problem with this is that this runs right into the face of human nature. Humans don't want to work with the elderly, help with the children, or do whatever charity work. They don't want to work period. This is why the left is arguing for a BGI or basic guaranteed income and NOT work programs.
If you haven't noticed this in the past 60 years, then you truly do have your head in the sand. Humans, and especially Americans, do not want to work. It is their nature, it is in their genetics, the majority of humans prefer to be lazy and collect a check. Ever since the Great Society multiple generations and millions of people have chosen to sit on their asses collecting a government check when they could have easily gone out and volunteered at a hospital, donated time to a school, or offered their idle labor to some other such noble cause. And while Bill Gates dreams of chocolate rivers, lollipop trees, and an army of people recently-laid-off-by-robots working non-profit jobs to help out society, the truth is these people would rather sit on their asses and play XBox and watch Cowboy Bebop.
Now the argument can and will be made that these new jobs would be JOBS. They would be financed by new government monies arising from the Robot Tax, and if you wanted the money you would have to apply and work. And in a normal, evil racist sexist Ward Cleaver 1950's world of American logic, yes, that would be true.
But understand the people's wishes trump logic, reality, and reason. And the left is not arguing for make work jobs. They're arguing for BASIC GUARANTEED INCOME, which is indeed a gubmit check to sit on their asses. And to appease these people in order to get their votes, leftist politicians will NOT require people actually work to get these monies and so the elderly will continue to rot in nursing homes, the children remain un-mentored, and the poor untrained and untended.
This, sadly, is the main reason why Bill Gate's cute little dream will not work. It's not the taxation problems. It's not the international competition from foreign countries problem. It's the fact Americans are lazy and would rather let their neighbor WWII vet starve and collect a BGI check, because working for a "Robot Tax Public Works Touchy Feely Jobs Program" check would be...well...work.
Alas, if you want to work in this upcoming brave new world, I suggest you take a lesson from the Simpsons:
"The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots"
Enjoy the decline.
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