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Why is President Obama threatening to put the people who build ATMs out of work?

June 15, 2011

Are we sure – are we absolutely sure – that ATMs are bad for the economy?

President Obama, via PJ Tatler:

“There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

Right, because if you had to go to the bank teller instead of having the convenience of an ATM, banks would have to hire more bank tellers.

But here’s the Trogpothesis of the Day: ATMs actually increase economic activity. Consider a few hypothetical situations:

  • You’re walking down the street, and see a pair of boots that you absolutely must have in a store window;
  • It’s fifteen minutes to last call and your turn to buy a round;
  • Your teenage daughter is making sad puppy eyes and asking for twenty bucks to go to the movies with her friends.

If you don’t have the money on you, you have to go get it. With an ATM on every corner, that’s a lot easier than having to go to your bank. Ergo, more economic activity will take place because of ATMs than would take place without them.

Well, yes, we had checkbooks and credit cards even before ATMs existed. That would take care of my first example, at least. But if checkbooks and credit cards nullify my Trogpothesis, then they nullify the President’s argument, too.

So, fine. What about the ATM industry? How many of those people is President Obama threatening to put out of work?

Why does the President hate people who produce, sell, and maintain ATMs?


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