March 13, 2013

The excellent March 7 front-page article “Job creators — or terminators?,” on progress in robotic development, raised the question of the long-term effects of robots on employment. More consideration should be given to Robert Shapiro’s suggestion [“The new normal in job creation,” op-ed, Feb. 15] to replace the employer-paid portion of the payroll tax with the use of a value added tax (VAT). In fact, I would expand it to include employer-paid health care and retirement costs as well.

When making investment decisions to replace workers with automation, the full cost of those workers — including indirect costs such as Social Security taxes — are taken into account. The use of the VAT to replace these costs would mean that robots and automation need a much higher return on investment to be deployed.  Fewer jobs would be eliminated.

Timothy Barnum, Severna Park

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