The ReMarket Podcast for this week contrasts something very human -- health care -- and something very un-human (or maybe super-human) -- robots.
Special correspondent David Brancaccio of Economy 4.0 completed a week-long cross-country trip reporting on robots in our lives. I saw the planning memo for "Robots Ate My Job" from editor Ben Adair and was blown away; it was thoughtful, multi-faceted, it got us somewhere -- both geographically and thematically. On the Marketplace Morning Report, David brought us people who work alongside robots in a supermarket. They once worked a cash register and chatted with the customers, but now they monitor the automatic check-out machines. And they’re wondering: What will happen when the robots get good enough to replace them altogether? This stuff was heartbreaking. Says one grocery worker: "At first, we were like, 'This is funny, yeah sure,' and then it got to be 'Wow they want to get rid of us." Later, she says: "To them [the supermarket owner] it's worth it, the price of saving labor is worth whatever people take. You know, what happened to people? We need people, we need that contact with people. We really aren't robots."
And then, to the Supreme Court and health care reform. We had a folk song about health care. And then every day, we had Gregory Warner in D.C., walking us through the arguments and giving us key nuggets to understand what’s at stake and why it matters. He really helped me, and listeners, grasp the big picture: "So I mean, while every other developed country has some kind of health-care-for-all system, we don't have one. That's really what the justices are deciding." And the scene setting doesn’t get any better than this: "There was chanting, signage, one side singing 'Protect the family,' the other side singing 'Protect the Constitutionality,' which rhymes. But look, I also overheard some fairly intimate conversations between the ostensible opponents about medical needs. So it was fairly surreal on the steps of the Supreme Court."