Level the Playing Field and Protect our Seniors – Charge Robotic Workers a Payroll Tax

Just about every day we read a story about how robots are replacing humans in the workforce. Most of the articles focus on the negative impact on the humans they are replacing in the form of lost work and decreasing opportunities for work. While I tend to agree with the Wall Street Journal that humans will eventually find other forms of work, what we are not thinking about is the impact on our seniors who depend on current workers’ payroll taxes. When businesses employ robotic workers to replace humans the robots are not paying into the Social Security or Medicare funds. Furthermore by charging payroll taxes to human workers, and not robotic workers, the government is essentially putting humans at a significant disadvantage from a labor cost perspective. So if we are worried about the welfare of our human workers at a minimum we need to level the playing field by charging businesses payroll tax when they deploy robots. Whenever companies deploy new robotic systems they will be required to estimate the number of human positions the robot will replace and the nominal hourly rate for that position. They will have to pay the equivalent payroll tax that humans would have paid as the robot’s contribution to our social infrastructure.