CFPB Takes Step Towards Creating Database of Corporate Crime

Citizen Works has long advocated for a corporate crime database as part of our ongoing efforts to reduce corporate abuse and ensure transparency for consumers. On June 3rd, 2024, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalized a rule that takes a step towards that goal.

The new rule creates a publicly available registry that tracks enforcement actions against non-bank lenders—like payday and auto loan venders—that have broken consumer protection law. The rule applies only to the non-bank lenders that the CFPB oversees but requires they report any action taken against them because they broke consumer protection laws—whether the CFPB was the one who acted.

Additionally, the rule requires that a senior executive at the lender report to the CFPB what steps are being taken to comply with enforcement actions. (See the rule)

While this rule is an important step towards reigning in corporate crime, Citizen Works still advocates for the creation of a comprehensive database to track corporate crime and anti-consumer behavior.

Automakers Reckless Use of Drivers’ Data Comes Under Spotlight

As cars become more technologically complex, they are increasingly able to gather information on drivers and their habits. Some metrics are what drivers are used to and often appreciate—such as fuel efficiency. But newer vehicles can also collect detailed data on how drivers behave—such as instances of rapid acceleration and braking or even location data.

How companies can use collected data like this is typically subject to privacy agreements included in terms and conditions at the time of purchase. Privacy agreements are typically long, expansive, and written in legalese, meaning when consumers read them—though they rarely do—it is unclear exactly what data is being collected, how it is being used, and, often, to whom it is being sold. Consumers often take it for granted that products like social media platforms collect and sell their data but may not expect that a product like their car is also collecting and storing their personal data.

In September of 2023, the Mozilla Foundation, a data privacy-focused non-profit, published a report on the data privacy practices of 25 automakers as part of their *Privacy Not Included series. After some tire-kicking, Mozilla labelled the auto industry the “worst product category” they had ever reviewed. The report brought forth an issue that has since drawn the interest of multiple government regulators and spurred multiple lawsuits in federal courts. (See the Mozilla report or details on what data is collected and how)

Mozilla’s report raised eyebrows in Congress. In December, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), who sits on the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, asked 14 automakers doing business in the US to clarify their data collection policies. After lackluster responses from automakers, Sen. Markey sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate their data collection and privacy practices. (Read the letter and the responses from automakers)

In mid-May, the FTC released a blog post focused on data-rich vehicle manufacturers that reminded them that misuse of sensitive data will result in FTC action. The post referenced several recent situations where the FTC acted on misuse of data like geolocation by companies in other industries. While the notice did not announce any official actions or investigations, it was a strong reminder that corporate abuse of consumers’ private data will not go unnoticed. (Read the FTC’s post) The Federal Communications Commission also released a noticed of proposed rulemaking in April related to automobile data collection that would prevent victims of domestic abuse from having their connected vehicle data exploited by abusers, underscoring the need for robust data privacy practices. (See the rulemaking proposal)

Federal regulators may not have yet acted formally, but the drivers whose data is at risk have launched legal action against carmakers. In March, the New York Times reported General Motors had sold highly detailed and personalized driving data to third parties, including insurance companies, without their consent. (See the whole article.)

Multiple lawsuits in federal court, including some class action suits, have followed, claiming GM distributed driving data to two consumer credit reporting agencies who do business with auto insurance companies without the consent of vehicle owners. GM ran an opt-in program called OnStar Smart Driver which claimed to provide “customers with information about their driving behavior to help them maximize their vehicle’s overall performance, reduce vehicle wear and tear and encourage safer driving.” Consumers who enrolled in the program and subsequently sued GM say the terms and conditions did not give GM permission to give their data to insurance companies, and, in at least one case, say GM shared data even though they were never part of the program at all.

If true, these alleged claims would mean reckless misuse of drivers’ personal data by automakers for profit, underscoring the need for regulators and lawmakers to act to protect the privacy of consumers and reign in unfair practices.

Amtrak’s Anti-Consumer Forced Arbitration Clause Persist Despite Efforts of Public Citizen, Congress

Despite repeated efforts, Amtrak continues to require passengers to agree to an arbitration process to resolve claims against the rail service.

Amtrak added the Arbitration Agreement to the terms and conditions of its passenger tickets in 2019. The terms of the agreement state that it is “intended to be as broad as legally permissible, and, except as it otherwise provides, applies to all claims, disputes, or controversies, past, present, or future, that otherwise would be resolved in a court of law or before a forum other than arbitration.” In essence, the agreement forces all passengers who suffer injury from Amtrak to resolve their claims through a private arbitration process, not through the public courts system.

Forced arbitration can seriously limit consumers’ ability to win compensation for harm done by a corporation. Because the federal government owns a majority stake in Amtrak and it functions as a quasi-public corporation, some advocates contend that Amtrak’s Arbitration Agreement is unconstitutional and restricts citizens’ right to petition the government. (see Forced Arbitration)

In January of 2020, Public Citizen filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of two customers challenging the legality of Amtrak’s Arbitration Agreement. Because Amtrak is majority owned by the federal government, the plaintiffs argued that the Arbitration Agreement violated Americans’ rights to petition the government through the judicial system. The District Court dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds for lack of an actual injury-in-fact or imminent future (standing to bring the lawsuit), and an appeals court upheld the District Court’s decision, leaving the legal question of the Arbitration Agreement unresolved. (See Weissman v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.).

The lawsuit, however, along with a public letter penned by Public Citizen and signed by more than 30 consumer advocacy organizations and written testimony submitted to a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, brought Amtrak’s policy to the attention of lawmakers. Lawmakers in both houses introduced legislation to force Amtrak to amend their policy in 2020, and another bill was introduced in the Senate in 2021.

None were given a vote, and tickets purchased on Amtrak still carry a forced arbitration term that seriously restricts passengers’ ability to hold Amtrak accountable in court for injury or misconduct.

Adobe Faces Backlash For Changing its Terms of Service

Adobe, the corporation that makes widely used creative software like Photoshop, unveiled earlier this year an update to the fine print of its Terms of Service that angered many creators who rely on their platform. The added language was vague and expansive but appeared to indicate that Adobe had granted itself permission to access any content—published or not—that users had created to train its new machine learning AI.

TOS changes are one-sided, giving corporations significant power to impose changes on their use policies. Language in the new TOS would allegedly force the digital artists who rely on Adobe’s products to hand control over their work to a corporation (see Standard Form Contracts). Generative AI’s, which produce “novel” content, train themselves on huge datasets, usually comprised of publicly available works. That process has led to concerns, such as those voiced here, that generative AI could be reproducing the intellectual property of artists and creators without obtaining their permission.

Critics of the TOS change alleged that Adobe tried to lure users into consenting to broad use of their work through the placement of a clause granting itself permission in a TOS agreement. Users were outraged at the changes in the fine print, so Adobe first tried to clarify the clause (which they failed to do) and then committed to changing the language, promising to add language that prohibits Adobe from using the users’ works to train generative AI. The whole saga demonstrates the unilateral, imbalanced power corporations can wield—and the importance of consumers reading and speaking out about unfair terms in the fine print of their contracts.

Supreme Court Rules Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Can Be Fired by President

In June 2020, the Supreme Court released its opinion in the case of Seila Law vs. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which questioned whether the leadership structure of the CFPB was constitutional. In a 5-4 decision along ideological lines, the Court—in an opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts—ruled that the restrictions placed on the President’s ability to remove the Bureau’s director violated the Constitution’s separation of powers. The Court’s decision drastically increases the President’s power over the CFPB, limiting its independence and making it more vulnerable to political influence. (See Seila Law vs. CFPB)

Formed in 2011 by the Dodd-Frank Act in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the CFPB concentrated the regulation of consumer financial services in a single organization. The CFPB issues regulations for consumer financial products and levies fines to punish unfair or abusive lending practices. To insulate it from political pressure, Congress included two unusual provisions in the Bureau’s structure. First, the CFPB is funded outside of the traditional appropriations process, allowing it to pull money directly from the Federal Reserve without needing to seek approval from Congress.
The second was an independent directorship, nominated by the President for a five-year term and approved under the normal process for executive branch appointees by the Senate. Most executive appointees serve at the pleasure of the President—meaning the President can fire the official if a disagreement arises between them and the White House. The Bureau’s director was given for-cause protection, meaning that they can only be fired for neglect or malfeasance.

In 2017, the CFPB began investigating Seila Law, a firm that provides finance-related legal services. Seila Law challenged the authority of the Bureau to do so, arguing that its director structure was unconstitutional and therefore the Bureau was powerless. The case worked its way to the Supreme Court, which decided that there were two separate issues at hand.

The first question was whether the protections given by Congress to the Bureau’s director were constitutional. The Court ruled that the President has the power to oversee officials within the executive branch, and the limits on removal violated that power. In essence, Congress can not create an agency within the executive branch with the power to make rules and impose major fines and deny the President the authority to supervise that agency. The Court distinguished the CFPB from other nominally independent agencies that are run by multi-member boards like the Federal Trade Commission, which it had previously ruled can be protected by for-cause clauses. (See Humphrey’s Executor vs. United States)

The second question was whether the fact that the Bureau’s director was unconstitutionally protected posed an issue for the rest of the CFPB’s activities. In a 7-2 split, the Court’s liberal minority joined all but Justices Gorsuch and Thomas in affirming that the Bureau’s structure was governed by the principle of severability. Under this principle, an issue that invalidates one part of a law (in this case, the director’s protection from dismissal) does not jeopardize the entire law.

In the end, the Court struck down the director’s for-cause protections but did nothing more, denying the CFPB’s opponents a full-scale victory. The ruling, however, makes the CFPB much more vulnerable to political influence, as the President can now fire directors who run the Bureau in a way deemed unsatisfactory by the President. While the Court limited the independence of the CFPB’s director, it upheld the constitutionality of the Bureau’s unusual funding structure in another case decided in May 2024. (See CFPB vs. Community Financial Services Association of America)

Supreme Court Rules CFPB Funding Structure is Constitutional

On May 16, 2024, the Supreme Court released its decision in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau vs. Community Financial Services Association of America, a case that questioned the constitutionality of the funding structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In a 7-2 decision, the Court—in an opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas—roundly rejected CFSAA’s arguments that the CFPB’s unique funding process was unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling upheld the structure of the CFPB and fended off a challenge from an industry group hoping to limit the Bureau’s power to investigate and stop unfair and illegal lending practices. (See CFPB v. CFSAA)

In 2011, the Dodd-Frank Act—passed in response to the financial crisis—created the CFPB to regulate consumer-facing financial products such as payday loans, auto loans, and credit cards. Most government agencies are funded by annual appropriations from Congress, making them highly subject to the political agendas of lawmakers. To protect it from political pressure that could limit its ability to regulate unfair and illegal financial practices, Congress authorized the CFPB to pull money directly from the Federal Reserve each year. The Bureau’s director is given the authority to determine the amount, which is limited by an inflation-adjusted cap (for FY2024, that cap is about $785 million).

The Consumer Financial Services Association of America (CFSAA), a trade group of payday loan and other small-dollar lenders, had sued the Bureau in 2017 over regulations it published on certain high-interest loans. As part of the legal challenge, the CFSAA argued that the Bureau’s funding structure violated the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause—which requires that all money taken out of the Treasury be explicitly authorized by Congress—because it was too open-ended. The Court found no merit in CFSAA’s arguments.

Among other examples, the Court noted that the Postal Service funded itself through revenue from postal services as historical precedent. The Supreme Court’s ruling puts to rest a challenge that could have jeopardized the Bureau’s entire existence and re-affirms its independence. 

The Court had previously ruled in 2020 in Seila Law vs. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the Bureau’s leadership structure was unconstitutional. The CFPB had been created with a single independent director who was nominated for a five-year term but could only be removed under limited circumstances like neglect of duty or malfeasance. In Seila Law, the Court ruled that this structure violated the Constitution’s separation of powers by denying the President the power to oversee the Bureau’s director. The Court removed the restrictions on firing the Bureau’s director but noted that this issue did not affect the rest of CFPB’s operations. (See Seila Law vs. CFPB)

Resources for the COVID-19 Response

In the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Federal Government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a massive stimulus package, along with three other stimulus bills. Because of the speed at which these laws were passed, many of the details surrounding implementation require additional guidance from agencies. Here are some resources for those with questions about the government’s response to COVID-19:

  • Consumers: The National Consumer Law Center’s digital library has put together one of the most comprehensive guides for how the CARES Act affects consumers. The guide covers federal mortgages, eviction freezes, consumer credit, debt collection, and bankruptcy, among other things. The guide also provides links to state resources, where possible, when the questions are those generally left to state governments, such as foreclosures and utility bills.
  • Scam Avoidance: As quick as stimulus checks are distributed to people around the country, scammers are finding ways to trick people into giving their checks away. The U.S. Treasury has a page dedicated to reporting IRS-related scams. Likewise, the Federal Trade Commission has posted a host of information on what scams to watch out for and how to avoid them.
  • Small Businesses: On April 16, 2020, the Small Business Administration’s coronavirus response, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), ran out of money that was intended to help small businesses as part of the CARES Act. As a result, the SBA had to suspend any applications for relief under the Act. Part of the reason the funds went so quickly, it appears, is because many of the funds intended for small businesses went to large, publicly traded companies. Although in light of the negative public response, some entities have since returned money to the PPP. Congress passed a new round of $484 billion in funding on April 24, 2020, including $310 billion in new funding for the PPP. It does not appear that the rules for eligibility under the program have changed, but the Treasury and members of both major parties in Congress have warned that if large companies who do not really need the money continue to certify that they do, they will be subject to Congressional investigation. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that any loan over $2 million will get a “full review” from Treasury. The SBA maintains (and updates) an FAQ that provides information on the agency’s implementation of the CARES Act, as well as qualification and certification requirements.
  • Oversight: In addition to the additional funding passed on April 24, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to create a new committee to oversee the government’s use of the bailout funds. The committee, chaired by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), will have subpoena power and will focus on how the Trump Administration uses the bailout funds. Republicans in the House opposed the creation of the committee, contending that it is too political and redundant of other oversight efforts included as part of the response to COVID-19.

Supreme Court to Decide the Constitutionality of the CFPB

On March 3, 2020, the Supreme Court will hear Seila Law, LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to determine whether the structure of the CFPB is constitutional. How the Court answers the question could have far-reaching impact, not only in determining how the CFPB operates in the future, but also in potentially invalidating past CFPB actions.

Created in 2011 in the wake of the financial collapse, and followed in detail by Citizen Works then, the CFPB exists to enforce a variety of federal consumer-protection laws and to protect consumers from the volatility of the financial marketplace that left many in dire circumstances in 2008. Prior to the creation of the CFPB, consumer-protection laws enforcement was spread throughout different government agencies—leading to a confusing patchwork of enforcement, or nonenforcement. After the collapse, the Obama administration pushed the creation of the bureau—first proposed as an independent agency by then-Professor Elizabeth Warren.

When Congress created the CFPB—as part of the Dodd–Frank Act—it wanted the agency to be powerful, free of industry influence, and safe from the political squabbles of Congress. To that end, the CFPB is unlike many other executive agencies for two reasons. First, it receives its funding directly from the Federal Reserve, guaranteeing that Congress cannot hamstring the Bureau by withholding funding. Second, the CFPB has a single director, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, who serves a five-year term and is removable only for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office” (also known as “for cause” removal). 12 U.S.C. § 5491(c)(3).

The second of those features is at the heart of the challenge in Seila v. CFPB. Seila Law describes itself as a consumer-protection firm. When the CFPB began investigating the firm, for allegedly violating consumer-protection laws, the Bureau issued a civil investigative demand, asking for information about the firm. Seila refused to provide the information, contending that the agency was unconstitutional because it was structured with a single director who could be removed only for cause. Seila made that argument to the district court and the Ninth Circuit, and both courts rejected it. When Seila asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, in a rare move, agreed that the CFPB is unconstitutional. The Court agreed to hear the matter.

At the heart of the challenge is a separation of powers question. As a general matter, the President—who has the constitutional responsibility to see that the laws are faithfully executed—can choose who runs the various executive agencies. That way, the President can make sure that the agencies and the White House share the same priorities. There are a few exceptions though. Some agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, have a multi-member board and the Supreme Court has held that it is constitutional that board members are removable only for cause. See Humprey’s Executor v. United States. Similarly, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of allowing independent investigators to be removed only for cause. See Morrison v. Olson.

The Supreme Court will consider whether the CFPB’s composition is constitutional in its similarity to those structures that have already been upheld, or whether the CFPB goes further than the multi-member boards and independent investigators and must be deemed unconstitutional. The Court’s decision will likely be a controversial and important opinion for consumer protection.

Meet the “new middle class” — spending more, earning less, target market for payday loans


Here’s all you need to know about the fragile state of the American middle class. An online payday-type lender named Elevate Credit sees the middle class as its target market.

“Decades–long macroeconomic trends and the recent financial crisis have resulted in a growing ‘New Middle Class’ with little to no savings, urgent credit needs and limited options,” the firm says on its website.

The new middle class. Lining up to borrow money at triple-digit interest rates.

You probably think of payday lenders as unsavory places where Americans without checking accounts must go to cash a check, or where folks without credit cards rob Peter to pay Paul so they can pay the electric bill.  Well, if Elevate is to be believed, triple-digit rate loans aren’t just for the poor anymore.

As part of my Restless Project, I argue often with anyone who will listen that the American economy is seriously broken — and the middle class has a lot more in common with the poor than the rich.  Folks who don’t realize this aren’t paying attention, and they’re destined to be surprised when they find themselves shopping for payday loans someday.

How did this happen?  Easy. Monthly expenditures are up for families, while incomes are flat. More money is going out, while more money isn’t coming in.  Each time costs edge up while income doesn’t, people are closer to the “don’t even have one month’s of emergency savings” category.

The new middle class is the restless class. They might live in a nice-enough house, and even have some nice clothes. But they are one illness or one layoff away from a very uncertain future.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently broke down the “more money is going out” data is a report blandly titled “Household Expenditures and Income: Balancing family finances in today’s economy.” There’s nothing bland about its content. From 1996-2014, a typical American family spent about 25 percent more on housing, food and other basics.    During the 1996-2014 time frame, the biggest expenditure jumps came in housing, which grew from $12,300 annually to $17,000 annually, and health, which jumped from $1,119 to $2,560.

But incomes didn’t keep pace with rising costs.  As a result, “slack” — or money left over at the end of the month — is disappearing from the family budget.  On average, Americans spent 71 percent of income on the basics in 1996, and in 2014, it was 75 percent, and headed the wrong way.

The recession really exacerbated the problem.

“From 2004 to 2008, median household income grew by only 1.5 percent, while median expenditures increased by about 11 percent,” Pew said. “By 2014, median income had fallen by 13 percent from 2004 levels, while expenditures had increased by nearly 14 percent. This change in the expenditure-to-income ratio in the years following the financial crisis is a clear indication of why and how households feel financially strained.”

Do your own math.  The typical household – using “median ” data — saw its spending grow from $29,400 in 1996 to $36,800 in 2014, or roughly $3,000 a month.  Using “average” numbers, spending grew from from $43,200 to $54,800 during that span, or about $4,500 a month.

How does your family compare?  Recently, I asked readers to share their monthly budgets with me — asking how some families live on less than $60,000 annually — and these figures are in line with what I heard from you.  Here’s a typical budget from Texan Matt DeMargel

Rent: $1,350
Healthcare: $588
Utilities: $400
Child care: $600
Food: $800
Car insurance and gas: $300
TOTAL: $4,038

(Note, the DeMargel family was lucky enough to pay nothing for child tuition or student loans.)

Even that modest budget requires a roughly $60,000 salary, before taxes. Remember, these are real expenditures, so they must be paid with after-tax, actually-hit-your-checking-account dollars.

Of course, people at the lowest economic rungs struggled the most.  Households in the lower third spend 40 percent of their income on housing, while renters in that third spent nearly half of their income on housing, as of 2014.  That’s a flat-out terrifying way to live — renting, and giving half your paycheck to a landlord.

But it’s important to note that struggles and anxiety are continuing to reach deeper into that “new” middle class.

Back in 2004, the typical household in the lower third had a little less than $1,500 left over every year after accounting for annual outlays – so-called “slack” in the budget. Just 10 years later, slack for this group had fallen to negative $2,300, a $3,800 decline. These households may have had to use savings, get help from family and friends, or use credit to meet regular annual household expenditures.  Those without credit cards turned to products like payday loans.

Slack has all but disappeared from the “middle third” folks as well, however.  The typical household in the middle third saw its slack drop from $17,000 in 2004 to $6,000 in 2014.  In other words, the “leftover” line on the monthly budget fell from about $1,500 to $500 for America who are solidly middle class, approaching upper middle class. That’s $500 to deal with every emergency car repair, unexpected health issue, or Heaven forbid, a vacation.

No, living without slack is nothing like standing on bread lines. But it is frightening enough to keep you up at night. And it should help you realize that the “new” middle class, the restless class, has a lot more in common with the poor than the rich in America.

‘A billion useless people’ — the end of work (and pay) is coming, but no one seems very concerned


A billion useless people.  No, maybe that’s generous.  Billions, thanks to robots and artificial intelligence.  The “rise of the useless class.”  The end of work.  And with it, the end of pay.  There are the things that the world’s biggest thinkers are thinking about right now.

It’s frightening how little everyone else is thinking about it.

I recently wrote a piece for about “micro-generation” gaps.  It describes the Tower of Babel at work that results from the rapid change of in communications apps and software.  Keeping up with the latest SnapChat, Venmo, and Bumble is driving us insane. Forget about 60-somethings struggling to talk with 20-somethings.  Today, 25 year olds can’t communicate with 22 year olds. It’s a problem.  But nothing like THE problem

Reporting that story, I came across some research I found pretty stunning.

Most Americans tell researchers (in this case, Pew) they believe robots will be doing most of the work within 50 years.   But they also think only other people are going to “useless” in the future. Fully 18 percent say their own jobs will exist, in current form, 50 years from now.

Also in the Pew research: only 13% are concerned that they won’t be able to keep up with the technical skills needed to stay competitive in their jobs, and only 11% are concerned that their employer might use machines or computer programs to replace human workers.

Finally, only 6 percent said their current job will “definitely not” exist. The right answer is closer to 100 percent.

That’s frightening head-in-the-sand stuff right there.

I *had* called Aaron Smith, who conducted Pew’s research, to ask him if workers were concerned about keeping up with the latest apps, like Venmo or Slack.  No, was the answer. They have other things on their mind.

“People are much more worried about their employer managing their company better – both near-term and long-term, than they are growing automation,” said Smith.

We know that many Americans have trouble getting to the end of the month, so thoughts about the future are probably far from their minds.   That’s terribly short-sighted, and the quickest route to ending up with a billion useless people on the planet.

We need leaders to do some of this long-term planning for us, but that’s not happening either.  Smith expressed diplomatically something I have said angrily in the past:

“There are certainly a lot of really smart people out there would say this is the No. 1 challenge facing future of our economy, as ‘AI’ and robotics become advanced.  And there are  a lot of very smart people who would say our politics, and economics and our education system are not treating this with severity or intensity it needs to be treated with.”

It’s great that the student loan crisis is getting the attention it finally deserves because the Bernie Sanders’ “free college” idea has stirred so much discussion. I’m all for educating people without saddling them with decades of debt, but I’m afraid it might be too late for college.  Investment guru Bill Gross wrote in a recent research note about this issue that the old economics notions about simply re-training workers won’t work in the 21st Century. In the past, workers had time — perhaps a generation or two — to adjust to technological revolutions.  Horse-carriage coachmen has decades to learn a new skill. That’s not going to happen this time.

And college?

“Four years of college for everyone might better prepare them to be a contestant on Jeopardy, but I doubt it’ll create more growth,” he said.  And as researcher Yuval Noah Harari, he of the “useless billions” notion points out, most of what people learn in college is useless by the time they are 40 or 50. 

So, what to do? Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be doctors. Or pilots. Or….just about anything.

I had a remarkable conversation recently at a conference I attended. I was at a table of parent-aged adults, and I brought up how sad it was that landed-on-the-Hudson hero pilot Sully Sullenberger regularly tells people he wouldn’t want his own children to become a pilot today.  Once an honored and lucrative profession, it’s now a oppressive, high-pressure job that is no longer a sure route to a good life.  And I asked those there. What do you dream for your children?

Lawyer? Doctor? Pilot? Professor? Nope. Nope. Nope.Nope.

A software engineer, perhaps.  Perhaps.  But coding is anywhere near as robot-proof a profession as folks would lead you to believe.

And that’s my point.  Most of us do work that can be automated.  (Journalists, certainly). The answer to that Pew survey above should have been close to 100 percent. Virtually none of our jobs will exist  in the future as they do today.  Everyone has a stake in dealing with this problem.  The time to talk about it is now. The time to fix it is now.  The time to empathize with our fellow humans who have lost their professions is now, because we will all be there soon.

I promise you, no one is going to build a wall to keep out the robots. College, walls…these are yesterday’s solutions.  The future is coming, and it’s coming fast.  Get your heads out of the sand.