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Baltimore. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty

The new age of automation is almost always discussed as a future problem, but a new report says it's already the subtext for much of what ails the West, from stuck wages to populist politics.

Quick take: The report, released yesterday by the Council on Foreign Relations, says that, if the U.S. does not figure out how to retrain workers displaced by automation, politics are sure to grow even uglier than now.

  • In an op-ed published by USA Today, report co-chairs Penny Pritzker and John Engler tell President Trump that, in lashing out against China, his economic priorities are misplaced. Figuring out automation, they argue, is the strategic priority.
  • Edward Alden, who co-authored the report, tells me that negative byproducts of automation are already visible in worsening U.S. inequality and a plunge in living standards in community after community.
  • "If you don't give most Americans better paths to well-paying work, that's a recipe for political unrest," Alden said. One huge problem is that the safety net in the U.S. is weak. Often, he said, "you are on your own."

Read this quote: CFR President Richard Haas says in the report, "What is clear is that failure to meet the challenges posed by new technologies will likewise affect U.S. national security, in this case by increasing political pressures for American retrenchment, the consequences of which would be a more unstable and less prosperous world. In addition, the country will have neither the resources nor the political bandwidth to play a large global role if society is in turmoil. In such a situation, populism would be sure to grow, as would opposition to both immigration and trade despite their record of contributing to the country’s prosperity.”

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

5 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. on Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest hours later, per AP.