Small businesses are the key to prosperity, entrepreneurial spirit, and a thriving economy in both South Dakota and America. Nationally, small businesses created two-thirds of all new jobs over the past decade. In South Dakota, 99% of businesses are small and account for 58.5% of paid employees in our state. For every dollar spent at a small business, $0.67 recirculates in the community where it fosters creation of more local businesses and jobs. Thriving small businesses generate higher tax revenue which also stays local to help fund law enforcement, emergency response, and schools. Fostering small business growth requires responsible investments in public education and job training programs connecting skilled workers with jobs here.

Although corporate outsourcing of jobs to foreign workers continues to harm our economy and American workers, a much bigger risk is looming. Rapid advancements in automated intelligence and artificial intelligence technology are poised to fundamentally change the U.S. job market within the next 10 to 20 years.

This year John Deere debuted a tractor that doesn’t need a driver. Freight hauling companies are pursuing similar technology to eventually eliminate the need for truck drivers. Meat processing companies are already implementing robotic automation to minimize the need for workers. Similarly, fast food restaurants are currently installing robot cooks that can identify specific foods, pick them up, and cook them in designated fry baskets before placing the finished product into a holding area. Physical activities in controlled and predictable surroundings are most prone to automation. Such activities comprise roughly half of American jobs worth nearly $3 trillion in wages.

The increased productivity and cost reduction of automation is obviously quite appealing to business, but Congress cannot simply ignore the likely impact upon our economy and society. For example, payroll taxes collected from current workers fund the Social Security benefits of all current retirees. Robots are not paid so the potential decline in payroll taxes will jeopardize the sustainability of Social Security. I will work proactively with business and labor leaders to develop innovative policies that smooth the transition. New approaches to training and education, income support, and social safety nets must be studied in good faith.