Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

The Democratic Party Can Still Be Captured, and It’s Worth Doing It

You know what surprised me? So many people took Bernie Sanders’ defeat as a reason to give up on the Democratic Party. When Sanders announced he was running, one of my good friends messaged me. He was so excited! There was someone challenging Clinton who believed in things! But I gave him a cold shower. The Democratic Party gave up on stuff like single payer and tuition free college ages ago! Sanders was polling in the single digits. We’d be lucky if he got 10%! I eventually came around and saw that 2016 wasn’t going to be a rerun of 2012. Something fundamental had changed–people were frustrated with the status quo but in a deeper way than they were in 2008. They wanted someone bold who promised to do big things. Giving nice speeches about how much you care is okay, but it doesn’t pay your medical bills or your student debt. Politicians today have to persuade people they’ll do exciting things. This caused problems for the Democratic Party establishment. It was good at a lot of things, but exciting policy wasn’t one of them. Sanders came quite close to beating Clinton, and then Donald Trump–the least popular major party presidential candidate in history–did it. This changed the way I viewed the Democratic Party, in ways that have only slowly become clear to me.

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Obviously Oprah Winfrey Should Not Be President

A number of pieces have come out suggesting that Oprah Winfrey should run for president on the strength of the speech she delivered last night at the Golden Globes. It’s very obvious that this is wrong, and it’s disturbing to me that it needs to be said. This is not to say that she didn’t give a nice speech–it was a fine expression of empathy for some groups that are hurting badly. But the ability to give speeches like this has nothing at all to do with governing a country, and the Trump presidency ought to have long since made this very clear.

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How to Read That Productivity/Wage Gap Chart We’re Always Seeing

You’ve probably seen this chart before. It’s everywhere now. I’ve used it more than a few times over the years. It’s the chart from the Economic Policy Institute that shows that while US productivity has continued to increased over the last few decades, real inflation-adjusted wages haven’t kept pace:

I’ve seen two bad misreadings of this chart lately, and I want to clear them up.

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Universal Basic Income Isn’t About Now–It’s About Later

In reading the recent piece by Daniel Zamora atĀ JacobinĀ and some of the reactions to it, I’ve been struck by how limited the conversation about universal basic income (UBI) is. For the uninitiated, UBI is fairly straightforward–instead of having social programs like welfare or food stamps which people qualify for on the the grounds that they fall below some income threshold, UBI gives everyone a set minimum income. UBI has fans and detractors across the political spectrum because depending on how it’s constructed it could be made to do very different things. Some on the right want to use it to reform welfare and some of the left want to use it to make work optional. Some in both camps want to use it to help workers displaced by automation or outsourcing. The key problem with the conversation is that it tends to be based around whether we could or should implement UBI now, or very soon. This misunderstands what makes UBI interesting. Properly understood, UBI is not about today. It’s about capitalism’s endgame–what the world looks like when capitalism truly exhausts itself.

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Trump Welcomes the Hatred of the Press

Remember back during the 2016 campaign when the media couldn’t stop covering Donald Trump? It hasn’t really changed, has it? The press hasn’t adapted much. Yes, there’s a lot of content about how bad Trump is, and some of it is even policy-oriented, focusing on some of the more odious bits and pieces of the Trump tax plan. But this is having no impact on Trump’s approval rating, which has hovered in the mid to upper 30s for most of the first year of his presidency–higher than the low 30s figures he suffered from throughout most of the 2016 campaign. Why is it that nothing the media says or does seems to seriously harm Trump?

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