Benjamin Studebaker

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

John Oliver Doesn’t Understand How Stein’s Student Debt Policy Works

Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver recently ran a segment in which he slated Jill Stein’s proposal to eliminate student debt through quantitative easing:

His criticism seemed to suggest that the Federal Reserve is obviously irrelevant in this policy area:

It’s basically akin to saying, ‘I’ll make us energy independent by ordering the Post Office to invade Canada.’ No, Jill. That’s impractical, it’s a terrible idea, and you don’t seem to understand anything about it.

Oliver, who is usually quite perceptive and well-informed, gets this wrong, and he gets it wrong in no small part because monetary policy is complicated and difficult to understand, both in terms of the economics and in terms of the politics. So let’s talk about how Stein’s idea works.

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Cruz vs Rubio: The Unfinished Business from the Republican Primary

After Mitt Romney lost in 2012, the Republican Party establishment decided it needed to expand its base and wrote a report to this effect. The plan was for the party to triangulate to some degree on immigration and social issues to win more votes from Hispanics and women, moderating its positions and principles to make itself more attractive to these demographic groups. As Jeb Bush flamed out, Marco Rubio became the poster boy of this new style of conservative politics. But the Republican anti-establishment never bought into this strategy. Led by Ted Cruz, they firmly believed that Romney lost because he failed to excite the Republican base and that the answer was for the party to nominate a “true conservative”. The 2016 Republican primary was all set to be a showdown between “reform conservatism” and the Cruz counterrevolution, but then Donald Trump showed up and made the whole thing about him and about the public’s growing economic frustration. It now looks increasingly likely (but far from certain) that Trump will lose by a significant margin. What effect will that have on this debate and the party’s prospects in 2020?

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Corbyn, Stein, and the Left’s Anti-Imperialism Problem

If you ask the British people what they think about Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, it’s clear that any skepticism they may have about his economic agenda is far surpassed by misgivings about his foreign policy:

Since becoming Labour leader, Corbyn and his supporters have been accused of being “terrorist sympathizers” and anti-Semitic. This perception is tied to a suite of policy positions and attitudes which are best described as “anti-imperialist”. Left wing politicians and movements which embrace anti-imperialism face a set of political obstacles that they avoid if they jettison it. Today I’d like to think a little bit about how anti-imperialism works, both as a theory of international politics and in terms of its influence on the success and failure of the left in domestic politics.

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A Hierarchy of Lies and Falsehood

The 2016 election has been full of lies and falsehood. Candidates routinely say things that are not true or make misleading and fallacious arguments. But not all lies are equal–some are more damaging than others, some may even appear justifiable. So today I’d like to break down the different kinds of lies in politics and think about which ones are the most objectionable. To spice things up, we’ll include examples from the campaign of each kind of lie. Are you ready? Let’s go.

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The American Healthcare System is the Least Efficient By Far

During the 2nd presidential debate, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of wanting single payer:

She wants to go to a single-payer plan, which would be a disaster. Somewhat similar to Canada. And if you ever noticed the Canadians–when they need a big operation when something happens, they come into the United States in many cases because their system is so slow, it’s catastrophic in certain ways. But, she wants to go to single payer which means the government basically rules everything.

As a matter of fact this is not Clinton’s position–she has advocated for a public option but not a wholesale replacement of the private sector healthcare system. During the primary she attacked Bernie Sanders’ single payer plan as politically unfeasible:

People who have health emergencies can’t wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.

Amusingly, Donald Trump has expressed support for single payer in the past:

The Canadian plan also helps Canadians live longer and healthier than America. … We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing.

So today I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at the numbers on healthcare than I’ve done before and look at whether our system is any good at helping people live longer for less money.

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