Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Economics

The Inflation Reduction Act is Not Designed to Reduce Inflation

As the midterms approach, the Biden administration is looking to pass some part of its Build Back Better plan. Biden managed to fund $550 billion in new traditional infrastructure spending. But the American Society of Civil Engineers argues that we have an infrastructure funding gap of $2.59 trillion. The bipartisan infrastructure bill barely makes a dent in that. The rest of the administration’s proposals have continually run aground. Various senators threaten to withdraw their support all too quickly, and this has caused the administration to water down its proposals over and over again. Now there is a new version of the human infrastructure bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act. This bill claims to raise over $700 billion in new revenue in an effort to fight inflation, reduce the deficit, and fund new investments in energy. It sounds like a significant achievement, but it’s not. Here’s why.

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The Case for Raising the Minimum Wage to Address Labor Shortages

As we saw in the years following the 2008 recession, lots of business owners are frustrated by labor shortages. They argue that these shortages are caused by a lack of incentive to work, and propose to generate that incentive by making life more difficult for the unemployed. In this case, they argue for restoring work requirements for unemployment and eliminating the federal unemployment supplement enacted in the waning days of Trump administration. This is a highly punitive way of generating incentive, and those who support these measures often accuse our unemployed citizens of laziness. They could instead generate incentive by raising wages. A recent study from the Federal Reserve indicates that the vast majority of workers aren’t being discouraged. As long as workers anticipate that their unemployment benefits may eventually come to an end, they will accept work even when the work pays less than the benefits do. Only the workers at the very bottom of the wage distribution face an incentive problem. Today I want to discuss how the study works and what it means for the minimum wage debate.

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On the Relationship Between Infrastructure Spending and Corporation Tax

The Biden administration has come out with a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The United States is very behind on infrastructure spending–according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the US faces a $2.59 trillion infrastructure shortfall over the next 10 years. Biden’s bill isn’t large enough to fill that gap, and a significant percentage of its spending is for other purposes. $400 billion is slated to go to nursing home services, a pressing need in its own right, but not one of the needs which the ASCE tracks in its reports. If you add it up, it looks like roughly half the Biden bill’s spending directly addresses the needs identified by our civil engineers, while the other half funds other projects. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this–it’s very normal for politicians to attach pet programs to popular bills that meet essential needs, and many of Biden’s pet projects have value. But it does mean that this bill’s infrastructure spending is less substantial than it initially appears. It will still leave us with a significant infrastructure shortfall. The more interesting issue–and the one I wish to discuss at some length–is the decision to pair this infrastructure bill with an increase in the marginal corporation tax rate.

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Why Larry Summers is Wrong About $2,000 Stimulus Checks

Larry Summers, the former director of the National Economic Council under President Obama, has publicly spoken out against the $2,000 stimulus checks proposed by Bernie Sanders and President Trump. Summers’ argument is simple–the checks are projected to increase disposable personal income as a ratio of GDP to an unusually high level. For Summers, the fact that this figure would be elevated above normal levels is itself cause for concern. But the situation we are in is unprecedented, and it calls for an unprecedented response. Let’s run through some of the arguments.

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The Unfolding Economic Catastrophe in Europe

As the figures for the third quarter come in, I am growing very worried about the future of Europe. Coronavirus has unleashed a disaster there that is hard to comprehend. The numbers are extraordinarily terrible. Let me show you what I mean.

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