Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Economics

Why Federal Stimulus is Always Too Small

We never seem to learn anything. The global economic crisis of 2008 should have taught us a lot about how governments cope with major economic shocks, but the level of analysis in 2020 has been abysmal. The Great Recession reduced US economic output by 4.2% and destroyed 8.7 million jobs. To counteract the loses, the federal government injected stimulus, first through the Bush administration’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and then through the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Combined, these two programs provided about $1.2 trillion. That’s about $285 billion per percentage of point of GDP. It wasn’t enough. The economy recovered very slowly, too slowly for the Obama administration to maintain public support. The Democrats lost the House decisively in 2010. Obama tried to get an additional $447 billion in 2011, but the Republicans had no interest in it. Instead, they pushed for deficit reduction. Obama tried to play nice with them, signing the Budget Control Act in August and making one last push for more stimulus in the Fall. They took his cookies. The second stimulus never happened. As the years went by, rural America continued to lose jobs, and grew more and more resentful, setting the stage for Donald Trump in 2016.

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The Higher Education Bubble Isn’t Going to Burst Without Our Help

For a long time, we’ve been sending more and more people to college. We’ve sent so many people to college that many graduates can no longer find good jobs when they leave. More than 40% end up working in jobs that used to require no degree:

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Some have been waiting for market forces to solve this problem. Way back in 2015, Senator Marco Rubio argued that folks would stop going to university and start pursuing jobs in the trades. Instead of studying philosophy, Rubio suggested the kids take up welding:

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Cotton is Not What Made the United States Rich

Lately, everyone is arguing that the United States got rich off of cotton. The New York Times recently put out a story arguing that American capitalism “begins on the plantation”. This completely misunderstands the relationship between slave and serf-based agriculture and industrial capitalism. A dominant agricultural industry is not the foundation for industrial success–it is an impediment. Let me show you why…

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The Real Stakes of Trump’s Trade War With China

I have a new piece out at New Republic on the president’s tariffs. You can read it here:

https://newrepublic.com/article/154852/real-stakes-trumps-trade-war-china

They have edited it to sync up with their preferred style, so it reads a bit differently from the rest of my work.

How the Left Should Think About Trade

As the Democratic primaries start to heat up, it’s become clear that Bernie Sanders wants to hit Joe Biden hard on trade:

When people take a look at my record versus Vice-President Biden’s record, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA–he voted for NAFTA. I helped lead the fight against permanent normal trade relations with China–he voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership–he supported it.

Since 2016, American politics has focused quite heavily on immigration. It’s a much more visible issue than trade. Immigrants and refugees are physical people you can see, or even interview. The border is a place you can go, a wall is a physical thing that either gets built or it doesn’t. Some of us are friends of immigrants, some of us are immigrants, and all of us are descended from immigrants. Trade is different. The effects of trade are hard to see and hard to measure. You can see stuff in your local big box store stamped with “Made in China”, but otherwise trade doesn’t make itself obvious to you unless you’re one of the people who loses a job to outsourcing. So the mainstream press doesn’t write about trade very much, unless it’s implying that President Trump is going to visit unspeakable horrors on us through a trade war with China. Even the left press is typically quiet about it. This is a shame, because trade has much larger impacts on ordinary American workers than immigration does.

You can see the rest of this one over at Current Affairs:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/05/how-the-left-should-think-about-trade