Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Economics

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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These Executive Orders Make No Sense

After weeks of failed negotiations between the House and the Senate, the President is attempting to provide additional stimulus through executive action. The orders are probably unconstitutional–all money bills must begin in the House of Representatives, per the “origination clause”. They will be challenged in the courts, and I doubt they come into force. That said, if the President had ordered a strong aid package, I would be willing to consider supporting a challenge to congress’ spending authority. Congress has neglected its duty to protect Americans from the economic consequences of our anti-coronavirus policies. The scale of the disaster is so immense that I would support trying anything that might help tens of millions of unemployed people stay in their homes and put food on the table. When wealthy senators sit on their hands and deny ordinary people the means of subsistence because they feel offering aid might diminish their “incentive” to take jobs that pay less than $600 a week, they get no sympathy from me.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to make a provocative argument that the President is justified in running over congress, because this President has taken action that doesn’t make any sense.

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