Benjamin Studebaker

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

The Siren Song of Austerity and the Erosion of the Centre

I wrote a piece on austerity for In the Long Run, a Cambridge blog. You can read it here:

http://inthelongrun.org/articles/article/the-siren-song-of-austerity-and-the-erosion-of-the-centre

 

 

Could Corbyn Cancel All the Student Debt? Yes–But He Has to Bend a Rule

There was a row this week in the UK over Labour’s plan for the university system. Individual Labour politicians have in the past talked about doing something about student debt, but this week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn distanced himself from outright debt relief:

What I said was we would deal with it by trying to reduce the burden of it, we never said we would completely abolish because we were unaware of the size of it at that time.

Some in the British press are trying to portray this as a U-turn, but the Labour manifesto did not itself make any firm pledges on debt relief. It promised to eliminate tuition fees, but the debt issue was left to one side:

The average student now graduates from university, and starts their working life, with debts of £44,000. Labour will reintroduce maintenance grants for university students, and we will abolish university tuition fees.

Corbyn indicated this prior to the election–Labour was still trying to figure out the debt issue:

Yes, there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden. I don’t have the simple answer for it yet – I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly; we had two weeks to prepare all this – but I’m very well aware of that problem. And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.

So instead of playing he-said he-said, let’s take a look at what Labour could do about student debt and see if we can help Corbyn figure it out.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Skinny Repeal” Would Still Deprive 15 Million Americans of Their Health Insurance

The Senate has rejected Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s proposal to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, 55-45. Of the eight potential moderate Republican opponents I highlighted in June, five voted against repeal (Capito, Collins, Heller, Portman, and Murkowski), along with two whose opposition to repeal was not known at the time (McCain and Alexander). But the Republicans have not quite given up–they plan to attempt “skinny repeal,” in which only the individual and employer mandates would be repealed.  But while this may sound appealing (nobody likes mandates), it’s much worse than it appears.

Read the rest of this entry »

When it Comes to Sanctions, Both Democrats and Trump are Inconsistent

Toward the end of his presidency, Barack Obama began relaxing economic sanctions on Cuba. The argument was simple–the sanctions had been in place half a century, but there was no hard evidence that they were affecting Cuban policy or seriously encouraging regime change. It seemed to many that the sanctions just made ordinary Cubans worse off and enabled the Castro regime to blame America for economic setbacks. Why not flood Cuba with American goods and American culture instead, and try to win the Cuban people over with goodies? The Trump administration never liked this idea, and it immediately set about reinstating the barriers. But now many of the same people who enthusiastically supported Obama’s efforts to change policy on Cuba–including many Senate Democrats–are calling for Trump to perpetuate and intensify sanctions against Russia, and Trump is reluctant to go along. This is intellectually inconsistent–on both sides. It reveals that when it comes to sanctions, both the Democrats and Trump are more interested in scoring political points at home than they are in having a coherent foreign policy.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Rise of the “Hillary or Bust” Voter

Remember “Bernie or Bust”? Some Bernie Sanders supporters were very cross when Sanders did not win the Democratic Party nomination. They believed he should have won, both because he deserved to win and because some of them believed the DNC stole it from him. They were unwilling to support Clinton in the general election, and Clinton supporters let them have it. How could these Bernie supporters stand idly by and allow Donald Trump to become president? Don’t they care about poor and working people, about the middle class, about people of color, about women, about LGBTs? How could they betray the groups they’re meant to care about like that?  Sarah Silverman told them they were “being ridiculous”:

But the tables have turned. Today we see a new breed of Democrat–the “Hillary or Bust” voter.

Read the rest of this entry »