Benjamin Studebaker

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

How Brazil Got the Worst Austerity Program in the World

Brazil’s new president, Michel Temer, has introduced austerity via constitutional amendment, freezing Brazil’s state spending at 2016 levels for 20 years, allowing it to increase only at the rate of inflation. This is really dumb–if Brazil’s population grows, or Brazil has an economic crisis, or Brazil has to go to war, it will be trapped within 2016 fiscal parameters. So as its population grows, the same level of spending will be divided across ever larger numbers of people, and if Brazil gets into major trouble it will only be able to pay for emergency measures by lashing social spending. To make matters worse, the amendment disallows its own repeal for a 10 year minimum, so there is nothing anyone in Brazil can constitutionally do about this ridiculous rule until 2027. But you know what makes this even more incredible? Temer was never elected president of Brazil in the first place. What follows is the bizarre story of how Brazil’s broken constitution empowered a man committed to an absurd political agenda.

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Samantha Bee Doesn’t Understand the Left’s Objection to Identity Politics

I ran across a Samantha Bee clip in which Bee attacks Bernie Sanders and others members of the left who believe the Democratic Party needs to get away from “identity politics”:

In the clip, Bee explains left-wing opposition to identity politics by having a right-wing Fox news presenter misexplain the term. She then asserts that identity politics is synonymous with civil rights, claims that “white men” are an identity, and accuses the left of abandoning its principles. This is a reductive straw man argument. It collapses important distinctions in the way the left and the right criticize identity politics.

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Russian “Influence” On the US Election is Not Important or Interesting

It has become increasingly popular for Hillary Clinton supporters and even the wider media to blame Russia for the result of the US presidential election and to suggest that Donald Trump’s desire to repair relations with Russia must be motivated by some sort of sinister conspiracy. This position is deeply flawed on many levels. Here are just a few of the best ways to undermine this argument.

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François Fillon is a Big, Fat Mistake

France’s center-right Republican Party has chosen to nominate François Fillon for the presidency. This is a big, fat mistake. Fillon is a relic from the 2000’s–he was Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Prime Minister from 2007 to 2012, and he calls for a slate of policies that would cut public services, increase economic disparities, and shred France’s economy. He is a massive risk not just to France but to Europe as a whole, both in the short-term and the long-term. Here’s why.

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Cuba Under Fidel Castro

When an important leader dies or leaves office, I sometimes like to write retrospective posts on their performance. There are any number of places where you can get a Fidel Castro obituary–what I’m offering is a hard look at the consequences Castro’s policies had for the Cuban people. My intent is neither to polish nor tarnish Castro’s image, but to present his government’s policies and institutions as they were.

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