Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Austerity

Don’t Vote for the Tories: They’re Clueless on Wages

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans for a snap election on 8 June. She’s way ahead in the polls, but her opponents demanded an election when she came to power, and cannot credibly oppose it now. The Conservatives may win–they may win by a lot. But they shouldn’t. So I’m starting a blog series called “Don’t Vote for the Tories.” Each post will give you a new reason to reject the Tories at the polls this June, grounded in research and data. I aim to do at least one of these each week until the vote. Today we’re talking about wages.

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The French Election: A Grim Situation

In ten days, France is having its presidential election. There’s been some drama since the last time we talked about it–the center-right candidate, Francois Fillon, has been wracked by scandal after it emerged that he paid members of his family for work they never performed. This weakened him, and created an opening for Emmanuel Macron to move into second behind Marine Le Pen. In the meantime, Jean-Luc Melenchon has been making a run in the polls from the left, pulling about even with Fillon for third. Fillon openly advocated for more austerity in France, raising the retirement age, and eliminating the 35-hour workweek, all policies which would not have been great for workers, to put it mildly. But Macron is hardly an inspiring alternative, and I’m less excited about Melenchon than I’d like to be. Here’s why.

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4 Reasons Why the European Left Has to Stick Up For Immigrants and the EU

Last week we talked about British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s cunning plan to allow Brexit to go forward in the hope that he and his party might take power in 2020 or 2025 and use restored national powers to move Britain sharply to the left. It’s politically tempting for some on the left to return to the nation state–many working class people in many countries want to see tighter controls on immigration and a renewed emphasis on national sovereignty, and if the left triangulates on these issues it might make itself more competitive with these voters in the short term. Some on the left now believe that international institutions are irredeemably neoliberal, that there’s no prospect of regional or global cooperation to restore the tougher tax, wage, and regulatory policies of the post-war era. Right nationalists are doing well, and the fight between nationalists and internationalists seems to be one the internationalists are likely to lose. So why chain ourselves to creaking neoliberal institutions like the European Union? Surely this is an albatross the left can do without, right? This all may sound plausible, but it’s a big mistake.

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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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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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