Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Austerity

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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Brexit is the Right Nationalist Response to Austerity

Like many people, I initially responded to Brexit with outrage at the terrible consequences of the result for the British people. Among other things, they may lose crucial worker, consumer, and environmental protections, they may lose access to the European market, they may lose the opportunity to work with other European countries on climate change and tax avoidance, and they may even lose Scotland. It is critical that the British Parliament assert its sovereignty and decline to implement the results of the non-binding advisory referendum, which was a mistake to hold in the first place. After all, by asserting UK sovereignty, Brexiteers are asserting the sovereignty of Parliament, so if Parliament declines to invoke Article 50 and chooses to stay in the EU it is merely exercising the very powers the Brexiteers wished to assert for it. But today I want to take a step back and look at the big picture–why the vote went the way it did and what that says about where we’re at. Many people have been happy to chalk the Leave win up to bigotry and leave it at that, but this response is too reductive and doesn’t give us enough to work with. If bigotry is the problem, why is bigotry the problem now? There have been bigoted people in Britain and in the EU and all over the world forever, but Brexit didn’t happen in 1996 or 2006, it happened in 2016. What’s different about now? Brexit is not the result of some culture war between the nice people and the nasty people, it is a consequence of economic stagnation and inequality and of a voting public that is unable to correctly identify the causes of that stagnation and inequality or confront them with meaningful and effective policy.

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How Austerity Destroyed the British Empire

It’s rarely talked about during Britain’s contemporary debate over austerity, but British austerity has a major 19th century precedent, one that ultimately culminated in the decline and fall of the British Empire.

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