Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Donald Trump

The Ungoverned Globe

I have a new piece out at Aeon on the liberal international order, its inadequacies, and the difficulties with replacing it. You can read it here:

https://aeon.co/essays/can-the-liberal-order-be-transformed-by-global-government

A Left Critique of the Current Protests

There are a number of problems with the strategy of the current protest movement. No one seems to be writing about these problems. This is not to say that no one can see them. Many folks have reservations, but stay silent in the hope that the protests will succeed. Others see the problems but fear that pointing them out will attract hostility from fanatics on the internet. The problem is that the strategy is not just sub-optimal–it is counterproductive. It is going to blow up in our faces, and the sooner we face up to that, the better. Here’s why.

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Why Federal Stimulus is Always Too Small

We never seem to learn anything. The global economic crisis of 2008 should have taught us a lot about how governments cope with major economic shocks, but the level of analysis in 2020 has been abysmal. The Great Recession reduced US economic output by 4.2% and destroyed 8.7 million jobs. To counteract the loses, the federal government injected stimulus, first through the Bush administration’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and then through the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Combined, these two programs provided about $1.2 trillion. That’s about $285 billion per percentage of point of GDP. It wasn’t enough. The economy recovered very slowly, too slowly for the Obama administration to maintain public support. The Democrats lost the House decisively in 2010. Obama tried to get an additional $447 billion in 2011, but the Republicans had no interest in it. Instead, they pushed for deficit reduction. Obama tried to play nice with them, signing the Budget Control Act in August and making one last push for more stimulus in the Fall. They took his cookies. The second stimulus never happened. As the years went by, rural America continued to lose jobs, and grew more and more resentful, setting the stage for Donald Trump in 2016.

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Neoliberalism isn’t Dead Yet

As the coronavirus crisis drags on, it has become popular to declare this to be the death of neoliberalism. If neoliberalism were simply noninterference in the economy, the large stimulus packages passed around the world would seem to signify its end. But neoliberalism was never simply about noninterference. Neoliberalism is characterised by economic integration without political integration. Low trade barriers make states compete with each other for investment and jobs, and that pushes states to lower taxes, cut spending, deregulate, deunionise, and push down wages. By globalising the economy, neoliberalism creates a race to the bottom. It subjects states to a global market without creating a global polity to govern that market. We end up governed by an impersonal market logic which frequently conflicts with our needs and interests.

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Impeachment is a Mistake

Remember 2017? President Trump tried to repeal and replace Obamacare. Over the summer, the Senate debated various permutations of healthcare legislation, and Trump’s approval rating sagged. When the House leadership introduced their first plan, on March 6th, Trump’s approval rating was 44%. When the Senate defeated even the “skinny repeal” bill on July 28th, Trump’s approval rating had been reduced to 38%. From there, the president turned to cutting taxes for rich people. When the tax legislation was first introduced, on November 2nd, Trump’s approval rating remained 38%. When the Senate passed the legislation under budget reconciliation a month later, Trump’s approval figure sagged as low as 36%. Over the course of that year, Trump had lost about 18% of his approval, and he’d lost that approval betraying his core supporters on issues that mattered to them. He had tried to take their healthcare away, and he had taken their money and handed it to rich people. Many Americans who voted for Trump could see that this stuff was not cool. The opposition was making real progress.

Then, everything changed. By February of 2018, Trump’s approval rating was back over 40%. A year later, it was 42%, and as I write this Trump’s approval rating is over 43%. Virtually all of the progress the opposition made in the first year of the Trump presidency has been rolled back. What happened? We stopped talking about issues and started talking about the culture war and character issues. Let me show you the steps.

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