Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Economics

Obama’s Legacy: The Evidence Beyond the Punditry

As President Obama’s term draws to a close, every political writer under the sun is offering a hot take on how he’ll be remembered. These can be fun to read, but they don’t tell you very much about what really happened while Barack Obama was president. So today I’d like to look at some of the evidence and data we have on this president. Let’s see how he stacks up next to past presidents and America’s friends and rivals.

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Simon Sinek Doesn’t Understand Millennials

I’ve seen another viral video about Millennials doing the rounds. This one features Simon Sinek, a 43 year old who has leveraged a BA in cultural anthropology into a lucrative writing, speaking, and consulting career. Sinek, like so many others, attempts to explain what’s wrong with Millennials. His theory is persuasively presented, but nonetheless makes a series of basic mistakes.

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The American Healthcare System is the Least Efficient By Far

During the 2nd presidential debate, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of wanting single payer:

She wants to go to a single-payer plan, which would be a disaster. Somewhat similar to Canada. And if you ever noticed the Canadians–when they need a big operation when something happens, they come into the United States in many cases because their system is so slow, it’s catastrophic in certain ways. But, she wants to go to single payer which means the government basically rules everything.

As a matter of fact this is not Clinton’s position–she has advocated for a public option but not a wholesale replacement of the private sector healthcare system. During the primary she attacked Bernie Sanders’ single payer plan as politically unfeasible:

People who have health emergencies can’t wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.

Amusingly, Donald Trump has expressed support for single payer in the past:

The Canadian plan also helps Canadians live longer and healthier than America. … We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing.

So today I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at the numbers on healthcare than I’ve done before and look at whether our system is any good at helping people live longer for less money.

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What’s Going on with the Dakota Access Pipeline?

There are protests in North Dakota over the half-complete Dakota Access Pipeline. The plan is for the DAP to carry 400,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to existing pipeline infrastructure in Illinois. This is about half the capacity of the larger Keystone XL Pipeline, which President Obama cancelled in response to protests from environmental groups. While Keystone was planned to transport Canadian shale oil, the DAP is a domestic pipeline transporting American fracking oil. Because it is a domestic pipeline, regulatory standards are not as high for the DAP, and this has made it easier for the pipeline to secure the relevant permits. While there has been some media coverage, the DAP protests have been pushed to the periphery of the American political agenda by the US presidential race, which has at this point devolved entirely into horse race reporting–who is winning, why they are winning, what the loser needs to do to turn things around, etc.–with no serious policy emphasis. This does the issue a disservice, so I’d like to take a closer look at it.

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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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