Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: George W. Bush

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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Why We’re Stuck With Pelosi

I’ve been asked by a few people where I stand on the question of whether Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) should return to her old post as Speaker of the House next legislative session. There are some who argue that Pelosi was an effective speaker last go around and ought to be retained, and there are some who argue that Pelosi is too right wing and therefore needs to go. My position is somewhere in between–I think Pelosi isn’t very effective in today’s climate but that the current division of seats in the House means that Pelosi can only really be challenged from the right, and therefore we must reluctantly put up with her.

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A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at¬†Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written¬†the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

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Why Every President Tries to Make Nice With Russia and Why It Never Works

One of the things I find odd about the way the press is covering the Trump/Putin relationship is how devoid of context and historical memory it is. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, four new presidents have come to power, and each has tried to create a good relationship with Russia. Bill Clinton was briefly successful, but the way Clinton used his success poisoned the well and made it very difficult for his successors to replicate his performance. Today I’ll tell you the story of how America has tried to turn Russia into an ally and why this effort has yet to succeed.

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Everyone Missed the Point of Charlottesville

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been digesting the narratives swirling after the tragic violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’ve waited to write about it because I noticed that so many people’s emotions were running so high, even people who usually seem pretty level-headed to me. Nearly all the reactions I’ve seen have left me dissatisfied. This will take a minute to unpack, but I promise you it’s worth it. Read the rest of this entry »