Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Impeachment

Mike Pence Really Could Be Worse Than Trump

As the talk of impeaching President Trump has ramped up, a lot of people seem to be really excited by the prospect of his removal. I’m afraid I can’t share the enthusiasm. Why? I’m a Hoosier–I grew up in Indiana, the state Vice President Pence governed from 2013 to 2017. My parents still live there. Every year I come back from grad school in the summers and over the holidays to reconnect with my roots, and even when I’m faraway I make a point to stay up to date on the happenings in my state. This means that for the last four years I’ve had a pretty detailed look at Pence. Most Americans seem to view him as some kind of serious, responsible, adult Republican. This understanding is grounded in the way Pence has presented himself on the national stage–as this taciturn, businesslike bridge between the different Republican factions. Pence has done an impressive marketing job getting people to view him this way, because when he’s in power it’s a very different story. Let me tell you some Mike Pence tales.

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Trussiagate is a Neo-McCarthyite Distraction

During President Trump’s first few months in office, media coverage has tended to vacillate between covering Trump’s substantive political agenda–his Supreme Court nominee, his healthcare reform, his budget, etc.–and the alleged connection between members of the Trump administration and the Russian government. Trump opponents had a politically great news cycle last week about the Republican healthcare bill. Jimmy Kimmel offered some brilliant pathos about ensuring that all families have access to healthcare, and House Republicans made it clear that they don’t share his priority by passing a healthcare bill which has been projected by the CBO to deny coverage to 24 million Americans, many of whom are poor and working people who voted for Trump. This is a moment of profound contrast in moral and political values and it’s a brilliant opportunity to expose the con that was Trump’s promise of universal healthcare, a con underlined by the subsequent praise he offered to the Australian healthcare system when that system looks nothing like the bill he’s championed in the House. But instead of staying with this issue, the press and the commentariat have quickly jumped back over to the Trump/Russia scandal (let’s call it “Trussiagate”) in response to the firing of FBI Director James Comey. A lot of people get excited about this scandal’s political potential because they’d like to use it to someday impeach Trump. But it’s not nearly as politically useful as it appears to be, and it’s dumbing down our foreign policy debate.

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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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