Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Inequality

McCain, Cuomo, and Trump all Misunderstand American Greatness

At the late Senator John McCain’s funeral, daughter Meghan McCain went after President Trump, claiming that “America was always great”. She has largely drawn plaudits for this, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo draws derision for his line–that America “was never that great”. But both of these responses to the “Make America Great Again” slogan are badly flawed because both make indefensible reductions about American greatness. By claiming that American greatness is always present or always absent, both McCain and Cuomo draw no distinction between the America that helped defeat Hitler and created Social Security and Medicare from the America which tolerated slavery and continues to tolerate homelessness, poverty, and exploitation even amid unprecedented national affluence. Both responses are self-evidently ridiculous. The “MAGA” slogan misleads, but its political strength comes from how difficult this is to quickly and decisively demonstrate.

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The Left Should Commandeer Red State Democratic Parties

For decades now, the Democratic Party has been in the hands of people who don’t really care very much about ordinary people. More and more wealth and income has been transferred to the rich, regardless of which party has been in power.

Percentage Point Change in Top 1% Income Share US Presidents

Increasingly, the Democrats have attempted to win elections relying exclusively on the McGovern coalition–students, young urban professionals, and people of colour. They privilege issues of status discrimination, ignoring economic exploitation entirely. The American worker was abandoned by the Democratic Party. Without the Democratic Party, American politics stopped being an arena for ensuring that our economic needs are met. Instead, the entire political debate became about the culture war, about social conservatism’s battle with social liberalism. The Republican Party pledged to protect the traditions and beliefs of those living in rural and suburban areas, and came to dominate them. The Democratic Party settled for the college towns and big cities. What we now call the “red states” are those states where the rural and suburban areas have more sway than the liberal cities. The Democratic Party in these states is a rotting corpse. It is ready and waiting to be transformed by a new generation of left-wing Americans.

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The British Academic Strike is a Crucial Struggle that Must Be Won: Part III, Union Strength

The University and College Union (UCU)–Britain’s trade union for academics–has gone on strike. The strike is about the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)’s decision to switch academics from “defined benefit” pension plans to “defined contribution” plans. As a PhD student at Cambridge I write this piece at home, having skipped a couple events I really wanted to go to today, because this strike is so important, both to academia and to the cause of working people more generally. My hope is that I can explain the strike to those who don’t know much about it and defend it to any who doubt its necessity.

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How to Read That Productivity/Wage Gap Chart We’re Always Seeing

You’ve probably seen this chart before. It’s everywhere now. I’ve used it more than a few times over the years. It’s the chart from the Economic Policy Institute that shows that while US productivity has continued to increased over the last few decades, real inflation-adjusted wages haven’t kept pace:

I’ve seen two bad misreadings of this chart lately, and I want to clear them up.

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Universal Basic Income Isn’t About Now–It’s About Later

In reading the recent piece by Daniel Zamora at Jacobin and some of the reactions to it, I’ve been struck by how limited the conversation about universal basic income (UBI) is. For the uninitiated, UBI is fairly straightforward–instead of having social programs like welfare or food stamps which people qualify for on the the grounds that they fall below some income threshold, UBI gives everyone a set minimum income. UBI has fans and detractors across the political spectrum because depending on how it’s constructed it could be made to do very different things. Some on the right want to use it to reform welfare and some of the left want to use it to make work optional. Some in both camps want to use it to help workers displaced by automation or outsourcing. The key problem with the conversation is that it tends to be based around whether we could or should implement UBI now, or very soon. This misunderstands what makes UBI interesting. Properly understood, UBI is not about today. It’s about capitalism’s endgame–what the world looks like when capitalism truly exhausts itself.

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