Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Inequality

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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How the Democratic Party Can Win the South

Since Donald Trump’s election I have increasingly become interested in how the left engages with white America. The left isn’t getting enough white support. Even with over 90% of the African-American vote, alleged pedophile Roy Moore came absurdly close to winning in Alabama. This can’t just be because white Americans are racist, stupid, or evil. There has to be more to it. In the past I’ve identified many things wrong with our approach–we’re too condescending and patronising toward white voters, and too quick to blame and shame them. We don’t spend enough time talking about and emphasizing programs and policies that help all marginalized people, including poor, working, and middle class whites. But today I want to go further and discuss in detail a new way of looking at the South and at middle America more broadly–one that takes these people and their concerns seriously. If we’re willing to tell a different story about the South, or at least acknowledge a different story, and build that acknowledgement into our policy and rhetoric, I think we can make some gains.

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The Doug Jones Victory Belongs to the People of Alabama, Not Just African-Americans

In the past week there’s been a weird narrative in the media about the Alabama Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican (and alleged serial mall predator) Roy Moore. The story goes something like this: the bad white southerners were willing to vote for the scummy pedophile theocrat, but then black people showed up and saved America from Roy Moore. It’s built on two key facts–most white Alabamans voted for Moore and the overwhelming majority of black Alabamans voted for Jones:

But this seems like a bizarre and misleading way to interpret the result of this election. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »