Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Jobs

Why Larry Summers is Wrong About $2,000 Stimulus Checks

Larry Summers, the former director of the National Economic Council under President Obama, has publicly spoken out against the $2,000 stimulus checks proposed by Bernie Sanders and President Trump. Summers’ argument is simple–the checks are projected to increase disposable personal income as a ratio of GDP to an unusually high level. For Summers, the fact that this figure would be elevated above normal levels is itself cause for concern. But the situation we are in is unprecedented, and it calls for an unprecedented response. Let’s run through some of the arguments.

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These Executive Orders Make No Sense

After weeks of failed negotiations between the House and the Senate, the President is attempting to provide additional stimulus through executive action. The orders are probably unconstitutional–all money bills must begin in the House of Representatives, per the “origination clause”. They will be challenged in the courts, and I doubt they come into force. That said, if the President had ordered a strong aid package, I would be willing to consider supporting a challenge to congress’ spending authority. Congress has neglected its duty to protect Americans from the economic consequences of our anti-coronavirus policies. The scale of the disaster is so immense that I would support trying anything that might help tens of millions of unemployed people stay in their homes and put food on the table. When wealthy senators sit on their hands and deny ordinary people the means of subsistence because they feel offering aid might diminish their “incentive” to take jobs that pay less than $600 a week, they get no sympathy from me.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to make a provocative argument that the President is justified in running over congress, because this President has taken action that doesn’t make any sense.

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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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Joe Rogan, Frantz Fanon, and Left’s Future in the Countryside

The recent endorsement of Bernie Sanders by Joe Rogan throws into sharp relief the division between what I call “the political left” and “the church left”. The political left wants to build a broad, inclusive coalition that can build enough power to do big things, like Medicare-For-All. The church left is more interested in building a spiritual community that can replace the traditional Christian communities that once dominated the American social and moral landscape. The political left is excited by Rogan’s endorsement, because it suggests that it we might yet succeed in widening Sanders’ appeal. The church left is horrified, because it considers Rogan to be a source of spiritual impurity and corruption. It’s a clarifying moment that really illustrates the vast gulf in purposes and worldviews between these two forces.

Today, I want to have a think about how we can build on the Rogan endorsement to build a bigger, stronger, more inclusive movement. Frantz Fanon is going to help me. You’ll see why.

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The Higher Education Bubble Isn’t Going to Burst Without Our Help

For a long time, we’ve been sending more and more people to college. We’ve sent so many people to college that many graduates can no longer find good jobs when they leave. More than 40% end up working in jobs that used to require no degree:

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Some have been waiting for market forces to solve this problem. Way back in 2015, Senator Marco Rubio argued that folks would stop going to university and start pursuing jobs in the trades. Instead of studying philosophy, Rubio suggested the kids take up welding:

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