Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Stimulus

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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On Coronavirus, We Don’t Want to End Up Like Europe

As the rich countries begin to release economic data for the second quarter, we can begin to form a clearer picture of where things stand. To date, it is undeniably the case that the crisis has been much worse for the European states than for the United States. This may change going forward, because the United States is still seeing its case load expand. But at present, the mainstream media narrative that the United States has uniquely mismanaged the crisis does not withstand scrutiny. The Europeans now face new long-term, existential threats to their social programs. They are much worse off.

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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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The Quarantine is Failing because Our Institutions Weren’t Built For It

All around us, the quarantine is beginning to die. In the United States, the Southern states are slowly abandoning it and many Midwestern states are planning to follow. But it’s not just Republicans. The European states are bailing too. If you ask Democrats why states are beginning to defect, they will tell you it comes down to greed and stupidity. They’ll tell you the rich Republicans are greedy and the poor Republicans are stupid. But this policy was never a good fit for either the American or European political systems. To work, it needed a lot of economic support from regional authorities, and it never got that support.

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Neoliberalism isn’t Dead Yet

As the coronavirus crisis drags on, it has become popular to declare this to be the death of neoliberalism. If neoliberalism were simply noninterference in the economy, the large stimulus packages passed around the world would seem to signify its end. But neoliberalism was never simply about noninterference. Neoliberalism is characterised by economic integration without political integration. Low trade barriers make states compete with each other for investment and jobs, and that pushes states to lower taxes, cut spending, deregulate, deunionise, and push down wages. By globalising the economy, neoliberalism creates a race to the bottom. It subjects states to a global market without creating a global polity to govern that market. We end up governed by an impersonal market logic which frequently conflicts with our needs and interests.

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