Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Unemployment

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Coronavirus and the Fable of the Bees

Coronavirus puts elected governments in a sticky situation. If they appear to fail to solve the public health crisis, they will lose the next election. If, in the process of solving the public health crisis, they create an economic crisis, they will also lose the next election. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. It all reminds me of Bernard Mandeville’s “Fable of the Bees”. Mandeville’s bees live luxurious, decadent lives, and their drive for ever greater pleasures pushes them to build an extraordinarily elaborate economy to keep up with their excesses. One day, a divine intervention rids the bees of their vices, leaving them full of modesty and virtue. But this collapses demand and destroys the bees’ economy, annihilating their living standards. The fable serves to highlight one of the paradoxes of capitalism–the welfare of the poor becomes dependent on the vices of the rich. If the rich stop spending money on frivolous nonsense, the poor lose their jobs and go hungry.

Read the rest of this entry »

Impeachment is a Mistake

Remember 2017? President Trump tried to repeal and replace Obamacare. Over the summer, the Senate debated various permutations of healthcare legislation, and Trump’s approval rating sagged. When the House leadership introduced their first plan, on March 6th, Trump’s approval rating was 44%. When the Senate defeated even the “skinny repeal” bill on July 28th, Trump’s approval rating had been reduced to 38%. From there, the president turned to cutting taxes for rich people. When the tax legislation was first introduced, on November 2nd, Trump’s approval rating remained 38%. When the Senate passed the legislation under budget reconciliation a month later, Trump’s approval figure sagged as low as 36%. Over the course of that year, Trump had lost about 18% of his approval, and he’d lost that approval betraying his core supporters on issues that mattered to them. He had tried to take their healthcare away, and he had taken their money and handed it to rich people. Many Americans who voted for Trump could see that this stuff was not cool. The opposition was making real progress.

Then, everything changed. By February of 2018, Trump’s approval rating was back over 40%. A year later, it was 42%, and as I write this Trump’s approval rating is over 43%. Virtually all of the progress the opposition made in the first year of the Trump presidency has been rolled back. What happened? We stopped talking about issues and started talking about the culture war and character issues. Let me show you the steps.

Read the rest of this entry »

François Fillon is a Big, Fat Mistake

France’s center-right Republican Party has chosen to nominate François Fillon for the presidency. This is a big, fat mistake. Fillon is a relic from the 2000’s–he was Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Prime Minister from 2007 to 2012, and he calls for a slate of policies that would cut public services, increase economic disparities, and shred France’s economy. He is a massive risk not just to France but to Europe as a whole, both in the short-term and the long-term. Here’s why.

Read the rest of this entry »