Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: United States

How to Use Minimum Wage Laws to Improve Local Schools

In American towns, school systems are the backbone. Strong schools attract affluent residents. Affluent residents boost land values and median incomes. Higher land values and median incomes means higher tax revenue. Higher tax revenue means more money for schools. More money for schools means strong schools, and that means more affluent residents. It’s a virtuous circle:

What kills American towns are low income residents. Low income residents lower the amount of tax revenue local schools have per student, damaging school performance. As the schools decline, the affluent residents dry up, and that hits land values and median income, eroding tax revenue and further damaging the schools. Towns get into death spirals, where declining schools and collapsing prosperity feed off each other. Today I want to talk about how towns get thrown off this cycle, and how higher local minimum wage laws can keep them on track.

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Electorally, the Left is Already Behind Schedule

One of the tasks for the left is to reshape the Democratic Party into the kind of political party which can be used to chip away at material disparities of wealth and power. This means making it into a party which can actually pass policies like single payer, tuition free college, $15 minimum wage, stronger union rights, and so on. The thing is, many Democrats in congress don’t support these policies. Some of them admit they don’t support them, while others are pretending to support them but have no intention of following through should they get into power. This is the same position the right found itself in after Obama’s election–they wanted a Republican Party which would repeal Obamacare and take a stand on immigration. But the Republicans they had were either openly uninterested in doing those things or clearly lying about it. So under the banner of the Tea Party these right wingers began working to reshape the Republican Party through the primary mechanism. They made significant gains–the Tea Party helped create senators like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Jerry Moran, Bill Cassidy, Tim Scott, and Mike Lee. These people are much more right wing than their predecessors 20 or 30 years ago would have been. Over time, their efforts also helped make it possible for an anti-establishment anti-immigration nationalist to win the presidency. But despite all of this the Tea Party has come up short. It was unable to repeal Obamacare because of opposition from John McCain and Lisa Murkowski, two senators it had tried and failed to remove through primaries. It has, to this point, been unable to get its wall built. The Tea Party got a lot done, and it still wasn’t enough. When Trump leaves office, most of what he will have been able to pass will be legislation which George W. Bush could have passed 20 years ago with the Republicans of that period. I’m telling you all of this because, by the looks of it, the left is going to be markedly less successful in these primaries than the Tea Party was two years into the Obama administration, in 2010.

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Three Failing Movements and the One that Can Succeed

One of the key things I always like to remember about politics is that there are no political systems or political organizations which are wholly elitist or wholly populist. All regimes and all organizations are mixed. Autocracies and aristocracies still need their peoples to recognise them as legitimate and cooperate with their decisions. If they ignore legitimacy, their peoples will destroy them. Democracies still rely on elite professional civil servants, politicians, lawyers, and economists to design and implement policies that address the interests of the people and the subgroups which comprise it. If they ignore those elites, they won’t be able to govern effectively and they’ll disappoint the people they set out to help.  It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, despite this, there are always political movements which operate dogmatically from an elitist or populist standpoint, ignoring the need to find the right mix of both. I want to describe three such movements, and the alternative path we can take to avoid their mistakes.

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The Left is Not a Church

I want to talk about the DSA. If you haven’t heard, the DSA is the Democratic Socialists of America. It’s a left-wing organization that’s been around since 1982, but it’s become politically more significant over the last couple years. Inspired by Bernie Sanders, DSA’s membership has expanded from 6,000 to about 35,000 over the last couple years. The DSA is committed to lots of nice things, like a Medicare-for-All Single Payer system. I heard a story about two DSA branches this week–the San Francisco DSA and the East Bay DSA. It’s a local story. A small story. But it tells us a lot about the condition of left-wing organizing today.

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Kanye’s Return to Twitter and Liberalism’s Love Affair With Fear

Kanye West recently returned to Twitter. Many people think Kanye is an idiot, but if he is, he’s something of an idiot savant–the unrefined one-liners he tosses out are often in the neighborhood of truth, and those of us who pay attention can make use of what might seem useless. For instance, here’s two Kanye tweets:

Is it really true that everything single thing we do stems from either fear or love? Probably not–but it got me thinking. Have you noticed how completely and totally animated by fear contemporary liberal politics is, and how manipulative it has become as a result?

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