Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: United States

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Realistic Left-Wing Strategy for Cities

With Bernie Sanders officially out of the 2020 presidential race, the left has no immediate prospects for taking power at the federal level. This leaves a lot of Sanders supporters wondering what, politically, they can do going forward. There is no energy or enthusiasm for Joe Biden or the national Democratic Party, and rightly so. This pushes folks back toward local politics. Local politics has a number of advantages–it takes less money and less manpower to be competitive at the local level. The two parties are less attentive to the ideological leanings of their candidates. It’s easier to use primaries to infiltrate them–they are much more permeable. But there are major limitations to this approach, too. It’s easy for oligarchs to move jobs and investment out of cities that attempt to move to the left. Many cities behave opportunistically, offering the oligarchs tax breaks and special treatment. How can we prevent the oligarchs from pitting cities against each other in an endless death struggle for investment? That’s what I want to explore here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Iowa Shows that Sanders’ Gains in Cities Will Have a Cost in the Countryside

I’m fond of saying that there are three kinds of places American politicians need to win–cities, college towns, and the countryside. In 2016, the Sanders campaign did very well in the countryside and in college towns, but lost to Clinton in the cities. In 2020, the campaign has tried to reach Clinton voters in cities, but I’ve long feared this might come at a cost to Sanders’ appeal in the countryside. Iowa gives us the first real test of how the new Sanders campaign compares with the old. Now that more than 96% of precincts are reporting, we have enough data to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »