Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: United States

A Covid Christmas Prophecy

A number of people have asked me why I’ve been relatively quiet on the blog lately. There are three key reasons:

  1. My father, Paul Studebaker, died of prostate cancer in August, at the age of 67. The months leading up to his death were very arduous, and it’s taking some time to get wind back in my sails.
  2. I am quietly working on a very big project, and it’s taking a lot of my available energy.
  3. The dominant political issue for much of the past two years has been coronavirus. It is very hard to write anything about coronavirus that has any value, because most people’s positions on coronavirus are irrational.

I want to say a bit more about #3, and then I want to make a prediction.

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The Wrong Kind of Unity

On the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the American media reflected on the war on terror. It was just a month after our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and you might think that the American press would be introspective about its own role in promoting our expensive blunders in the Middle East. But instead, the press expressed nostalgia for the “unity” the country experienced in the years immediately following the attacks.

Post-9/11 “unity” enabled our government to start a series of expensive, destructive wars. More than 200,000 people died in Afghanistan. More than 200,000 people died in Iraq. All told, the war on terror cost $8 trillion and killed an estimated 900,000 people. Both parties were culpable. Democrats voted to authorize these wars, and President Obama’s disastrous intervention in Libya cut that country’s per capita GDP in half:

Libya GDP per capita PPP

Unity has value, but this is not the right kind of unity. What is the right kind?

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What it’s Like to See Bernie Sanders in 2021

On August 27th, Bernie Sanders decided to come to West Lafayette, Indiana, to do a town hall. Indiana is my home state. Bernie is 79. This could be the last time he visits, for all I know. My girlfriend is a few years younger than me. She’d never seen Bernie in person. We decided to drive down. Let me tell you the story.

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The Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement is Embarrassing

Remember the Biden administration’s proposal to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure? Traditional infrastructure spending accounted for roughly half of that proposal. It was less than half of what the American Society of Civil Engineers believes we need. According to them, the US faces a $2.59 trillion infrastructure shortfall over the next 10 years. Now a bipartisan deal has been announced which limits new spending to just $579 billion. That’s less than a quarter of what our civil engineers believe we need. To make matters worse, the administration has agreed to fund much of the spending with public/private partnerships. Many essential infrastructure projects can’t generate a profit–they require huge up-front investments and continuous maintenance. The more an infrastructure package depends on private funding, the more limited that package is in the kinds of projects it can fund. How did it come to this? Let’s run through some of the reasons why the infrastructure plan was so completely butchered.

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The Case for Raising the Minimum Wage to Address Labor Shortages

As we saw in the years following the 2008 recession, lots of business owners are frustrated by labor shortages. They argue that these shortages are caused by a lack of incentive to work, and propose to generate that incentive by making life more difficult for the unemployed. In this case, they argue for restoring work requirements for unemployment and eliminating the federal unemployment supplement enacted in the waning days of Trump administration. This is a highly punitive way of generating incentive, and those who support these measures often accuse our unemployed citizens of laziness. They could instead generate incentive by raising wages. A recent study from the Federal Reserve indicates that the vast majority of workers aren’t being discouraged. As long as workers anticipate that their unemployment benefits may eventually come to an end, they will accept work even when the work pays less than the benefits do. Only the workers at the very bottom of the wage distribution face an incentive problem. Today I want to discuss how the study works and what it means for the minimum wage debate.

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