Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Universal Basic Income

The Real Stakes of Trump’s Trade War With China

I have a new piece out at New Republic on the president’s tariffs. You can read it here:

https://newrepublic.com/article/154852/real-stakes-trumps-trade-war-china

They have edited it to sync up with their preferred style, so it reads a bit differently from the rest of my work.

Andrew Yang is Playing Hide and Seek With the Left Press

When a politician is caught out for taking the wrong position or constructing their proposals poorly, they often try to cover their tracks. If they change what’s on their website or in their policy white paper and remove all traces of the previous language, most voters will never know they’ve flip-flopped. Andrew Yang does this in an especially flagrant way. It’s a game of hide and seek. Let me give you two examples. Read the rest of this entry »

Have the UBI People Turned to the Dark Side?

Yesterday, I wrote a post highlighting the regressive effects of Andrew Yang’s UBI proposal, especially its impact on our poorest and most vulnerable. Yang promises to pay for his UBI (of just $1,000 per month–far lower than the living wage) with a combination of spending cuts and a regressive VAT, or national sales tax. Yang writes openly of fooling poor people into exchanging lucrative benefits with spending-restrictions for smaller lump sums:

Andrew proposes funding UBI by consolidating some welfare programs and implementing a Value-Added Tax (VAT) of 10%. Current welfare and social program beneficiaries would be given a choice between their current benefits or $1,000 cash unconditionally – most would prefer cash with no restriction.

The post has been picked up by parts of the basic income community and has been circulated in Yang subreddits. But to my horror, many people in these circles seem to be untroubled by these features. This leaves me deeply concerned about whether rank and file Yang supporters care about poor people on any level.

Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Yang’s Basic Income is Stealth Welfare Reform

When I first heard Andrew Yang was running on a UBI platform, I thought he was running to popularise universal basic income as a policy option for the future. It has become increasingly clear, however, that Yang thinks he is a real presidential candidate and that his UBI is for now, not later. The thing is, UBI is traditionally marketed as a post-work policy. The point of UBI has always been to give every citizen a large enough basic income to give them a real choice about whether or not they take a job. This levels the playing field between employers and employees, forcing employers to offer people more substantial inducements to get them to work. But it’s increasingly clear that this is not what his UBI is for. Its purpose is more sinister–it is a vehicle for legitimating benefits cuts for the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Press is Helping Howard Schultz Blackmail the Democratic Party

Howard Schultz, the billionaire Starbucks executive, is not very good at politics. His independent campaign for the presidency has produced some of the lowest favorability ratings in American political history. Just 4% of respondents in a recent Change Research poll view him positively while a whopping 40% view him negatively. Schultz clearly will never win the presidency. The purpose of his campaign is to blackmail Democratic primary voters into nominating a centrist. This was obvious from the start, but Schultz has now made it explicit, offering to drop out of the race if the Democrats nominate someone he considers acceptable:

I would reassess the situation if the numbers change as a result of a centrist Democrat winning the nomination.

So we have a billionaire everyone hates who is attempting to use his wealth to fund a presidential campaign no one wants so that he can intimidate ordinary Democratic primary voters into voting for his preferred candidate. Most billionaires intervene in primaries by donating to the candidates they like–Schultz is threatening to depress Democrats’ general election vote counts to get his way. Initial polling shows he might take two to four points from a Democratic nominee. This billionaire is helping Donald Trump because he is mad at primary voters. And yet, despite this, he continues to receive an immense amount of free publicity from American journalists. Just this week, CNN gifted Schultz with a televised town hall, and piles and piles of media outlets elected to cover the things Schultz said. Much of this coverage was negative, but as we’ve seen with Donald Trump, giving someone free press–even negative free press–helps them build name recognition. 56% of people still don’t know who Schultz is. Based on the early polling, for every 10 new voters who become familiar with Schultz, one of them might become a Schultz supporter. Telling people he exists is unhelpful. Even this post, insofar as it introduces new people to Schultz, is counterproductive. But I do want to make a wider point about the media’s relationship with wealth, and hopefully that wider point is worth the cost of mentioning this cretin. Read the rest of this entry »