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Ezra Klein: July 5, 2009 - July 11, 2009

Tab Dump

• Are Depressions necessary for a healthy economy? • A fascinating article on the relationship between human beings and whales. • Should the law recognize "bankslaughter?" • Richard Kim reviews Bruno. • Megan McArdle vs. Matt Taibbi. Alright. Time for...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 6:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
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What's the Stimulus Doing?

Keeping in mind that a lot of the money hasn't been spent yet, we can say one thing the stimulus is doing: closing state budget deficits. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says that the $140 billion or so...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 6:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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The Importance of Quantity

Some good blogging advice from Felix Salmon: As always, there’s a trade-off between quantity and quality. Should you write more, with lower quality, or less, with higher quality? Fortunately, the blogosphere has been around for long enough that we have...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 6:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Vouchers for the Media?

As an employee of a newspaper who is deeply invested in the survival of this industry, of course I'd pay $5 a month for the New York Times. Who wouldn't? No one. Newspapers are awesome. On the other hand, the...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 5:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Journalism  
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The CBO Tells People to Calm Down About the Public Plan

Jon Cohn reports that preliminary Congressional Budget Office estimates suggest that a "strong" public insurance option would save $150 billion over 10 years. His sources think the CBO will find the same thing when they score the House health-care reform...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 4:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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The Political Economy of Cost Controls

Some of my conservative friends argue that if cost control is the most important part of health-care reform, we should just do that, and do it first. There's something to that argument. But where are the votes going to come...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 4:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Health of Nations  
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Calorie Labeling In Action

I've been thinking a lot about calorie labeling lately. New York has it. California is moving toward a version of it. And there's legislation being considered to do the job nationally. The idea here is pretty simple: Chain restaurants would...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 2:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Food , Health  
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Almost-Family Values

Levi Johnston is not a good friend to the Palin family. A spokeswoman for Gov. Sarah Palin is scoffing at comments by Bristol Palin's former fiance, who says he thinks Palin resigned to cash in on her fame. "It is...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Lunch Break

Some fun times on twitter last night. Check out the first drafts of first lines of famous novels and the first drafts of famous movie lines. My contribution, which I'll reproduce because, well, I liked it, came from "The Graduate."...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 12:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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What Sarah Palin Meant

Dahlia Lithwick has, I think, the best summary of Sarah Palin's career. When America is finally ready to reckon with the phenomenon that was Sarah Palin, I suspect we will discover that whatever she represents actually had less to...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 12:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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Worth Thinking About

Felix Salmon: [W]hile previous recessions were part of economic cycles within a certain economy, what we’re going through right now is a painful disruption from that economy to something else. I fear that the flat or declining median wages, however,...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 11:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Economy , Financial Crisis  
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Coverage and Cost

I'm a bit baffled by Michael Kinsley's column this morning on the need to go for the "low-hanging fruit" in health-care reform. This graf, for instance, doesn't work on two levels: In mid-June, the Senate health committee put out its...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 11:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The Stars And Stripes Model

Reader SH writes in: Because I'm currently in Iraq, I a) missed the debate between you and Matt Welch and b) think the Department of Defense's relationship with the Stars and Stripes is worth discussing in this argument. Stars and...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 10:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Journalism  
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Obesity and Health-Care Costs

For quite some time, I thought the "Barbara!" at the bottom of posts on Time's Curious Capitalist blog were Justin Fox exhorting his colleague Barbara Kivat to weigh in. Not true! It's Barbara Kivat noting that she, and not Fox,...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 10:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Health Economics  
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A Few Thoughts on Stimulus

Daniel Gross says "it's too soon to say whether the stimulus package is working." Actually, he says something a bit different than that, but that's the subhead on his column. Over the weekend, Joe Biden said that "the truth is,...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 9:49 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Tab Dump

• Is your grocery store humane? • Michael Lewis on AIG. • The Future of Risk! (Sounds exciting, doesn't it?) • Can the PPIP still save us, if we need it?...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 5:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Sen. John Ensign Is Not Very Rugged

Sen. John Ensign is one of those rugged southwestern types. He represents Nevada. The picture on his web site has mountains. The rotating photo atop his page shows him talking to a soldier in a fighter jet. And now...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 5:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Another Reasons Unions Should Support Capping the Employer Tax Exclusion

Len Burman had a good piece in the op-ed section today arguing that capping the employer tax exclusion would actually be better for unions, I agree with him. But I'd add one argument he neglects: Union laborers do not stay...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 5:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Re: The Problem With Financial Commentary

Derek Thompson has a nice post on why financial journalism tends to be a bit boring. In particular, he's right that it's hard to write accessibly about a topic that comes complete with its own language. "Collateralized debt obligations" do...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 4:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
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An Inside Look at the Senate Finance Committee's Revenue Options

Earlier this afternoon, a Senate source let me look at the revenue options being considered by the Finance Committee. Some of them look pretty good. Some of them seem pretty small. And some seem downright strange. There are three basic...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 3:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Chat Transcript

Good chat today. We covered scallion cream cheese, the myth of bipartisanship, the stimulus, and even health-care reform. That last might surprise people, I know. The transcript -- which is like 30 blog posts in one -- is below. Enjoy!...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 1:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Lunch Break

I didn't watch a second if Michael Jackson's memorial, so I'm a lot less sick of this than most. Still, I wouldn't post another Michael Jackson video without reason. The reason I'm posting this one? His incredibly genuine-seeming smile at...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 12:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Live Chatting

I've got one of them live chats at noon. As always, I'll post the transcript on the blog afterward. So if you won't be around, you can submit questions early here. And if you will be around, well, you should...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 12:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Are Doctors Like Farmers?

A doctor commenting at the Wall Street Journal has an idea I hadn't considered: Pay for performance in medicine will be met with over diagnosis and over coding. Thus, pneumonia will be diagnosed more frequently than it would otherwise, resulting...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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The Dangers of Bad Financial Products

This is a terrific paragraph from Mike Rorty: I’m assuming that if I was a degenerate crackhead who snuck into your neighborhood and mugged you for $50, the Wall Street Journal Opinion Page would want me thrown in jail. Now...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 10:54 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Health-Care Reform's Public Support Problem

"If you can't reform the employer tax exclusion," a well-connected health-care reform advocate told me a few months ago, "you can't find the money to reform the health-care system." Harry Reid is now saying that there will be no...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 10:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Lucian Bebchuk on the PPIP

Banking expert Lucian Bebchuk is watching the halting, stumbling start to Tim Geithner's Public Private Investment Program and wondering why it had to be this way: What happened? Banks' balance sheets do remain clogged with toxic assets, which are still...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 9, 2009; 9:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Financial Crisis , Solutions  
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Tab Dump

• The greatest GI Joe escapes of all time. • The "best" blog in the world? • If you read only one article on prostate cancer treatments today, make sure it's this one. • I'm pretty sure I've seen this...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 7:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Tab Dump  
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Can We Sell the News?

Questions about my age (or, weirdly, my omniscience) aside, this Matt Welch post furiously attacking my argument for publicly subsidized news organizations is useful in outlining the various positions in the debate. Welch is the editor of the libertarian periodical...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 6:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Journalism  
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What Is "Reform?"

Earlier this year, the Obama administration expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program to cover 4 million more children. That was a good bill and a significant achievement. But it was not "health-care reform." It was a health-coverage expansion. It's...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 5:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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More on Administrative Costs in Medicare

Reader BL sent in a smart dissent to my post yesterday on administrative costs in Medicare and private health insurance: I wish you wouldn't implicitly concede that the collection of premiums by the IRS should by rights be counted a...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 4:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Second Try

My editor complained that Optimus Prime's appearance on David Letterman, which I used as today's lunch break, "was really not funny." Hmph. But surely we can all agree that this Transformers FAQ is funny, right? NOTE FROM EZRA'S EDITOR: I...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 4:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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In Praise of Chats

A journalist's core competency is, in theory, her ability to write articles. But I've been interested lately in the value that can be added by other parts of the writing process. Publishing interview transcripts, for instance. And conducting Q&As with...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 3:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Too Many G's

I rather like Simon Johnson's suggestion that the G-8 be scrapped and the G-20 imbued with more importance: First, emerging markets have obviously risen in both respectable clout and ability to make trouble. China's exchange rate policy is a leading...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 2:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Solutions  
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The Role of Reconciliation

I don't think, as Marc Ambinder says, that the "big question mark [in health-care reform] is reconciliation." The people I've spoken with seem pretty unanimous in the belief that if Democrats go to the reconciliation process in health-care reform, they're...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 1:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Lunch Break

Optimus Prime visits Dave Letterman to help run through the "top 10 things that sound cool when spoken by a giant robot."...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 12:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Lunch Break  
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The Long-Term Politics of Health-Care Reform

Irving Kristol once defined a neoconservative as "a liberal who got mugged." Maybe. But there's a not insignificant number of liberals out there who could be defined as "a conservative who got sick." Take this e-mail I received yesterday:...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 12:21 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Is Bipartisanship Breaking Down on Health-Care Reform?

According to Roll Call, Harry Reid has sent Max Baucus a pretty strong message: Stop letting Lucy hold the football. The Republicans, Reid said, are not going to vote for health-care reform in large numbers. And the concessions necessary to...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 11:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Previewing the Senate's Climate Change Bill

This interview from the Environment and Energy's Web TV programming is a great overview of what to expect as climate change legislation heads to the Senate. Worth 10 minutes of your time. And found via Kate Sheppard's Twitter feed, which...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 10:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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WWVS (What Would Veblen Say?)

Daniel Gross had the smart idea of turning to the writings of Thorsten Veblen, one of America's greatest, and first, political economists, for some insight on the current meltdown. Veblen, he decides, is still right about the eccentricities of the...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 10:07 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Charts and Graphs , Economy , History  
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Making Calories More Expensive Versus Making Some Calories More Expensive

While I'm on the subject, a number of commenters brought up a fair objection to the RAND study on taxing calories: The authors looked at a proposal to change the price of all calories. But soda taxes and junk food...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 9:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Food  
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This Is a Job for ... Another Branch of the Same Discipline

Tom Laskawy isn't convinced by the RAND study showing that a modest tax on calories isn't likely to do much to curb the obesity crisis (or, I presume, the other studies with similar results that are mentioned elsewhere in the...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 8, 2009; 8:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Food  
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Tab Dump

• More urban farming. • Ayelet Waldman's theory of how to teach your kids about drugs. (Also, Cousin Ezra?) • Daniel Gross rereads Thorsten Veblen. • I agree with Brian: Obama didn't walk back Rahm Emanuel's comments. • When journalism...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 6:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Tab Dump  
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Administrative Costs in Health Care: A Primer

I actually started looking into administrative costs a few weeks ago. But then, as if to prove the prescience of my research, Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, Tyler Cowen and a handful of others began arguing about the subject. And I'm...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 5:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (35)
Categories:  Health Reform , Health Reform For Beginners  
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In Soviet Union, Costs Administrate You

You know, I'd been wanting to write a post semi-agreeing with those questioning the massive savings to be gained by replacing the relatively high administrative costs of the private sector with the relatively low administrative costs of the public sector....

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 4:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
 
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Will a Soda Tax Work?

A few weeks ago, Tom Laskawy took issue with my contention that we don't really know how to convince people to eat better. "Junk food—and that includes any processed food that crosses the line from nutritious to purely caloric—has...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 3:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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The World's Smartest Op-Ed Page

In the course of a post about bank skepticism, James Kwak mentions Project Syndicate, which he calls "a well-intentioned collaboration that manages to sound ominous and conspiratorial." That's about right. But it's not just well-intentioned. It's really, really good. Project...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 2:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Lunch Break: What Women Want

Health insurance! Remind me sometime to tell you about how "Garden State" and "Spiderman Three" are really movies about the failures of the employer-based health-care system....

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 12:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Do Democrats Realize They're in Charge?

By this point, I could write the transcripts in advance. Every interview with members of the administration involved in health-care reform goes the same way: A reporter asks if they support the public plan. They do. Then the intrepid...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 12:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Not Lunch Break

I was going to use this as a lunch break, but then I decided it was against the spirit of the thing to have a lunch break that would leave you afraid to eat lunch. So here's Robert Kenner, director...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Lunch Break  
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An Interview With Henry Waxman

Henry Waxman is considered by many friends and even more foes to be the most skilled legislator in Washington. When I talk to Democratic staffers about the major policy initiatives currently moving through Congress, they place many of their...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 11:06 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Interviews  
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What Will Sarah Palin Do Next?

The Weekly Standard's Jim Prevor thinks Sarah Palin's critics have spoken too soon. Much too soon. We don’t know what she will do in the private sector. Will she write a thoughtful book? Become a syndicated columnist whose ideas make...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 7, 2009; 9:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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Tab Dump

• Want to keep up with the mess in California? Read Calitics. • The biggest films of all time -- adjusted for inflation. • The "Bender" -- as in Futurama's Bender -- theory of discrimination. • The reality of the...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 7:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Becoming Cheaper by Becoming Healthier

There is, in health-care policy circles, a sort of depressing debate over whether being healthier makes you cheaper to the system. It's an important, if vaguely sociopathic, discussion. But, as Lauren Neergaard reports, it's increasingly being resolved in favor of...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 7:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (45)
 
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The Curse of 60?

It's quite correct that there's nothing actually magical about Democrats have 60 senators. It does not mean they will shatter every filibuster or succeed in all their priorities. It does not mean they can pass pass single-payer health reform...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 6:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Bill Kristol Should Name Some Names

I think it's pretty near to inarguable that William Kristol has been uniquely central to Sarah Palin's career. That's not a good thing or a bad thing. It's just a thing. And it makes his column on her recent resignation...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 4:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
 
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Malthus's Revenge

The graph above is, I admit, a bit weird. It comes from Brad DeLong by way of Paul Krugman and is meant to illustrate that, for the bulk of human history, the much-derided Thomas Malthus was right: Population growth...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 3:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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The Five Most Important Pieces of Health-Care Reform That Aren't the Public Plan

There is an emergent argument in the liberal grassroots that if health-care reform doesn't have a strong public plan, it's not worth doing. Atrios wrote that without a public plan, “there really isn’t much point to any of this. The...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 2:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Will We Follow California Into the Abyss?

I'm not sure exactly where Mark Leibovich got the idea that the budget crisis and political turmoil currently wracking California is funny. But he's managed to write an 8,000-word article on the half-dozen candidates vying for the office that...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 1:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  California , Government  
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Lunch Break

Loudon Wainwright III has the "Krugman Blues."...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 12:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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It's Not the Money. It's the Relationships.

It's probably a bit hard to figure out what's going on in the graphic above. Click on it. You'll get the bigger version. Then it'll be all too easy. What you're seeing is the number of former Senate Finance...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 12:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Think Tank: Because Your Life Needs More PDF Files

1) Ever wondered how scientists figure out those climate models that scare the hell out of everyone? Gavin Schmidt, a NASA climatologist, explains. 2) Another week, another study showing that a public insurance option would save money and improve quality...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 11:34 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Think Tank  
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Why D.C. Needs Al Franken the Comedian More Than Al Franken the Policy Wonk

Everybody seems to be recalling examples of Sen.(!) Al Franken's appetite for wonkery, so here's mine: When Franken launched his campaign for Senate, a friend who worked for his campaign called excitedly to tell me to watch it. Apparently,...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Is Barack Obama Really Mad at the People Pushing His Agenda?

Ceci Connolly had a nice piece over the weekend reporting on a conference call Barack Obama held with congressional Democrats to plot strategy for health-care reform. But Obama's audience, it seems, wasn't the congressional Democrats who were actually on the...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 10:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Who You Calling Subsidized?

Elizabeth Royte had a nice profile of urban-farming evangelist Will Allen in last weekend's New York Times Magazine. Midway through the article, she mentions Allen's group, Growing Power, is partially sustained by the money from MacArthur Genius awards and...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 10:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Food  
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More Than Meets the Eye

There comes a time when good men can no longer remain silent. Where sides must be chosen and ground defended. And I have chosen mine: I am with the people, not the critics. "Transformers 2" is a fun summer...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 8:05 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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Can The Washington Post Salons Be a Good Thing?

Last week's salon fiasco wasn't a particularly happy period around these parts. The Washington Post really shouldn't need lobbyists for the health-care industry to act as our ombudsmen. But good things can come out of bad things. And this pronouncement...

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 7:07 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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