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Ezra Klein: January 3, 2010 - January 9, 2010

Tab dump

1) More GOP schisms: Club for Growth thinks Utah's Bob Bennett is too liberal. 2) America's infrastructure woes. 3) Republican establishment doesn't think Sarah Palin has a chance -- which may be all the opening she needs. 4) Can you...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 6:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Senate Democrats readying new jobs package

Senate Democrats are getting ready to build another jobs bill: Senate Democrats are crafting a job creation bill that would boost funding for small businesses, public services, infrastructure projects and energy efficiency programs. An aide to Senate Majority Whip...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 5:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Economic Policy  
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The difficulty of selling financial reform

Health-care reform felt complicated to many, but at least people were familiar with the basic concepts. Most of us have some experience with insurance, and doctors, and hospitals, and medical bills. Not so for financial reform, where there's going to...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 5:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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What the White House will fight for

Obama is meeting with union officials in the next few days to sell them on the excise tax, or some compromise on the excise tax, or at least make them feel heard on their complaints about the excise tax....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 4:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Voluntary paternalism

Mike Konczal wonders whether he's a paternalist: Quick thought experiment: I’m the King of Rortybomb Island, and you want to open a casino on my island. I know many people will enjoy this, but many people won’t but won’t be...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 3:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
 
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Living la vida vespa

The fact that people are used to getting tax-free health-care insurance from their employers has a tendency to obscure what a weird and distorting policy that is. Take this analogy from Matthew Yglesias: Suppose I proposed a law saying that...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 3:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Will Senate Democrats let Tim Johnson take over the Banking Committee?

The practical impact of Chris Dodd leaving the Senate this year is that chairmanship of the powerful Senate Banking Committee falls to South Dakota's Tim Johnson. This is, in short, a nightmare for consumers. If you look at the...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 2:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Financial Regulation , Senate  
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Busy bees

According to a document review conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, Congress spent more days in session in 2009 than in any year since 1995. The Sunlight Foundation sells this as "working harder," and maybe it is, though many members of...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 1:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Congress  
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Cameras and Congress

With C-SPAN calling for full access to all health-care negotiations, former congressional staffer Pete Davis reflects on how the body changed when C-SPAN first entered the chamber: Tip O’Neill launched internal live television of the House floor using House camera...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Congress  
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Lunch break

There are lies, damn lies, and then there are charts:...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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The 'U' visa

The Obama administration seems to have seriously overpromised on immigration reform, leading to a lot of anger in the immigrant community. But even though they're not pursuing a comprehensive solution, they are making some small changes in the direction of...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 12:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Jon Gruber

MIT health economist Jon Gruber has made a number of appearances on this blog, and on blogs like this one. Alongside Harvard's David Cutler, he's probably been the most aggressive academic economist supporting the reform effort. On some level, that's...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 12:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
 
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The Federal Reserve goes a bit more rogue

The Economist flags a Federal Reserve working paper that embraces some decidedly non-neoclassical theories of how bubbles form: There’s lots of interesting stuff in the paper, in particular on the lack of correlation between policy rates and housing prices in...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 11:33 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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Shed a tear for Dodd

The appeal of Richard Blumenthal to liberals has been that he's likely to keep Chris Dodd's seat. Nick Baumann thinks that's backwards: The appeal of Blumenthal, he says, is that he's likely to do a better job in Dodd's seat:...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 10:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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The health-care and wages debate, continued!

Economist Austin Frakt is baffled that there's any controversy at all over the idea that health-care premiums eat away at wages. "The notion that premiums and wages offset one another has an impressive pedigree," he writes, naming a half-dozen peer-reviewed...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 10:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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So much social media!

I've gotten e-mails from a couple of you asking why the blog doesn't have a way to put posts up on Facebook, or on Twitter. The answer was, well, I don't know. At least, that was the old answer. The...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 9:53 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Connecticut against Joe Lieberman

When Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic primary in 2006, he formed the Connecticut for Lieberman party and won the election as an independent. After the health-care debate, however, Connecticut seems to be for, well, anyone else: Lieberman's overall approval...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 8, 2010; 9:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Tab dump

1) The economy that can recover even if housing prices don't. 2) Passing the noxious Bankruptcy Bill probably wasn't such a good idea. 3) Tucker Carlson is starting a Huffington Post competitor. 4) How to stop insurer price gouging. 5)...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 6:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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The excise tax and its critics

If you're looking for the skeptic's case against the excise tax, Alec MacGillis's article is pretty comprehensive. I certainly see how people find it convincing. I'm just not among them. The excise tax, as some of you will remember, imposes...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 6:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (29)
Categories:  Health Economics , Health Reform  
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For people who like scary stories

Gather 'round, kids, 'cause Kevin Drum has a tale to tell: This is a story about politics. It's about how Congress and the president and the Federal Reserve were persuaded to let all this happen in the first place. In...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 4:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Klein smackdown watch: health-care and wages

EPI's Larry Mishel has a new paper arguing that changes in health-care premiums do not drive changes in wages. He names me as someone arguing otherwise, and he's right to do so: Looking back over the paragraphs he quotes, they...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 3:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Use your debit card!

Ever wondered how your Visa card works? Andrew Martin has you covered: While Visa may be among the best-known brands in the world, how it operates is a mystery to many consumers. Visa does not distribute credit or debit cards,...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 3:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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Supermajority retention

Nate Silver thinks Democrats will probably lose some Senate seats in 2010. But maybe they'll pick up a couple! Or lose a bunch! Hard to say. I'll just note that Democrats will definitely lose their supermajority sooner than later. If...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 2:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Still confused about mammograms?

Jon Cohn is right: Dr. Margaret Polaneczky explanation of last year's controversial mammography recommendations is the clearest assessment of the controversy that you're likely to find. What the Task Force is saying is simply this - On a population basis,...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 1:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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More than cutting and taxing

Tim Fernholz has a smart column exploring what a progressive take on deficit reduction looks like. According to the experts he talks to, "the key is framing the conversation early: Deficit reduction needs to be about both increasing revenues...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 1:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Budget  
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Lunch break

I'm just leaving New York, and having my traditional trip-ending bagel. As such, a tutorial on making decent bagels in the comfort of your own home seems appropriate....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 12:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Making transparency into a reality

There's been a lot of confusion this year over the difference between "things that fall under the category of government transparency" and "things that make government more transparent." For instance: Forcing the Senate clerk to read thousands of pages aloud...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 12:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Congress  
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Deficit hawks for deficit spending!

Catherine Rampell reports from the front lines of economic thinking: “I’m a deficit hawk, but … ” That’s a line I heard a lot during recent trips to Washington and to a national economics conference in Atlanta. It was proclaimed,...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Colbert Nation

I'm part of it. Also, it's possible that werewolf doctors will be added during conference. The basic issue here is that negotiators need to find some money to increase subsidies, and CBO will score a policy that has werewolf doctors...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 10:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Moment of silence

Is there still a Chicago School of Economics? Or is there just an economics department at the University of Chicago?...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Who is Richard Blumenthal?

Speaking of Connecticut, When Chris Dodd dropped out of the Senate race and left the Democratic nomination to Richard Blumenthal, a lot of people began talking as if that seat had been won. That seemed a bit suspicious: Blumenthal was...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 9:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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A tale of two Connecticut senators

I don't want to go too far with the idea that Chris Dodd bowed out of the race to preserve the seat for his party. Few politicians are interested in an unwinnable election. But then, few veteran politicians really see...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 9:13 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Back to basics

Don't worry. This post isn't going to be a long, or even a short, explication of the health-care bill. It's just going to link to my colleague Alec MacGillis's short explanation of the health-care bill. I'm reminded to do this...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 8:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Health Reform For Beginners  
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The logic of passing health-care reform

Former Bush-advisor Keith Hennessey thinks the health-care bill is going to pass: 219 House Democrats (and one Republican) and 60 Senate Democrats have already voted aye on final passage of one of these bills. For each of these Members, the...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 7:42 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Site outage/Colbert Report

Two housekeeping notes. First, as you might have noticed, the blog was broken today. Posts couldn't publish, comments didn't work, and things were generally haywire. Functionality seems to be coming back now, but sorry for the interruption. Tomorrow, I'm assured,...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 6, 2010; 4:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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What if the Fed sleeps again?

Of late, Ben Bernanke has been arguing that the crisis was caused by a poor regulatory structure, and that the answer is a souped-up Federal Reserve with more power to bring banks to heel. This is revisionist history, at best....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 6, 2010; 10:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Will the public sector doom the private sector?

James Fallows doesn't think America is in decline, at least so far as our economic fundamentals ad future potential go. But he worries that our increasingly dysfunctional government could put it there. "I have seen enough of the world outside...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 6, 2010; 9:34 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Leverage is the killer app of financial reform

Here's something that no amount of financial regulation will fix: bubbles. Bubbles have always been with us and they will always be with us, at least unto the seventh generation of cyborg-humans. Yea, verily. And there's nothing really wrong with...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 6, 2010; 9:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Is governance something we should only be able to do occasionally?

I'm not sure exactly how useful it is to have an argument in which Ross Douthat says "no, you don't really believe that," and then I reply, "yes, I certainly do," and then Douthat says "no, you don't," and so...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 6, 2010; 7:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Senate  
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Tab dump

1) The importance of regulating leverage. 2) James Fallows thinks that America can avoid decline if and only if it fixes its political system. 3) The first suicide bomber/blogger. 4) Cognitive weakness and financial services....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 6:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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The questionable value of campaign slogans

Because they're committed to transparency in practice, if not in theory, Matt Yglesias and Ben Smith took the discussion to Twitter. "Transparency in legislative process is badly overrated," Yglesias said, linking to Igor Volsky's post on the subject. "Much...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 5:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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A conspiracy so vast ...

Now the CIA is involved in measuring the effects of climate change....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 5:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Does the future belong to the Tea Parties?

David Brooks has an interesting column arguing that the Tea Parties are transforming themselves into a legitimate force in American life: The tea party movement is mostly famous for its flamboyant fringe. But it is now more popular than...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 4:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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The problems and promises of transparency

I'm conflicted over C-SPAN's request to televise all negotiations related to the merging of the House and Senate bills. On the one hand: Transparency! How can you be against that? Particularly compelling is their promise to "archive all of this...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 3:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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Why dog owners make the best citizens

Richard Kayman's paean to dog walkers describes my experience perfectly: I am not a dog person myself, but I am deeply appreciative of well-managed dog parks because in many urban neighborhoods, dog owners are some of the only regularly...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 2:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Urban Policy  
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I wrote this headline

It's probably impolitic to say this, but Michael Kinsley's broadside against the stylistic conventions of newspapers makes some good points. Call it the Jason DeParle problem: Would you rather read 10,000 words from Jason DeParle's books, magazine pieces, or newspaper...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 2:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Journalism  
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'Everybody wants to be where everyone is'

Ryan Avent on the tautologies of urban economics: The value in economically dynamic cities is the people that populate them. Where once, firms would pay high land prices to be near coal deposits or harbors, based on the economic...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 1:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Urban Policy  
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Lunch break

Did you know we're still in the window for the 12 Days of Christmas? Well, we are. Which means this rendition from Straight No Chaser is totally timely. As a general observation, virtually all songs could be improved by being...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Maybe George W. Bush did know something about health care

People don't bring this up very much, but one of the best ways to control costs in health care -- or any private sector, really -- is to have a huge recession. Robert Pear explains: Health spending topped $2.3 trillion...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 12:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Health Economics  
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Articles that make me believe America will not be a superpower in 50 years

Mark Halperin's list of five things President Obama did well in his first year and five things Obama did poorly in his first year is quite a document. As others have noted, the five things Obama did well, according...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 12:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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11 pages apart

Over at Politico, Carrie Budoff Brown gets hold of an 11-page document that House and Senate negotiators have drawn up to explain the major differences between the two bills. It's by far the clearest and most comprehensive comparison I've read....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 11:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Conservatives shocked by the political process

One of Mike Allen's "favorite conservatives" e-mails: "Think of any particular Republican favorite item. Imagine that it passed with a single Dem vote and affected 16% of the GDP. Then imagine Delay, Frist and Dick Cheney meeting in secret to...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 11:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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'There really are a lot of crooks out there'

Former New York Times economics reporter Edmund Andrews explains the lifecycle of his profession: When I was in journalism school many years ago, a professor remarked that business reporters often go through three phases of maturation. At the start, the...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 10:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Oaths before office

Adam Serwer rounds up five promises Obama has kept. As a general point, I don't really understand this idea that presidents should have to answer for the fact that Congress didn't send them legislation that they wanted to sign. I...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 9:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Nicking the watch off the hand that fed you

The banking industry is just impossibly shameless: [T]he banks that received the biggest taxpayer bailouts are seeking to reap trading profits from securities rescued by the government. Only months after it was started, the U.S. program designed to purge debts...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 8:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
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The power of growth

I've decided to become an Aughts revisionist: The decade just wasn't that bad. Particularly not worldwide. China and India had explosive economic growth, of course. But Brazil, Indonesia and a lot of other populous, poor countries had growth ranging from...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 5, 2010; 7:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Economy  
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Tab dump

1) I forgot to link to this when it was timelier, but David Brooks deserve props for a terrifically level-headed column on the panty bomber. 2) The net national savings rate is at its lowest point since the Great...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 6:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Giveaways that everyone should want

Looks like Nebraska wasn't the only special interest group -- and yes, states count -- to get a sweetheart deal in the health bill. Construction workers made out pretty well, too. Early versions of the Senate’s far-reaching health care bill...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 5:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Brit Hume: Spiritual adviser

I don't know what compelled Brit Hume to offer Tiger Woods spiritual counsel on national television, but he would've been better off speaking in tongues. At least no one would know what he had said: The extent to which...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 4:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
 
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Getting beyond ideology

Will Wilkinson has an odd rejoinder to my claims that polarization is beginning to break our consensus-oriented political system. To Will, this is all about good-faith disagreement. "It is not really surprising," he says, "that Democrats and Republicans disagree...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 3:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Government , Political Science , Senate  
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The Golden State begs

California is now begging for a bailout, though they don't want to call it that: California's political leaders, who are facing the daunting challenge of closing an estimated $20.7 billion budget deficit this year, are looking to Washington for help....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 3:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  California  
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The problem with loan modifications

Thus far, the Obama administration has aimed most of its housing policies at helping people keep the homes they currently own. But some think that's a bad idea, and we need to encourage people to get out of homes...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 2:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Housing Crisis  
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The folly of term limits

After I wrote my column on the problem of the filibuster, I got a lot of e-mails agreeing with the thrust of the piece, but urging term limits as the real answer to the dysfunctions of the Congress. After...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 1:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  California , Government  
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Lunch break

If there's a Grammy for "best use of Legos in a music video," the White Stripes are winning it....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 1:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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How to be happy

The answer, it seems, is turn 46 years old: For the past 10 years, I have been studying happiness around the world, in countries as different as Afghanistan, Chile and the United States. It has been an amazing foray into...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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No conference committee for health care?

Jon Cohn reports that Democrats may forgo a formal conference committee merging the Senate and House health bills in order to evade Republican obstruction of the motions that would be needed to begin a conference committee. This will be...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 11:49 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (46)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Think Tank: Krugman on crises, Obama's Afghanistan policy and the 'best of' the Urban Institute

1) The Urban Institute counts down its 10 best-read papers of 2009. Odds are you missed something on this list that's well worth reading. 2) Paul Krugman lectures on the causes of financial crises, and the difficulties economists have had...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 11:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Think Tank  
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Markets in everything

Bryan Caplan makes the case for selling children....

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 10:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Carbon taxes in theory and reality

The other day, I mentioned that France's Constitutional Council rejected a proposed carbo tax for being too chock full of exemptions. The policy had been compromised so far down that it violated the "principle of tax equality," which in France,...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 9:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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California's scary sneak preview

This column originally appeared in the Sunday business section. We Californians pride ourselves on the crystal-ball quality of our state. Auto emissions regulations, the tech boom and bust, Ronald Reagan, Hispanic immigration, the anti-tax revolt, the mortgage bubble, the...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  California  
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Good, but not good enough

Paul Krugman is not impressed (pdf) with the country's economic recovery: Despite the praise being handed out to those who helped us avoid the worst, we are not handling the crisis well: fiscal stimulus has been inadequate, financial support has...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 7:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Brasil!

The other night, some friends and I were batting around predictions for 2020. Mine was that Brazil would come into its own as a major power. It doesn't have the population of China or India, but it has the...

By Ezra Klein  |  January 3, 2010; 8:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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