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Ezra Klein: April 11, 2010 - April 17, 2010

Reconciliation

Today I looked at four possible goals for financial-regulation reform, doubted the existence of a middle way on obesity and considered whether Goldman Sachs has become the Anthem Blue Cross of FinReg. Here's what I didn't get to: 1) Goldman...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 6:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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A '50-50' chance that the Senate passes a climate change bill this year?

Steve Pearlstein thinks there's a "50-50" chance that the Senate passes a major energy bill this year. Many in the environmental community have come around to Kerry's view that this is the best shot they are going to have...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 5:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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A question about derivatives

I'm going to do a series next week explaining the various elements of financial reform, as I think this debate has moved a whole lot faster than public understanding. But for the purposes of this post, it's worth very quickly...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 5:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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'The Wall Street Transparency & Accountability Act of 2010'

Blanche Lincoln's derivatives bill is up. It's called "The Wall Street Transparency & Accountability Act of 2010," and you can get the text, the summary, and the section-by-section here. And it's good timing for Lincoln: The Goldman Sachs fraud filing...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 3:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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Is now a good time to get rid of the mortgage interest tax deduction?

Mark Calabria argues that the current moment of low home prices, low interest rates and broad recognition that it should not be official government policy to push people into bigger and bigger homes is ripe to eliminate the mortgage interest...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 3:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (34)
 
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Three questions about the Goldman fraud filing

Confused about the SEC's fraud filing against Goldman Sachs? You're probably not alone. Let's try this two ways. First, let's play it straight: Goldman Sachs let hedge-fund manager John Paulson select the subprime-mortgage bonds that he thought likeliest to explode...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 2:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (47)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Is Matt Taibbi speechwriting for the White House?

Remember when Matt Taibbi made waves for calling Goldman Sachs "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity"? Well: Last night, at a fundraiser in Florida, President Obama demonstrated just how hard he plans to take it to...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 1:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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McConnell doesn't have the votes to filibuster FinReg. Yet.

Looks like Mitch McConnell is having some trouble holding Senate Republicans to a filibuster strategy on financial reform. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) does not have enough solid commitments from GOP lawmakers to block consideration of a Democratic...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 1:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Which of these four goals is FinReg supposed to accomplish?

This is a pretty important question, I think, and not one that there's any real consensus on. I can think of at least four things that you'd want to do with financial-regulation reform, some of which overlap, and all of...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 1:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Lunch break

Consider the octopus....

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 12:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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The rich are like you and me -- but so much richer

NPR's Planet Money posts some IRS data that allows us to compare the 400 richest Americans' income and tax payment: "The Top 400 are considerably more talented than the rest of us," writes Matt Yglesias. "And this decline in their...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 11:42 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (32)
Categories:  Inequality  
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Bill O'Reilly is insecure

It's one thing to be an ideologue willing to lie for your cause. It's a whole other to be embarrassed about being an ideologue willing to lie for your cause. So c'mon, Bill O'Reilly: Have some pride! Just for the...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 11:13 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
 
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Is there a middle way on obesity?

As I've now heaped a lot of praise on Marc Ambinder's article on the obesity crisis, let me offer up some criticism, too. In the beginning, Ambinder engages in a bit of unfortunate even-handism. "Each side is held in...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 10:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
Categories:  Health  
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Exciting appointment speculation!

Jon Kingsdale (pictured) is the founding executive director of the Massachusetts Connector. That is to say, he built and runs the insurance exchange at the heart of the Massachusetts health-care reform. And as Alec MacGillis reports, he's resigning. "In...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 9:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Economists split over inflation

"When asked what presents a bigger risk over the next year, 23 economists said accelerating inflation and 23 said slowing inflation." That comes from the Wall Street Journal's forecasting survey, and is probably making life really interesting inside the Federal...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 8:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Economy  
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Morning bummer

Good morning! You know, it's supposed to be 74 degrees today here in Washington. And my taxes are done. And it's Friday! Yep, I'm looking forward to the weekend. In fact, everything's really going swimmingly this morn- The European Central...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 8:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Reconciliation

Today I interviews Sens. Mark Warner and Bob Corker, tried to clarify the confused discussion over the taxes paid by the poor, and gave Blanche Lincoln props for sending a long-overdue "shudder" through Wall Street. Here's what I didn't get...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 6:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Can the market help solve the market's problems?

Christopher Papagianis, a former special assistant for domestic policy to George W. Bush, has a smart critique of the Dodd bill's approach to executing systemically important, failed banks. His critique, essentially, is that it doesn't do enough to hurt...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 4:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Sheila Bair: Dodd bill 'makes [bailouts] impossible'

As head of the FDIC, Bush appointee Sheila Bair is in charge of dismantling failed banks. As The Hill wrote, Bair has been fiercely critical of the pro-bank shape of the financial rescue. "Market discipline," she's said, "must be more...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 4:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Blanche Lincoln's derivatives proposal 'sent shudders through Wall Street'

Blanche Lincoln is really preparing to lay the smack down on the derivatives market. The proposal by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who chairs the Agriculture Committee, sent shudders through Wall Street. For nearly two decades, five U.S. banks --...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 3:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Why does high-tax N.Y. have so many rich people?

Here's my question for folks who think slight changes in marginal tax rates will drive rich people to move to another country: How do you explain New York? According to the Tax Foundation, it's got the second-highest tax rates in...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 3:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (55)
Categories:  Taxes  
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Sen. Mark Warner: 'We're creating death panels'

I used some excerpts from this interview with Sen. Mark Warner yesterday. But I didn't want to do the thing where I get a senator on the record for half an hour and get him talking about his broad...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 2:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Financial Regulation , Interviews  
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Re: Federal income taxes and the poor

Reading the continuing discussion on whether the poor pay enough in taxes, I think people are probably getting increasingly confused. So let's get one thing straight: There's no federal income tax bracket of 0 percent. If you're making income, you're...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 1:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Taxes  
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Lunch break

Lord Adair Turner, chair of the British Financial Services Authority, brutalizes conventional economic and financial thinking. Mike Konczal calls the speech "fantastic. Like, really great." Plus, he's British, so he's fun to listen to....

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 12:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Mike Donahue is a hard worker

Lots of people are making fun of financial adviser Mike Donahue's cry for understanding, and for lower tax rates. I will join them. Since I graduated in 1983, I have been in straight commission sales and have had many 60-...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 11:57 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
 
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Sen. Bob Corker: 'The bill as it now is written allows ... bailouts in perpetuity'

In negotiations stretching from the spring of 2009 to February of 2010, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) worked together to agree on financial-regulation bill. Their work produced the resolution authority section of Dodd's legislation, which is to...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 11:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  Financial Regulation , Interviews  
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The jobless recovery, explained

Annie Lowrey brings the data: Wondering what’s behind those recent jobless recovery numbers? 1. Fortune 500 companies tripled their profits to $391 billion in 2009. 2. They also slashed their payrolls by more than 800,000 jobs. There's been a lot...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 11:26 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Sens. McConnell and Cornyn go to Wall Street

It's stuff like this that makes me think Wall Street executives aren't very smart. As a financial reform bill starts to take shape in Washington, two key lawmakers came to New York City last week to explain what it means...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
 
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Andy Stern: The exit interview

Andy Stern is the president of SEIU, a service employees union with 2.2 million members. He led the breakaway unions that split from the AFL-CIO and formed Change to Win, and he's been a key political player during the...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 6:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Interviews  | Tags: Andy Stern, Service Employees International Union  
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Wall Street recovery going swimmingly

So, for a long time, financial industry profits made up a huge share of the nation's total profits. Then the financial sector blew up the economy and its share of total profits dropped, as you might expect. And now? As...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 2:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
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Do the poor really pay no taxes?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cThat's Tarifficwww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party As Jon Stewart details in the clip above, some in the media have fastened on a Tax Policy Center report saying that 47...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 2:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (31)
Categories:  Taxes  
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Lunch break

In honor of tax day tomorrow, here's a World War II-era propaganda cartoon Disney did for the federal government to persuade Americans to pay high, wartime taxes. "Now what are you going to do? Spend for the Axis? Or save...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 12:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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The new White House social secretary

Washington seemed to think the resignation of Desiree Rogers, the old White House social secretary, an event of some note, prompting a wonderful outburst from Paul Krugman. But as Howard Fineman argues, there's actually something substantively interesting about her replacement,...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 12:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Sen. Mark Warner: Mitch McConnell 'either doesn't understand or chooses not to understand'

When Sen. Mitch McConnell said that the Senate financial-regulation bill meant "endless taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks," he was, knowingly or not, taking aim at a policy that had been jointly developed by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.)...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 11:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Senate dispatch

Dana Milbank notes the quiet passage of an important milestone. For anniversaries, the 50th is golden. But as Republicans returned to town on Monday to mark their 50th filibuster of this 111th Congress, there were no reminiscences about filibusters past,...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 10:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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A fast recovery? Or a slow one?

Neil Irwin has a good piece taking issue with the sudden spurt of economic optimism. The question, he argues, isn't whether we're recovering. It's how fast we're recovering. Three quarters after recovery began in the 1981 recession, GDP growth...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 9:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Economy  
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Tom Toles is worth a thousand words

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 8:06 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Financial reforms moving fast

Health-care reform, I often whined, moved too slow. But it's worth taking a step back and noting how remarkably fast financial regulation is going. Compare the timelines of the two: Barack Obama held the White House summit that officially kicked...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 14, 2010; 7:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Reconciliation

Today I wondered why the experts and the staffers are so much more split on financial-regulation reform than they were on health-care reform, asked after the Republican alternative to endless bailouts and interviewed labor economist Larry Mishel about when the...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 6:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Blanche Lincoln to get tough on derivatives?

Contrary to most everyone's expectations, Blanche Lincoln appears to be developing, well, a really strong set of regulations on derivatives. According to Politico, she dropped her efforts to cooperate with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) after he balked at putting standardized...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 5:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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The structural forces behind obesity

"Obesity is an almost inevitable consequence of living with our cultural norms, our history of agricultural production and subsidies, our long-standing socioeconomic inequalities, and the impact of technology on our behavior and bodies," writes Marc Ambinder in a terrific Atlantic...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 5:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Health  
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Thomas Keller explains why it's hard to have a great restaurant in Abu Dhabi

The French Laundry's Thomas Keller is widely considered America's finest chef. And like a lot of fine chefs, he's had some lucrative offers to open a restaurant in Abu Dhabi. But as he tells Eater.com, it didn't work out, and...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 4:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Food  
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Larry Mishel: The recession is not over

Larry Mishel is a labor economist and president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. Earlier today, I spoke to him about the possible end of the recession and the economic outlook for next year. There's been a lot of...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 4:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Economy , Interviews  
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McConnell's FinReg alternative

Responding to my post asking after Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell's alternative proposal to end bailouts, reader Dan B. comments: I think the implied alternative is a fire brand and populist, "let them FAIL!". However unserious this is from an...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 3:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Wanted: Bossier union bosses

News that SEIU Pesident Andy Stern is stepping down has produced a lot of predictable takes and political eulogies, but this one's actually fresh: Natasha Vargas-Cooper, a former SEIU employee, argues that Stern's problem was that he was never ruthless...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 3:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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What's the Republican alternative to bailouts?

"If there’s one thing Americans agree on when it comes to financial reform, it’s this," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Never again should taxpayers be expected to bail out Wall Street from its own mistakes. We cannot allow...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 2:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Lunch break

Jonathan Klein -- no relation -- talks about some photos that changed the world....

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Wall Street reform vs. financial regulation reform

I spent 2009 and the beginning of 2010 reporting on health-care reform. I talked to a lot of experts and a lot of Hill and administration sources. And they were all pretty much interchangeable. Whether it was George W....

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 11:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Lower deficits aren't always better deficits

David Cho's story that the deficit is running significantly lower than it did last year has provoked a fair bit of controversy. On the one hand, the Office of Management and Budget doesn't like to see midyear numbers floating around,...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 10:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Budget , Economic Policy  
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Fighting back against Citizens United

This seem like a smart way to blunt the impact of the Citizens United ruling: The White House and leading Democrats in Congress are close to proposing legislation that would force private companies and groups to disclose their behind-the-scenes financial...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 9:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Contracts are sacred only when rich people are getting paid

Shahien Nasiripour reports that J.P. Morgan plans to go hard against policies to modify underwater mortgages because contracts are sacred documents premised on the borrowers' "promise to repay." This struck one union employee as a bit odd: After all, the...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 8:55 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (49)
 
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The White House picks a fight on derivatives

Timothy Geithner has an op-ed in today's Washington Post arguing that "as the Senate [financial regulation] bill moves to the floor, we must all fight loopholes that would weaken it." But the loopholes he's arguing against haven't actually been unveiled...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 13, 2010; 7:53 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Reconciliation

Today I wrote about why Democrats might want to put immigration reform on the agenda, took a skeptical look at the idea that health-care reform has 10 years of taxes for six years of benefits, and looked at why Americans...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 6:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Filibustering the court (or not)

Watching the debate around the possible filibustering of the president's next Supreme Court nominee has been interesting: Consensus is that a filibuster on a Supreme Court nominee is less likely than on major pieces of legislation. In fact, later...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 3:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
Categories:  Senate  
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Why Americans are angry

Last week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka went to Harvard to deliver a speech on why working people are angry. It's worth a read: For a generation, our intellectual culture has suggested that in the new global age, work is...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 2:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Economic Policy  
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Trouble for housing?

Robert Shiller -- yes, of the Case-Shiller Housing Index -- thinks there's more pain in store for housing. Today, we need to worry about strong headwinds, as the government begins to withdraw its support of a still-troubled lending industry and...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 1:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Lunch break

Bet Against the American Dream from Alexander Hotz on Vimeo. It is a truth universally acknowledged that when “This American Life” devotes an episode to the financial crisis, you should drop what you're doing and listen to it. Their latest...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 12:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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The Affordable Care Act does not have 10 years of taxes for six years of spending

One of the odder arguments that Republicans made against the Affordable Care Act was what David Brooks termed "the 10-6 dodge." As he put it, "one of the reasons the bill appears deficit-neutral in the first decade is that it...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 12:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (48)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Think tank

(1) How financial innovation leads to financial crises. (2) Fannie Mae's survey of American attitudes toward housing. (Bonus: An astonished Felix Salmon comments!) (3) Jon Gruber makes the case for the individual mandate. (4) Raghuram Rajan's prescient 2006 paper arguing...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 11:33 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Think Tank  
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Processed food vs. fresh food; U.S. vs. the world

This New York Times graphic breaking down the consumption of different types of packaged and non-packaged food in different countries is too big to reproduce here, but well worth taking a couple of minutes to stare at. But though...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 11:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Food  
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Orrin Hatch open to Hillary Clinton for high court?

"I even heard the name Hillary Clinton today, and that would be an interesting person in the mix [for Supreme Court]," Sen. Orrin Hatch said on the "Today" show. "I happen to like Hillary Clinton, I think she's done a...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 10:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
 
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The political case for immigration reform

I'd say it's pretty unlikely that comprehensive immigration reform happens this year. But then, who cares what I think? Harry Reid is in charge of the Senate, and he says he's got 56 votes, and it's gonna happen. “We...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 10:09 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (61)
Categories:  Immigration  
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Making April 15th a better day

About 90% of Americans used either tax preparers or tax-preparation software in 2009. That's insane, particularly when you realize that a substantial minority of Americans either don't pay income taxes or have a very simple filing. But when people...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 9:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Taxes  
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Are happy times here again?

Business Week's Mike Dorning says that the economy is recovering much more swiftly than the political system, which tends to focus on polls, realizes. A Bloomberg national poll in March found that Americans, by an almost 2-to-1 margin, believe...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 8:19 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
Categories:  Economy  
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How financial innovation causes financial crises

In a new paper called "Financial Innovation and Financial Fragility" (pdf), Nicola Gennaioli, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny offer an uncommonly clear explanation of how "financial innovation" leads to financial crises. While reading this, keep in mind that the subprime...

By Ezra Klein  |  April 12, 2010; 7:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Financial Crisis , Financial Regulation  
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