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Ezra Klein: April 25, 2010 - May 1, 2010

Introducing Wonkbook

Longtime readers know that I've wanted to improve this site's ability to aggregate policy news and commentary for a while. I even hired Dylan Matthews to help me do it. The problem was that adding more posts each day buried...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 6:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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The predictable tragedies of Arizona's anti-immigrant law

I think the conservatives who've decided to leap to the defense of the Arizona law need to think a bit harder about why Republican governors like Texas's Rick Perry and Florida's Jeb Bush (ex-governor, I know) are loudly opposing...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 5:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  Immigration  
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Chickening out of problem solving

I've managed to ignore Sue Lowden's recommendation that people barter for medical care by offering their doctors chickens, largely because by the time I actually noticed the comment, all the funny jokes had been made. But Eugene Robinson musters a...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 5:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Not your father's financial system

In my interview with Sen. Carl Levin today, he said that "the nature of Wall Street's function has changed. They still argue that they're providing capital and stimulating innovation, and to some extent they are. But there's been a significant...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 4:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Oil spill an inside job?

If Rush Limbaugh was on the far left, he'd be a 9/11 truther. As it is, he's on the far right, and has decided to become an oil-spill truther: I want to get back to the timing of the...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 3:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (67)
 
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Sen. Carl Levin: 'We ought to eliminate the damn synthetics'

Sen. Carl Levin chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and has used it not only for Tuesday's hearing on Goldman Sachs, but for previous hearings on the ratings agencies, the mortgage issuers and more. We spoke earlier today about Wall...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 1:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Financial Regulation, Interviews  
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Reform first, then enforcement

The politically plausible debate on immigration reform seems to range from enforcement only (Republicans) to enforcement first (Democrats). Over at Cato, Daniel Griswold proclaims this backwards: Requiring successful enforcement of the current immigration laws before they can be changed is...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 12:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  Immigration  
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Lunch break

This 330-square-foot apartment that can transform into 24 separate rooms sure seems like the future......

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 12:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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A clearinghouse for ratings agencies

It seems like the rating-agency problem should be simple: Right now, the banks pay them to rate their securities. That creates a conflict of interest. Solve that conflict of interest and you've solved the problem. Sadly, Kevin Drum has...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 12:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Democrats, Republicans just can't quit Wall Street money

To think clearly about the overriding importance of money in campaigns, consider the degree to which politicians will court political disaster in order to raise a few more bucks. A couple of weeks ago, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn took...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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Tom Toles is worth a thousand words

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 11:13 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Is a biometric, national ID card an immigration game changer?

The Democrats' immigration-reform proposal (pdf) is 26 pages long. Pages 8 through 18 are devoted to "ending illegal employment through biometric employment verification." I don't think the Democrats are going to like me calling this a biometric national ID card,...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 10:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (50)
Categories:  Immigration  
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Like it or not, the 2010 election is now (substantially) about immigration

The Democrats' immigration plan is based on a simple compromise: Restrictionists get increased border security, reformers get a path to legalization. And the compromise is in that order, too: The legalization path doesn't kick in until eight separate security...

By Ezra Klein  | April 30, 2010; 9:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (107)
Categories:  Immigration  
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Reconciliation

Today, I interviewed Sen. Lindsey Graham about the politics of climate change and immigration, looked at whether reconciliation could work for a climate bill, and applied the 'incompetence dodge' to FinReg. Here's what I didn't get to: 1) Insiders, outsiders,...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 6:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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A great explanation of Goldman's Abacus deal

In a post the other day arguing that investment banks don't have to advise clients against making trades that the bank itself wouldn't make, I appear to have given the impression that I thought Goldman's Abacus deal a perfectly acceptable...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 4:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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The problem of international action

One thing that scares me about the Greece situation -- and about financial reform more generally -- is that corporations and markets and banks and panics are much, much more international than governance is. As slow as it is for...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 4:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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Is resolution feasible?

Putting aside the actual merits of breaking up big banks (I'm actually not convinced that this is the most important priority), I often read people remarking on how imposingly difficult it would be to do. These banks are complex and...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 4:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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The incompetence dodge

I was talking the other day with some very smart Hill types who were saying that the big issue in financial regulation is the need to attract a better class of regulator. The Federal Reserve needs more money, more prestige...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 3:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Lunch break

Reader DB sends in the Weepies' "Can't Go Back Now." I love me some puppets. And some reader-contributed lunch breaks....

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 1:42 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Chat transcript

Apologies for forgetting I was chatting, starting 15 minutes late, and ending 20 minutes early. JV performance on my part. Reston, Va.: Please explain to me why it's a bad thing that Goldman and its lobbyists are "frozen out" of...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 1:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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The Senate Democrats' immigration proposal

Politico has a copy. I haven't read it yet, but have been advised to think of it as a starting point for discussion rather than a firm outline of coming legislation. I'll say more when I know more....

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 12:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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Sen. Lindsey Graham: 'I care equally about immigration and climate change'

Sen. Lindsey Graham has been in the news this week for threatening to vote against the climate bill he's crafted if the Democrats move on immigration reform this year. Given that Graham is the only Republican on either bill,...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (42)
Categories:  Interviews  
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Tom Toles is worth a thousand words

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 10:51 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Obama to name Fed appointees -- will anyone care?

President Obama's finally making his Fed nominations official: The White House on Thursday will tap Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, to be the board's vice chairman, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Peter Diamond and...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 9:23 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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Could reconciliation work for the climate bill?

The contretemps between Lindsey Graham and Harry Reid derailed the planned roll-out of the climate bill, but that doesn't mean the legislation is any less done. And so behind the scenes, it's been sent to the EPA to be...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 8:23 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Greece

I wasn't following Greece's travails very closely and now it seems almost too late. So I'll refer you over to Felix Salmon and Paul Krugman, both of whom have informed and pessimistic takes on the matter. Things look grim, and...

By Ezra Klein  | April 29, 2010; 7:51 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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Reconciliation

Today I wrote a long post on the Medicare "doc fix" and wondered whether the amount of Republican and Democratic agreement on FinReg was a good thing; but the most important thing I did was discover Super Mario Crossover. Here's...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 6:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Republicans fold on FinReg filibuster

It turns out Republicans were more interested in threatening a filibuster than in actually filibustering. Harry Reid didn't even have time to break out the cots. Shortly after Democrats announced they were going to force Republicans to stay there all...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 5:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Gross: 'Ignore what Wall Street has to say about financial regulation'

The FinReg conversation tends to go something like this: Reformers propose to bring some new product, like derivative swaps, into the same regulatory and trading process that has worked for everything else. Banks start screaming that reformers don't understand their...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 3:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (56)
 
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The case for a bank tax

I'd go further than David Leonhardt does in my support for a bank tax: He sees it as an insurance policy for taxpayers. There will be financial crises, our money will be on the line, so the tax acts...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 3:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Super Mario Crossover

I don't know how to adequately express the awesomeness -- and the productivity-killing potential -- of this. It's Super Mario Brothers. But you can play it online. And you can swap Megman, Link, Samus, one of the guys from...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 2:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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One more time with the Medicare 'doc fix'

At the fiscal summit today, Rep. Paul Ryan argued again that the Affordable Care Act is a deficit-buster because the cost of the Medicare doc fix wipes out the savings from the bill. This blog has talked a lot about...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 1:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Will the Kentucky Derby end the Republican filibuster of FinReg?

Word is that the Democrats might make the Republicans actually filibuster FinReg tonight. That is to say, stand on the floor and talk and talk and talk. And if the Democrats are serious about forcing the Republicans to really...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 12:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (40)
 
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Lunch break

The Ooks of Hazard cover MGMT's “Kids” using seven ukuleles, an accordion and a cajon. The instruments give the dance song a sort of mournful, contemplative air. (Thanks to reader BM for the link. And the rest of you should...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 12:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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What Congress thinks is radical often isn't radical

Just heard Bill Clinton say that "if they would've created a public option to compete with insurance companies, it would've helped" save money in the health-care system. Meanwhile, a Federal Reserve staff paper opposing Blanche Lincoln's plan to spin derivative...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 11:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Doing a bit on the deficit beats doing nothing

I think the popular understanding of our long-term fiscal problem is that the problem is that politicians keep voting to spend more money and raise less money and that we'll get the situation under control when they get serious and...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 11:21 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Budget  
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Rep. Paul Ryan: 'A lot of waste' in defense spending

I'm at the Peterson Foundation's Fiscal Summit today, and one of the big themes is "everything on the table." As part of that, Rep. Paul Ryan got asked about defense spending. "There are a lot of savings you can get...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 10:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Republicans and Democrats agree on financial reform -- but is that a good thing?

The important takeaway from the Republican FinReg proposal is that they ... basically agree with the Democrats. At least on the big-picture stuff. They agree that the correct questions for financial reform are "how much information, and how much power,...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 9:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Wall Street giving more to GOP for the first time since 2004

For all that Republicans think Democrats treat Wall Street with kid gloves and quick bailouts, Wall Street appears to prefer the warm embrace of the Republican Party. Though in true Wall Street fashion, they're making sure to hedge their bets....

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 7:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Have you seen The Post's new politics home page?

The word you're looking for is "snazzy."...

By Ezra Klein  | April 28, 2010; 7:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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The Republican FinReg proposal

So the Republicans have a FinReg proposal of their very own. Damian Paletta has the summary, Annie Lowrey has the full text. Snap reaction: It's really similar to the Dodd proposal! You can take that one of two ways. Optimistic...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 9:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Reconciliation

Today I looked at the way conservatives keep terms such as "death panel" and "bailout" alive even after the original arguments have been disproved, destroyed my future in electoral politics by defending Goldman, and thought hard about KFC's Double Down...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 6:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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The trial of Bob Bennett

Over the course of the health-care reform debate, no one confused me more than Sen. Bob Bennett. As co-sponsor of Wyden-Bennett, Bennett was clearly concerned about the issue and knowledgeable its particulars. And he could see -- as we all...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 5:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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The physiology of naps

Austin Frakt updates us on the latest in nap research: Turns out lying down is better than leaning forward, but both are better than nothing. This is good for Frakt, a skilled napper. "As few as five minutes of shut-eye...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 4:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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Retconning, death panels, and bailouts

"Retconning" is, well, a nerd term for "the deliberate changing of previously established facts in a work of serial fiction." Say you want to change Captain America's creation myth to accommodate the plot of a new storyline: Rather than rail...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 4:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Re: The KFC Double Down

A reader writes in with more thoughts on the Double Down debate: Missing in the debate about KFC's Double Down Chicken Sandwich is a comparison of the double down to traditional dishes. The Double Down is a reinterpretation of...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 3:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (40)
Categories:  Food  | Tags:  Double Down, Fast food, Fried chicken, KFC, KFC Double Down  
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Should we nationalize the ratings agencies?

Kevin Drum says that the issue with the ratings agencies is more complicated than people realize. Obviously it's a problem that the ratings agencies are paid by the banks whose products they're rating. But, Drum says, the common solution...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 1:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (43)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Lunch break

Did you know there are seven species of robots?...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 12:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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In which I ruin my bright electoral future

Carl Levin's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is currently interrogating some hapless Goldman Sachs employees, and Susan Collins is making them squirm by asking whether an investment bank has a duty to act in its clients' best interests. I'll take...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 12:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
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David Brooks: Centralizer

At its base, the Dodd bill gives regulators more information to see when a financial firm is in trouble and more power to force them to get out of trouble. In practice, that will probably mean forcing them to raise...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 11:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  | Tags:  David Brooks, N. Gregory Mankiw  
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Fix the ratings agencies!

Annie Lowrey -- who, I'll remind you, is listed on my census form as "unmarried partner" -- has an article running through some of the various amendments that senators are hoping to make to Dodd's financial regulation bill. This caught...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 10:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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KFC needs to lay off the weak sauce

The Boston Globe's editorial page gets punchy: If the American public is serious about rejecting all sensible dietary guidelines, KFC completely fails to deliver. The Double Down poses as the atomic bomb of artery-clogging, but it’s really just a...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 10:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Food  
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The 'might-speak-Spanish' exception

Eugene Robinson isn't mincing words on Arizona's new immigration law. It's "racist, arbitrary, oppressive, mean-spirited, unjust," he writes. "About the only hopeful thing that can be said is that the legislation, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed Friday, goes so...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 10:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
 
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Remember the Cornhusker Kickback?

Well, we almost had the Buffett Buy-Off. Buffett, here, is Warren Buffett, the Omaha-based investor who prevailed on his state's senior senator to insert a provision exempting existing derivatives contracts from the new collateral requirements. Sound complicated? All you...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 9:12 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (73)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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The Federal Reserve and the banks join forces against Blanche Lincoln's derivatives proposal

The banks, of course, aren't big on Blanche Lincoln's idea to spin derivatives-trading desks out of the banks. Particularly the big banks, which as you can in the graphic atop this post, pretty much control the market. But it...

By Ezra Klein  | April 27, 2010; 7:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Reconciliation

Today, we went long on the shadow-banking sector that caused the financial crisis, made the case for Lindsey Graham's anger at Harry Reid, made the case for Harry Reid's dismissal of Lindsey Graham, and tried to ferret out "epistemic closure."...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 6:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Towards a unified-field theory of the financial crisis

Commenter Yahnik pleads: First I read David Frum's article where he states that the crisis was because of major consumer debt and China and it's wheeling and dealing with it's currency. Then, I hear on TV that it's because of...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 5:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Think Tank: Derivatives explained, spending cuts made specific

1) This Congressional Research Service report on derivatives is probably the clearest thing anyone has ever written on the subject -- myself included. 2) Did financial illiteracy contribute to the subprime crisis? Seems so: "Twenty percent of the borrowers in...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 4:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Think Tank  
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Does the Senate need collateral?

It may just be because I'm tired today, but I think the problems of the shadow-banking sector are actually an interesting way to think about Lindsey Graham (pictured) and the Democrats. Consider again the way that the institutional banking...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 4:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Explaining FinReg: Shadow bank runs, or the problem behind the problem

On June 20, 2007, Ben Bernanke said that the subprime crisis “will not affect the economy overall.” That wasn't a one-time slip: He'd also said that "the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 3:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Explaining financial regulation  
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The big winner from immigration reform

If there is an immigration reform battle this year and the Republican base does do terrible damage to the party's relationship with the fast-growing Hispanic electorate, how much likelier is it that Marco Rubio -- assuming he wins his...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 1:28 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
 
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Re: Measuring epistemic closure

Henry Farrell says it has been done: Take levels of political awareness (i.e. respondents’ ability to answer questions about which party has more members in the House etc) as a proxy for exposure to political information (both biased and...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 12:58 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Filibustering the legislative process

As it looks like all 41 Republicans will filibuster financial reform today, it's worth being clear about what, exactly, they're filibustering. First, they're not filibustering the bill itself. The Senate hasn't looked at the bill. In fact, it hasn't even...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 12:58 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Lunch break

Some tips for surviving life's most stressful arena: the high-five zone....

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 12:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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You wouldn't like Harry Reid when he's canny

As my earlier post suggested, I'm sympathetic to Lindsey Graham's argument that the Democrats are being cynical in moving immigration ahead of climate change. He was doing something very hard by being the sole Republican on this bill, and they've...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 12:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (29)
 
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Did financial illiteracy contribute to subprime crisis?

It makes intuitive sense that complicated mortgage products would pose the most danger the borrowers who were least able to understand them. But did that intuition bear out in the real world? Sadly, yes. According to a new paper by...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 11:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Housing Crisis  
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You wouldn't like Lindsey Graham when he's angry

If the policy inside the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham climate change bill seem to have finally come together, it looks like the politics are about to come apart. In a move that's surprised pretty much everybody, Harry Reid and the White House have...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 10:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (80)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Highlights, lowlights and strategy in the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham climate bill

Juliet Eilperin offers a bullet-pointed list of 10 highlights (and Brad Plumer comments). She also previews the political strategy, which is heavy on demonstrating industry support. The Edison Electric Institute -- whose members generate the bulk of the nation's...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 9:09 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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How do you measure 'epistemic closure'?

"Epistemic closure," Julian Sanchez writes, is the toxic result of "confirmation bias plus a sufficiently large array of multimedia conservative outlets to constitute a complete media counterculture, plus an overbroad ideological justification for treating mainstream output as intrinsically suspect." It...

By Ezra Klein  | April 26, 2010; 8:17 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (31)
 
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