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You've got questions and Dylan Matthews, improbably but reliably, can find answers.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 22, 2010; 11:09 AM ET
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Next: Policy matters, but it's not the only thing that matters


I would like to know if we elect more Democrats to the Senate do we get more legislation or less.

Posted by: VMzJxah | June 22, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

This Heritage "research" says that the Bush tax cuts are only responsible for 14% of the deficit. I've seen graphs that show them to be the majority of the current problem (along with wars and the tanking economy)

Are they wrong?

What would the deficit be if the Bush tax cuts never went through?

Posted by: scottseattle | June 22, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

When "they" say Social Security is running out/bankrupt does that include the trillions in IOU's? How much exactly has gov't "borrowed"? Whats it's status if that money is included?
Tell JC hello.

Posted by: howardkay | June 22, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I component of health insurance I am interested in is incentives for healthy life styles (i.e. higher rates for smokers, discounts for people you join a gym or exercise). Is this used to set health insurance rates currently and is it a part of the new health care legislation in some way?

Posted by: mwalsh1 | June 22, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Hey Dylan! Here's a question: Inflation has been essentially flat here for a while. I was wondering, if Europe wasn't such a mess - if the euro hadn't been performing so badly against the dollar - would we be experiencing *deflation*?

I'm just wondering to what extent the euro's troubles are masking ours.

Posted by: roquelaure_79 | June 22, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I repeat my last question about how the price of a gallon of gasoline is set. How many cents for drilling? Profit? Tax? Speculation? Etc.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 22, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

In round numbers, what would the deficit look like if the tax code had remained as it was at the end of the Clinton administration: No Bush tax cuts, no "Death tax" hiatus. Also, how would the long-term deficit outlook change if we simply restored the tax code to what it was when Clinton handed over the keys?

Posted by: paulgottlieb | June 22, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Recently Rachel Maddow did a piece on the impossibility of the notion of "energy independence" due to the global market in oil. I get this, and that the real problem is using too much oil rather than not producing enough domestically to cover our needs. But I can imagine questions remaining from the "drill baby drill" crowd. One argument (for "energy independence") is we don't want all that money going to dictators of petro-states. Well, even in a global market, if we produce more (and US companies take the profits from that more) then doesn't that reduce the profits of the "bad guys"? As long as money is being made from oil production, why shouldn't we be making it, rather than them?

Posted by: Clara3 | June 22, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Why will Dylan "improbably" have the answer? He's a smart guy -- I don't think there's anything improbable about it! Keep up the good work.

Posted by: nathanhuttner | June 22, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

In the previous response earlier today it was mentioned that financial firms had 45% of all corporate profit. To what extent is that profit "new," due to a value generated by the financial services, and to what extent is it zero sum--if you got rid of some of the financial instrumetns and cut down on their activities, that profit would end up in some other companys' (or individualss) pockets?

Posted by: dt4211 | June 22, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Germany has the lowest level of unemployment in the European Union, less than 5%. What can the USA or a country like the UK do to become more like Germany?

Posted by: albamus | June 22, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

In answer to Scottseattle, article from Center For Budget Priorities: "Where Today's Large Deficits Come From." "Together, the tax cuts account for $1.7 trillion in extra deficits in 2001 through 2008, and $3.4 trillion over the 2009-2019 period. Finally, we added the extra debt-service costs caused by the Bush-era tax cuts, amounting to more than $200 billion through 2008 and another $1.7 trillion over the 2009-2019 period — and $330 billion in 2019 alone." You've got to wade through this and distinguish between yearly fiscal deficits & the accumulated national debt.

Posted by: famattjr | June 22, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Is it true that more conservative states receive a larger percentage of money for social programs?

Posted by: joemomma1 | June 22, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Anyone do a serious study of what EFCA woud do for the economy?

The obvious things seem to be:
1) push up wages (mid-term),
2) reducing SS and Medicare shortfalls, and budget shortfalls,
3) reducing inequality, and
4) probably bolstering growth -- since lack of demand is always our problem now-a-days.

I'd specifically be interested in budgetary impacts, but I do not know that this work has been done.

Posted by: rat-raceparent | June 22, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

How many middle income federal-tax payers does it take to support each deadbeat? That is, given a specific income level, (a) how many federal-tax payers exist, (b) what is the total amount contributed by these federal-tax payers, and (c) how many individual (welfare, food-stamp, and medicaid recipient) deadbeats are supported by the amount collected? Secondly, is there a case where a deadbeat in one state actually receives more in total handouts than a minimum wage earner (or median wage earner) in another state?

Determining the number of individuals isn't straightforward, as some individuals extract all three handouts while other individuals only demand one or two.

Posted by: rmgregory | June 22, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

As federal and state welfare programs have ramped up in the face of the recession, how many more dollars have they been spending above and beyond their typical expenses? In other words, how much invisible, automatic stimulus have they contributed?

Posted by: dylanbrady | June 22, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Re: Deadbeats: this is a question of fraud. What's the fraud rate of various government programs, compared to private systems, like shoplifting, employee theft, embezzlement, US contracts fraud (like military procurement) and insider trading? Is fraud again tax payers much worse than in the private sector?

What about "legal fraud"- gaming the system to that you're acting w/in the letter of the law but not its spirit (like McDonalds Corporation making use of employee training grants and loans designed for small businesses)?

Posted by: Lonepine | June 22, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Filibuster- I know this has been discussed to death, but I still don't understand:

1. Why is merely the threat of filibuster able to kill legislation?
2. What would happen if people who wanted to filibuster would actually do so? What would that mean?
3. In which cases is a filibuster a good thing? Like, Dems now hate it; when did they love it?
4. What are some of the proposals on the table to reform the filibuster rule and who's pushing for them? What chance do they have (might they not get filibutered?)

Posted by: Lonepine | June 22, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I have lots of questions about immigration, and a desire to see all sides of the public debate about illegal immigration driven by more facts and fewer myths, for example:

o How many illegal immigrants are there in the United States?

o How many LEGAL citizens in the United States are the children of parents who were illegal at their time of birth?

o How many people (legal and illegal) are there in the U.S. today as a result of illegal immigration, as a percentage of total population? How has this number changed over time?

o Same question as above, only substituting "workers" for "people."

o Where are they?

o Where do they work, and what do they earn, relative to local and national averages? What percentage really are "migrant workers" or "migrant farm workers"?

o Where have they come from? Over time?

o What do we know about their genders, ages, educational levels, language abilities and other demographics?

o Is the illegal immigrant community really composed of many different communities, for example, is there a community of immigrants who stay and another community that reliably returns to their native homes?

o Is there any kind of consensus among economists either that (1) America "needs" (illegal) immigrants to perform certain jobs that Americans aren't willing to perform at particular wage rates (what would happen to such jobs and related industries without the immigrants?), or (2) America does NOT need (illegal) immigrants to perform certain jobs that they currently perform but to the exclusion of legal Americans who want those jobs?


o What do voters in the United States think (i.e., opine) about these issues, not just in broad terms, but on more specific issues, and not just D versus R, but also young versus old, educated versus less so, etc?

o Same question as above, substituting "know" (as in facts) for "think" (as in opine)?

o What have been the trends with respect to knowing and thiking about these issues?

I could go on, but that's a start.

Posted by: paul65 | June 22, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Are church pensions going to be better protected, under the financial reforms about to pass? My mom will retire in a couple years, from a hospital-based nursing career. Like most hospitals, hers is run by a religious organization. 'Church-based pensions' like hers are not required to have pension insurance. (Most pensions are required to have federal insurance, so if the pension funds are mishandled or the business goes bankrupt, the pensioneers are safe: unfortunately people who work at hospitals run by religious orgs aren't protected.) With the new (ACA) medical insurance changes, hospitals and insurers are making major financial changes. Currently, many hospital workers' pensions are in danger. I hope the financial reforms will have some new protections that will mean her pension will be safe! Currently she has two options to consider when she retires: take a risk on her monthly pension payments (which may disappear, because there is no pension insurance), or else take a lump sum and then buy an annuity which would give her only 2/3 as much per month (and also isn't insured). I hope you'll have good news for us, Dylan!

Posted by: LoriWisconsin | June 22, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I've consistently heard about the VA hospital system providing better quality of care and being far more cost-effective than private hospitals. Is there evidence for this or is what I'm hearing incorrect?

Posted by: shelata | June 22, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

The Tax Foundation claims that "Americans will pay more taxes in 2010 than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined." True?

Posted by: tjstutman | June 22, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

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