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There are no stupid questions. Only unresearched ones.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 16, 2010; 11:11 AM ET
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What is the AMT? Why don't they just pay the regular income tax?

Posted by: Nellcote | July 16, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I don't have any questions, just want to mention that I love the tagline. I always tell my students on the first day of class, "the only stupid question is the one that goes unasked."

Posted by: HankGreene | July 16, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

What is the median annual wage being paid to the 3,000,000 employees with jobs saved or created by the $800,000,000,000 stimulus package? What federal tax revenue is expected from these same wage-paying jobs?

Posted by: rmgregory | July 16, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Why do people opposed to raising taxes on the rich invoke "small business owners"? If a SBO makes $500K why is his or her income different than anyone else's $500K? And if it's the small business making $500K isn't it reported as business income not personal income?

Posted by: Justwondering14 | July 16, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I admit this is non-quantifiable, but does the fact that Dems are not going to be able to use budget reconciliation next year seems like it might bode well for filibuster reform? Has anyone tried to figure out if this has something to do with the lack of a Dem plan to pass a budget?

Posted by: MSPMatt | July 16, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Research question: what is the source document for the Robert Stavins-attributed graph on cap and trade that has appeared a couple of times in this blog, including at ?

Posted by: bdballard | July 16, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

We know that additional stimulus (monetery, fiscal) would reduce the severity of the recession. Is there any reason to think it would reduce the *duration*? Is stimulus an iron lung or a defibrillator?

(One possible lead: in his Lionel Robbins Memorial Lectures at the LSE, Krugman explained Minsky's idea that recessions that follow financial crises typically don't have a robust recovery until everyone has paid off all the debt they unwisely racked up during the boom)

Posted by: Anno3 | July 16, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

What's the political history of the 90% top tax bracket? A graph I saw on good ol' Wikipedia suggests the high tax bracket correlated with World War I, World War II, and maybe the Great Depression in between.

But, how could that have been sold? Time of crisis? I can't imagine rich folk in the 1940s taking 90% lying down. Was it an easy sale? Was there a backlash at the time? Or, was the backlash the Reagan Revolution? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: pbasso_khan | July 16, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

There's a lot of talk about the extent to which community banks do the lending to small businesses that, in turn, will stimulate job growth and it occurs to me this is a knowable value. As in, what is the distribution of small business loans by bank size? Also, what is the new regulatory burden by bank size?

Posted by: ThomasEN | July 16, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Considering all of the worry about the deficit in Washington, how would the estimated budget for say 2013 look if military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq had ceased (not sure how much it costs just to have a minimal number of troops there), the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire, the Estate Tax was reinstated, and the unemployment rate was back to around 8% bringing in additional tax revenues (based on the average salary of what another 2% of the country would earn)?

I don't think we need to make hasty draconian cuts. There are basic steps we can take to bring the deficit to a manageable number fairly quickly without touching entitlement programs. Once the above is done, then we can move to entitlement reform when times are better.

Posted by: jetrain | July 16, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I remember the stimulus bill in '09 being criticized for rolling out over several years, so where are we at in terms of overall stimulus spending to date? Does the administration still have some money at its discretion that was appropriated in '09? Could spending the rest of the stimulus money more quickly improve the unemployment numbers in the short-term or is that even feasible?

Posted by: wcdatx | July 16, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

How much oil/gas taken from US soil AND in the Gulf of Mexico is exported out of the USA?

Posted by: Lomillialor | July 16, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

On a stupidness scale, how stupid is today's David Brooks' column about Mel Gibson? (I opened it hoping for a column about Mel Brooks)

Posted by: bdballard | July 16, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

for Lomillialor above, not much

Posted by: bdballard | July 16, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Lomillialor, this is even better; play with the dropdowns

Posted by: bdballard | July 16, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse


Not sure how to interpret all that data.

"not much" doesn't answer my questions, but tks for the links.

Posted by: Lomillialor | July 16, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Are there any serious attempts being made — procedurally or legally — to abolish or alter the Senate's rules on the filibuster?

Posted by: tomcammarata | July 16, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

We know that Gore has made millions and millions buying into stocks and advocating policies that would cause the share prices to rise on them. It seems now clear that there will be "carbon barons" -- people who make their fortunes off of energy regulation. What are some other "reforms" off of which selected people can rake in big bucks? Is healthcare reform another area in which reform entrepreneurs can prosper? What about financial regulatory reform? For which officials will this be a windfall, the way the environment and energy were for Gore?

Posted by: truck1 | July 16, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

What's Krautahammer talking about with
"Medicare and Medicaid. But Obamacare freezes these out as a source of debt reduction. Obamacare's $500 billion in Medicare cuts and $600 billion in tax increases are siphoned away for a new entitlement -- and no longer available for deficit reduction."

Posted by: famattjr | July 16, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I was hoping that you could outline the arguments FOR austerity right now. I am firmly in the camp that cutting spending at this time is a bad idea and somewhat self-defeating, but am interested in reading an outline of what exactly the case for fiscal austerity is. I read the arguments from those in that camp and honestly cannot figure out what facts/data they are based on...

Posted by: aboyum | July 16, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

So I heard everyone warning of the coming lost decade, but haven't we just emerged from a lost decade? 0% job growth from 2000 to 2010, -4% change in net household worth, etc. Shouldn't we be warning of a lost "score", not a lost decade.

And wouldn't a lost "score" suck?

Posted by: PaulArkay | July 16, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you need to take a closer look at potential candidates for Consumer Financial Protection Agency (i.e., let's assume it's NOT Elizabeth Warren...then who?) and find out what Liz Fowler's going to be doing in her new job now that she's left Baucus's staff for HHS OCIIC.

Posted by: benintn | July 16, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

How much federal money has been dispersed to states and localities through Community Development Block Grants since their creation in 1974?

Posted by: msantow | July 16, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I've gotta say, to RM Gregory who posted about the stimulus... remember that $288 bln of that was TAX CUTS for every working family making less than $250K a year. Remember also that about a third of the $879bln total was for aid to state and local budgets. So in reality, we're only talking about roughly $250bln that's being used to create those 3,000,000 jobs (and that's of course only part of the money going to jobs, since part of it is also going toward materials costs and stuff like that).

Posted by: benintn | July 16, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

With regard to energy legislation, I'm wondering whether Democrats have considered introducing a deficit-neutral bill that places a tax only on oil/gas (but not carbon writ-large). Certainly this would move us toward a greener economy (even if it fell short of putting a price on all carbon emissions)and might bring the few "national security" republicans on board concerned with our dependence on oil (particularly in the wake of the BP spill).

A cap and trade bill seems unlikely now and if the GOP takes the congress back there's a chance we would't get ANYTHING done. Is this a viable compromise?

Posted by: jamesdyett | July 16, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Does Medicare cover the Left Ventricular Assist Device that former VP Cheney had implanted last week? Do private insurers ever cover it, and if so under what conditions?

Posted by: guesswhosue | July 16, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Do you think the taste of so many in the administration for living large, living expensively, while calling on others to make "tough choices", have "skin in the game" and "sacrifice" will open them to charges of hypocrisy? Of the multitude I could cite, let me name Ezekiel Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi (not in, but close to, the administration), the entire Pelosi family, the Axelrods, and so many other multi millionaire plutocrats.

Posted by: truck1 | July 18, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

What's the actual cost to our economy of our excess incarceration rate? Excess compared to, say, the rate of the second highest developed nation, or the average of all developed nations?

What's the cost of our excess gun violence? If gun control is unconstitutional, is a gun tax (based on that cost) constitutionally defensible? (Not, of course, that it would ever happen.)

Posted by: AlanSF | July 19, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

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