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Ezra Klein: January 30, 2011 - February 5, 2011

'To form a government'

Matt Yglesias thinks the U.S. Constitution will cease to be operative at some point in our lifetimes. I don't know that I'd go that far, as Matt and I both have (hopefully) another several decades ahead of us, and predicting...

By Dylan Matthews  | February 4, 2011; 3:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (46)
 
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The case for government-funded journalism

What should we call dumb news stories that inspire smart debates? Sarah Palin's "death panel" comment was self-refudiating, but it galvanized a fruitful discussion about rationing Medicare spending and end-of-life choices. Rep. Joe Wilson's "you lie" outburst was a silly...

By Derek Thompson  | February 4, 2011; 1:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (46)
 
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Lunch Break

Ezra previewed the Dungeons & Dragons episode of Community earlier this week. It aired last night and was hysterical and, in typical Community fashion, oddly poignant. Here's a highlight:

By Dylan Matthews  | February 4, 2011; 12:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Is college always worth it?

Here's the higher education conundrum in a sentence: The benefits of college are growing, but the costs are growing faster. Each year, a college education becomes more valuable for U.S. workers. The college premium -- the "bonus" a typical college-educated...

By Derek Thompson  | February 4, 2011; 11:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (38)
 
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You need action to get a backlash

Johann Hari is a smart guy, but the idea that liberals should organize into a "progressive Tea Party" which takes cues from British protests against budget cuts is pretty wrong-headed.

By Dylan Matthews  | February 4, 2011; 11:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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If not the insurance mandate, then what?

Could health care reform survive without the mandate to buy health insurance? Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is mulling a plan to replace the legally controversial mandate with "an open-enrollment period for people who want to buy health insurance, and assess...

By Derek Thompson  | February 4, 2011; 10:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
 
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9%?

The unemployment news today is a mess. The news is bad. The data are downright mystifying.The unemployment rate dropped to 9%, down from 9.8% just two months ago. That's the largest two month decline in unemployment in 60 years. It...

By Derek Thompson  | February 4, 2011; 10:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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Wonkbook: $32 billion in cuts; decreased mortgage backing; efficiency initiative

Matthews is writing Wonkbook while Ezra is traveling. Top Stories House Republicans have proposed $32 billion in cuts, reports Lori Montgomery: "House Republicans pledged Thursday to slice more than $32 billion from agency budgets over the next few months, firing...

By Dylan Matthews  | February 4, 2011; 7:54 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Big money, small issues

Tom Golisano isn't a particularly big name with people who aren't New York political junkies. He's basically Ross Perot writ small. He's a billionaire who founded a third party (the Independence Party), ran for governor a few times and...

By Dylan Matthews  | February 3, 2011; 3:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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Are Obama's poll numbers dissuading challengers?

A week ago, I wrote that Obama's peculiarly high poll numbers didn't mean much for how he'd be polling in late-2012, but they might mean a lot for whom he'll be facing: That Obama's poll numbers looking surprisingly strong at...

By Ezra Klein  | February 3, 2011; 2:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Getting specific about discretionary cuts

Paul Ryan is beginning to show some leg on the budget he plans to propose for the rest of 2011. But I'm actually a lot less interested in 2011 than I am in 2012. Both the Obama administration and congressional...

By Ezra Klein  | February 3, 2011; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (43)
Categories:  Budget  
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Give me the green light

Businesses respond to signals, not speeches. High unemployment tells companies to hold off on production, and low interest rates tell companies to borrow, but State of the Union addresses don't have the power to tell companies to do anything. So...

By Derek Thompson  | February 3, 2011; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Courts are political, news at 11

Given all the hubbub over this week's health-care ruling, and subsequent debate over what motivates judges to embrace one reading of the Constitution over another, it's worth noting that there's a pretty solid political science literature on this, one...

By Dylan Matthews  | February 3, 2011; 10:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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The liberal case for cutting domestic spending

I'm a progressive deficit hawk. This is a good reason to be lonely and depressed. Lonely, because some progressives think the term deficit hawk is a pejorative, and many deficit hawks think progressives aren't serious. Depressed, because I have twice the cause to feel exasperated by Washington budget policy. First, Congress lacks the appetite for high-impact spending programs today. Second, it lacks the will to cut the deficit tomorrow.

By Derek Thompson  | February 3, 2011; 10:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
 
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How to think about rebuilding the middle class

The demise of our middle class might be the most compelling problem in U.S. economics. It lives at the heart of our debates about income inequality, U.S. competitiveness, tax policy, Social Security and so much more. Each of these debates...

By Derek Thompson  | February 3, 2011; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Economy  
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Vinson, line by line

There's a lot wrong in Judge Roger Vinson's ruling overturning health-care reform, much of which Ezra's covered in Wonkbook and on the blog. But three fellows at the Center for American Progress – Neera Tanden, who was one of reform's...

By Dylan Matthews  | February 3, 2011; 9:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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The case for Wyden/Brown gets stronger

As Dahlia Lithwick argues at Slate, I don't think anyone really knows where the Supreme Court will end up. But that's a point in favor of making contingency plans, not against. And it seems to me that the uncertainty...

By Ezra Klein  | February 3, 2011; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Wonkbook: Senate kills part of health reform, saves whole; lobbying stagnates

Matthews is writing Wonkbook while Ezra is traveling. Top Stories The Senate has rejected outright repeal of health-care reform, report David Fahrenthold and N.C. Aizenman: "On Capitol Hill, the battle over the health-care overhaul law has become a kind of...

By Dylan Matthews  | February 3, 2011; 8:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Reconciliation

Recap: The depressing reality of our health-care debate; the legal fight over the individual mandate is not about liberty; and a surprising poll showing what voters want from Congress over the next two years. Elsewhere: 1) The full testimony (pdf)...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 6:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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The tyranny of 1792

In South Dakota, Rep. Hal Wick introduced a bill mandating that the state's residents purchase firearms so they could protect themselves. But he's not serious about it. “Do I or the other co-sponsors believe that the State of South Dakota...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 5:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (33)
 
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Republicans vs. 'Obamastroid'

The Onion explains how Washington really works: In a strong rebuke of President Obama and his domestic agenda, all 242 House Republicans voted Wednesday to repeal the Asteroid Destruction and American Preservation Act, which was signed into law last year...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 4:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
 
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What do Americans want from Congress this year?

Incentives for alternative energy, it seems:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 3:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Polls  
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The fight over the individual mandate is not about liberty

Whatever the legal argument about the individual mandate is about, it's not, as some of its detractors would have it, a question of liberty. Charles Fried, Ronald Reagan's former solicitor general, put this well at Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing....

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 3:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (75)
Categories:  Health Reform, Legal  
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Lunch Break

Community is really killing it this season:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 1:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Will health care go to the Supreme Court?

A conservative legal scholar and friend writes in to say that I've been too quick to predict that health-care reform will end up in front of the Supreme Court: There remains a very good chance that this will not end...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 12:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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Hatch vs. Fried

For all that I appreciate Congress's decision to webcast committee hearings, actually watching them can be a depressing experience. After hours of persuasive expert testimony this morning, I saw no evidence that any senator, from either party, had changed positions...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 11:24 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Appreciating Congress's Web savvy

Aside from restaurant Web sites, there's perhaps nothing uglier than the messes of clip art and beveled buttons that pass for congressional Web pages. But there is one way in which Congress is truly Web-savvy, and fairly under-appreciated for it:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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The reality of our health-care debate

I don't mind having a conversation about replacing or reforming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I think we could do better than PPACA. Wyden-Bennett, for instance. Or dusting off Richard Nixon's plan and using that instead. What baffles...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 10:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (82)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Wonkbook: Simpson-Bowles making a comeback?

Read through Wonkbook today and you'll see four fairly difficult fiscal climbs beginning in Congress. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is looking to enforce a ban against earmarks; Claire McCaskill and Bob Corker want to set...

By Ezra Klein  | February 2, 2011; 6:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: An interview with the father of the individual mandate; an idea for Mitt Romney; and the two policy questions driving the legal battle over health-care reform. Elsewhere: 1) Do deficits steal from our children? 2) Behavioral economics and the...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 6:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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The policy questions behind the legal questions

Some of the legal questions related to the individual mandate are, at least partially, policy questions. In particular, what does the individual mandate do? And can the law stand without it? The argument conservatives are making right now is that...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 5:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (93)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Convention placement doesn't matter

The Obama administration announced today that the 2012 Democratic Convention will be in Charlotte, North Carolina. This has been taken as evidence that the Obama administration is worried about North Carolina, confident in North Carolina, or otherwise focused on North...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 4:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Political Science  
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Does health-care reform tax home sales?

I get a steady stream of e-mails asking that question. Apparently, there's a chain letter going around that says, among other things, "IF YOU SELL YOUR $400,000 HOME, THIS WILL BE A $15,200 TAX." Yes, the caps are in the...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 3:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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An interview with Mark Pauly, father of the individual mandate

In 1991, economist Mark Pauly was the lead author of a Health Affairs paper attempting to persuade President George H.W. Bush and his administration to adopt a universal health-care proposal that would keep the government from eventually taking over the...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 3:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Health Reform, Interviews  
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Lunch Break

Life lessons from a New Yorker cartoonist:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 12:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Why are the anti-ACA rulings getting so much coverage?

Steve Benen runs the numbers and shows that the judges who have ruled against the Affordable Care Act (two of them) have gotten a lot more coverage than the judges who've ruled for the bill (also two of them). "In...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 11:57 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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An opportunity for Mitt Romney?

I think Ben Smith is right that if the fight over health-care reform moves from the Congress to the courts, Mitt Romney's viability in the Republican presidential primary improves dramatically: During last year's debate, Romney struggled to distinguish the...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 11:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  2012 Presidential  
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The 'weak link' in Vinson's decision

In Wonkbook today, I linked to a couple of legal analyses of Judge Roger Vinson's decision, including one by Ilya Somin that explained Vinson's reasoning this way. "Vinson concedes that the individual mandate is 'necessary' under existing Supreme Court precedent,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 10:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Legal  
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'That is what it does'

I'm a big fan of Dropbox, a service that easily allows you to store large amounts of data in a folder you -- or others you give the password to -- can access from any computer connected to the Internet....

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 10:23 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Tech  
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The Senate vs. the future

If historians ever have to pinpoint the day that America lost the future, they're likely to look to last Thursday. That was when Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the Senate...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 9:21 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (31)
Categories:  Senate  
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Wonkbook: What the Vinson ruling means

Wonkbook today has plenty of analysis -- both political and legal -- of Judge Vinson's ruling against the Affordable Care Act. The bottom line of much of it is that the fate of the legislation is now, as it...

By Ezra Klein  | February 1, 2011; 6:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (46)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: Reviewing "The Great Stagnation"; how to encourage pharmaceutical innovation; Ronald Reagan didn't make America conservative; and a judge ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Elsewhere: 1) It's true that the administration's legal arguments have undercut the argument that the...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 7:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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Does health-care reform stop cold?

That's the big question. On page 75, Judge Vinson says that he thinks his decision is sufficient to stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the 26 states named in this suit. If he's right, it's not just implementation...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 6:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (64)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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What happens if conservatives succeed in undermining the ACA?

The legal theory currently in vogue in conservative circles holds that the Constitution's vision of "a central government with limited power" -- to use Judge Vinson's phrase -- permits the government to establish a single-payer health-care system that every American...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 5:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (39)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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GOP judge rules against Affordable Care Act

Roger Vinson, the second Republican judge to rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, has, as expected, ruled against it. More surprising is that he's decided that the presence of the mandate means the rest of the law must...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 3:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (111)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Why high deductibles don't work for the sick

One of the cost control experiments we've been attempting in recent years has been to increase the amount that individuals pay upfront for medical care in the hopes that this will lead them to make wiser and more judicious decisions...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 3:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Did Reagan change America?

Conventional wisdom holds that Ronald Reagan ushered in a new, conservative moment in America. But what's the evidence for it? Brendan Nyhan quotes political scientist James Stimson, saying that if Reagan did anything, it was to quickly take advantage...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 2:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
 
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Lunch break

"Bohemian Rhapsody" as you've never heard it before:...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 1:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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'The Great Stagnation,' Part III: Is innovation really slowing?

The key to all of Tyler Cowen's arguments in "The Great Stagnation" is that innovation -- or at least innovation that boosts the economy -- is slowing. The graph above is reproduced in his e-book, and it comes from...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 1:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
 
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How much do we need to export to create one job?

It took $165,000 of exports to support a single job in 2008, according to a report by the Department of Commerce, compared with GDP per worker of only about $100,000 in that year. Via the Economist....

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 12:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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What is being whispered in Jon Huntsman's ear?

Can someone sketch me out an even moderately plausible scenario in which a moderate Republican governor who broke with his party on civil unions and cap-and-trade and then joined the Obama administration wins both the GOP nomination and the presidential...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
 
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Wanted: Better drugs

I often complain that "innovation" is a fuzzy concept that's difficult to talk about in a concrete way. That gets less true, thankfully, when you zoom in on specific industries. Then it becomes easier to identify specific problems and...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 12:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Delivery system reform, Health Reform  
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'The Great Stagnation,' Part II

Karl Smith disagrees with Tyler Cowen. The problem isn't with innovation, he says. It's with us: To the extent we are throwing money at unproductive uses, is this a supply problem as Tyler posits or a demand problem, as I...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Books  
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Is a 'libertarianized' welfare state better than libertarianism?

That's what card-carrying libertarian Will Wilkinson thinks: Libertarian influence on Republican thinking about social policy often does hurt the poor. Libertarians are politically most constructive when offering “second-best” welfare-state alternatives to the status quo -- social security personal accounts, education...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 10:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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Is this what conservatives are reading about health-care reform?

I can't tell whether this column by Mona Charen is an uncommonly sophisticated deception or simply confused: President Obama has budgeted $635 billion for Obamacare over the next decade. Even those not given to panic, like the CBO, estimate that $1.2...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 10:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (58)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Did Mitch McConnell really call himself

"The abominable no-man"?...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 9:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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'The Great Stagnation'

Book reviews tend to force the author to combine two questions that don't go very well together. The first is, "Should you read this book?" The second is, "What do I think about the thesis of this book?" So in...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 9:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Books, Inequality  
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Wonkbook: Egypt and the economy

The remarkable uprising in Egypt is beyond Wonkbook's purview. But its roots in the country's recent economic performance and its likely impact on the global economy is not, and so that's the focus of today's top stories. But there's...

By Ezra Klein  | January 31, 2011; 6:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
 
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