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Ezra Klein: February 13, 2011 - February 19, 2011

Wisconsin's fiscal condition

As I wrote in the update to my original post on Wisconsin, my initial understanding of the way Gov. Scott Walker's tax cuts had changed his state's budget picture was wrong: They didn't add to this year's deficit, but to...

By Ezra Klein  | February 19, 2011; 4:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (59)
 
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Are Wisconsin's state and local workers overpaid?

"Republicans say that public-sector employees have become a privileged class that overburdened taxpayers," write Karen Tumulty and Brady Dennis. The question, of course, is whether it's true. Consider this analysis the Economic Policy Institute conducted comparing total compensation -- that...

By Ezra Klein  | February 19, 2011; 2:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (117)
 
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Weekend question

Almost forgot! Have you or anyone close to you belonged to a union? How did that change your impressions of organized labor in general?...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 7:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (58)
 
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Reconciliation

Recap: The specifics of what's being proposed in Wisconsin; public-employee unions aren't to blame for the state's deficits; and how Wisconsin's Senate Democrats are mounting an oddly traditional filibuster -- from Illinois. Elsewhere: 1) Why does college cost so much?...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 5:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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What do Virginia, Washington and Texas tell us about public-employee unions?

Earlier today, I linked to Reihan Salam saying that Virginia is a state where the public employees can't collectively bargain. He expands on the point at his blog and says the lesson of Virginia isn't just that the public employees...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 4:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Fleeing vs. filibustering vs. 60-vote requirements

Good point by Matt Yglesias: [W]hat’s happening in Wisconsin is more like a “classic” filibuster than a modern-style routine supermajority. The Democratic caucus of the State Senate can’t hold out forever, nor can they pull this every time Governor Walker...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 3:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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What's going on with state budgets

Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to destroy most of the public-employee unions in Wisconsin is being presented as a way to cut state budget deficits. It's not really that, for reasons I've noted previously. Another way to see that point is...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 2:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Lunch break

Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie perform Woody Guthrie's 'Union Maid':...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 12:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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What is actually being proposed in Wisconsin?

Reading the commentary, I think a lot of people are confused about what's actually being proposed in Wisconsin. So let's go through it. You can find Gov. Scott Walker's proposal here. It's called "the Budget Repair bill." The section that's...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 12:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (102)
Categories:  Unions  
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Less spending on government doesn't mean less government spending

Last night, House Republicans cut $131 million from the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Another proposal would slash a billion dollars from Social Security administrative budget. It fits the GOP's broader approach to cutting federal spending: the best...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 11:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Budget  
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How online retail is starving states

Speaking of state budgets, Kevin Drum brings up an important issue that's largely flying under the radar. One of the main ways state governments fund themselves is through collecting sales tax. But you can't collect sales tax on Internet retailers...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 9:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
 
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Unions aren't to blame for Wisconsin's budget

Let's be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions. That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 9:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (194)
 
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Wonkbook: Wisconsin heats up; Boehner risks shutdown; health care defunding begins

By Dylan Matthews Matthews is writing Wonkbook while Ezra is traveling. Top Stories Obama is siding with state workers in Wisconsin's state budget brawl, report Brady Dennis and Peter Wallsten: "President Obama thrust himself and his political operation this week...

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 8:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
 
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Reconciliation

Recap: Why Social Security is a likelier target for reforms than Medicare or Medicaid; a realpolitik argument for why John Boehner is running an unexpectedly open House; and why this might be a good moment for a "grand bargain." Elsewhere:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 6:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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A good moment for a grand bargain?

I take Digby's skepticism of grand bargains seriously. I also think that many in the GOP are cynically leveraging the deficit to argue for conservative policy priorities. As we've seen a couple of times now, when deficit reduction comes...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 3:42 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (31)
Categories:  Budget  
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A deal based on the Fiscal Commission would include higher taxes

There's a bit of talk about the Warner/Chambliss/Durbin/Crapo/Coburn/Conrad effort to make legislation out of the Fiscal Commission's final report. Jon Chait and Steve Benen are annoyed, however, to read in Jonathan Weissman's article that "the deficit commission's version of...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 3:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Budget  
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Lunch break

Life lessons from an ad man:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 1:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Rise of the robots

"Jeopardy!" master Ken Jennings got beat by IBM's trivia-playing computer Watson. Here's what he learned: Playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 11:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Does an 'open House' weaken the tea party?

Jon Bernstein wonders whether Speaker John Boehner's use of "open rules" -- which has allowed more than 400 amendments to the spending bill and led to a number of high-profile defeats for both Boehner and the House's more conservative bloc...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 11:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Congress  
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Busy Beck

Glenn Beck already has his own university. But now it looks like he's going to need to build his own search engine, too. Poor guy. When does he sleep?...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 10:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Handicapping a 'grand bargain'

When people talk about a "grand bargain," they tend to imagine Congress moving on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid simultaneously -- and perhaps tax reform, too. I think that's misguided. We're likelier to see the programs handled separately: Social Security,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 9:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Budget  
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What cities are

I haven't read Ed Glaeser's "Triumph of the City" yet, but this bit from Jon Gertner's 2006 profile of the Harvard economist makes me want to buy a copy, and quick: Cities, Glaeser often says, should be thought of...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 9:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Urban Policy  
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Wonkbook: Bipartisanship -- whether the two parties like it or not

To cadge an opening from NPR's 'This American Life,' the theme of this morning's top stories is bipartisanship -- whether the two parties like it or not. In the House, which is working its way through the 400+ amendments...

By Ezra Klein  | February 17, 2011; 6:21 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (62)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: Simpson-Bowles punted on more stuff than people tend to admit; you can't fix Medicare and Medicaid without fixing the health-care system; and John Boehner is throwing around false numbers, but I respect the effort he's making to run an...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 6:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Is John Boehner doing a good job as speaker?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy That was the topic of my segment last night with Rachel Maddow, and I've been thinking about it ever since. In the clip above, Maddow makes a detailed...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 5:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (38)
Categories:  Congress  | Tags:  Ezra Klein  
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How do legislators learn?

Referring to some comments made by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) about the budget deficit, Jon Bernstein wonders about the job "the Democratic Party policy network" is doing educating its elected officials on the basic facts of public policy. This is...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 4:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Congress  
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The hollowing of the middle in one graph

Gallup has new data out measuring the change in unemployment over the last year for workers with different levels of education. What you'll notice in the graph is that the number of jobs created has nothing to do with the...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 3:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Charts and Graphs, Economy  
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The problem is not MedicareandMedicaid. It's health care.

Paul Krugman has a line I like. "There is no such program," he says, "as Socialsecuritymedicareandmedicaid." When we talk about entitlement spending -- which I do fairly often -- we group together two separate and very different spending problems....

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 2:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (54)
Categories:  Health Economics  
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How policy stacks the deck against cities

There are three big anti-urban policy biases: pro-homeownership policies that push people from urban apartments into suburban homes, the subsidization of transportation infrastructure in low-density areas and our system of local schooling that pushes so many parents away from big-city...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 12:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Lunch Break

I've been reading Atul Gawande's "The Checklist Manifesto" and really enjoying it. So here's the man himself telling you how checklists could save the world, or at least your life:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 12:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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The (political) failure of Keynesianism

Interesting post by Alex Tabarrok arguing that Keynesian politics -- as distinct from Keynesian policies -- has failed pretty much whenever it's been tried, at least in liberal democracies. Keynesianism might be good economics, but persuading people that the right...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 11:13 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Economics  
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One less American citizen

Justin Bieber talks health care: The Canadian-born Bieber never plans on becoming an American citizen. "You guys are evil," he says with a laugh. "Canada's the best country in the world. We go to the doctor and we don't need...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 10:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
 
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John Boehner's funny numbers

John Boehner is getting a lot of attention, little of it positive, for saying, "Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 10:25 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Government  
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Was Simpson-Bowles really so great?

Bob Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is a calm, even-tempered guy. Imagine a budget appendix that gained the power of speech, and perhaps of bemusement, and you're pretty close. Monday was the first time...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 9:12 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Budget  
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Wonkbook: GOP promises their budget will include entitlement reform

The GOP says it wants to work with Obama on entitlement reform, and that the budget House Republicans are writing will give specifics on how. Obama says he wants to work with the GOP on entitlement reform, and that...

By Ezra Klein  | February 16, 2011; 6:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (33)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: The White House's two theories of how to remake social policy; the death of the gas tax; and the case for thinking Obama might well have his signature on a big deficit-reduction bill by this time next year. Elsewhere:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 7:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Can the White House tackle the deficit?

When it comes to the budget, no two people in town know more than Bob Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. And yet,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 5:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (49)
Categories:  Budget, Obama administration  
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Health care in Canada

I'm on record as having some problems with how the Canadians run their health-care system. In particular, I think it's good to have a floor for health care -- and that floor could be single-payer, as it is in Canada...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 3:42 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  Health of Nations  
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Americans think we're spending too much on defense, in one chart

From Gallup: So why are we spending so much on defense, and protecting it from real cuts even as Pell grants go under the knife? The problem isn't the polls. It's a learned understanding of the politics. Democratic presidents believe...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 2:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Budget, Polls  
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Lunch Break

Oliver Sacks details what hallucination teaches us about our minds:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 1:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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How penicillin fooled us

Perhaps it's the mark of a good book that after you read it, you begin seeing evidence for its thesis in lots of different areas. Since reading Tyler Cowen's "The Great Stagnation," I've been seeing a lot of support for...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 10:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (38)
Categories:  Books, Health  
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The death of the gas tax -- and of infrastructure investment?

Perhaps my favorite part of the budget is the Department of Transportation's section (pdf). Readers know that I think infrastructure investment is, at this moment, the biggest no-brainer in the economy. The need is great, the workers are plentiful,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 10:12 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Infrastructure  
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Is the NYT's web site worth billions?

If you assume "average revenue per user" is the right way to measure value, and the valuation on the Huffington Post is even in the general ballpark, then that's what you get: About 35% of the HuffPo’s users come form...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 9:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Journalism  
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The White House's 'two big theories of action'

Most of the commentary on the 2012 budget is focusing on the headline numbers: How much it cuts, how much it spends, and where it leaves deficits. There's been less attention to the new ways the administration is proposing for...

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 7:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  Budget  
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Wonkbook: Washington reacts to the budget

Today's sunrise marked the first dawn after the release of Barack Obama's proposed budget for 2012. Look closely, and you'll see the changes: Children no longer hold their parent's hand as they walk down the street. Cars drive backwards....

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 6:12 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (58)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: The U.S. Government: An insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army; it's as if the Fiscal Commission never happened; and the Defense Department won the budget. Elsewhere: 1) More on the Defense budget. 2) Why are Pell Grants...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 5:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Is the administration being too optimistic, cont'd

I mentioned earlier that the budget includes more optimistic economic predictions than what the Congressional Budget Office is using. This in turn makes the projected budget deficit smaller. In a briefing today, Austen Goolsbee explained where his numbers were coming...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 4:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Budget  
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Two budget dodges to watch for

Listening to the rhetoric surrounding the various budgets of Republicans and Democrats, a few things stand out: Republicans keep conflating cutting spending with cutting deficits. And it sounds to me like Democrats are banking on the fact that the public...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 4:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Budget  
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White House calls for Social Security talks

This hasn't gotten a ton of attention, but the budget includes a pretty explicit call for Congress and the administration to commence talks on Social Security reform. The administration even lays out its starting position: The President believes that we...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 3:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Social Security  
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The stimulus was small

At least when compared to the competition: This paper studies the patterns of fiscal stimuli in the OECD countries propagated by the global crisis. Overall, we find that the USA net fiscal stimulus was modest relative to peers, despite it...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 3:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Stimulus  
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Why cover the budget at all? (Plus: E2I2!)

A couple of readers have e-mailed to ask why I'm wasting all this time on a budget document that'll never survive negotiations with a Republican Congress. The answer, put simply, is that it's important to know what the White House...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 2:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Budget  
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2012 Budget: Agency-by-agency

My colleagues at the Washington Post have a great round-up of what the budget means for various federal agencies. It's worth heading over and clicking around....

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 2:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget blasts the White House

Shots fired: "It is encouraging that the Administration identifies some areas for real savings. However, the total level of savings is far short of what is needed and too many heroic assumptions are used to achieve them," said Maya MacGuineas,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 1:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Budget  
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The Defense Department won the future, or at least the budget

One of the big lessons of this budget is that if you work in the federal government, you want Defense Secretary Robert Gates on your side when the budget cuts come around. The military made out quite nicely in...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 1:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
Categories:  Budget  
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Lunch Break

'Low Budget' by The Kinks....

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 12:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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2012 Budget: Like the Fiscal Commission never happened

What was notable about the Fiscal Commission's final report was the way it opened up the playing field on the budget. It went after tax revenues, tax expenditures, the military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, domestic spending, government reform and more....

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 11:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (51)
Categories:  Budget  
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The U.S. Government: An insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army

American politics is one long argument about what government should or shouldn’t be doing, and how it should or shouldn’t be doing it. It’s rare that we step back, take in the larger picture and ask what it is...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 10:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  Articles, Budget  
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The president's 2012 budget

Download it here....

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 10:42 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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What are you paying for when you buy a loaf of bread?

Whatever it is, it's not wheat: In December, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a one-pound loaf cost an average of $1.386. How much of that was the cost of wheat? As best I can tell, a bushel of wheat...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 10:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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The polarization of the debt ceiling in one graph

This is a nice chart from the New York Times (using data Donald Marron posted here) showing that our system of government has broken down. But the thing it's supposed to be showing is how votes on raising the debt...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Budget  
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2012 budget: Got to admit that things are getting better

Stan Collender remembers the bad, old days: The weekend before the president's budget was released used to be a horror for those of us who either were involved in the debate or had to follow what was happening for some...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 9:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Budget  
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Wonkbook: Budget, budget, budget!

Happy Valentine's Day, Wonkbook readers: I know you said not to get you anything this year, but I saw the president's 2012 budget coming out and, well, I couldn't resist. Head here at 10:30AM EST to download it. You're...

By Ezra Klein  | February 14, 2011; 6:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (79)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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