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Ezra Klein: February 20, 2011 - February 26, 2011

Reconciliation

Recap: Organized labor is in the hands of the teacher's unions; government spending cuts are depressing GDP growth; and how Medicare supports entrepreneurship. Elsewhere: 1) The New York Times examines public-worker pay and finds, again, no evidence that they're overpaid....

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 5:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (40)
 
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'American politics increasingly resembles a kind of total war'

Ron Brownstein's column on the unusual role Republican governors are playing in Washington's conflicts is important to read. His conclusion is both chilling and obviously, undeniably, true: Whatever the governors’ motivations (one man’s posturing, after all, is another man’s principle),...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 4:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  Legal  
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How to run America like a business

Matthew Yglesias has a plan: If you’re trying to look at America from a balance-sheet perspective the problem is very clear. It’s not “entitlements” and it’s not “Social Security” and it’s not “Medicare” and it’s not “health care costs” it’s...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 2:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (36)
Categories:  Immigration  
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How Medicare -- and health-care reform -- help with 'job-lock'

One of the theoretical problems with our health-care system is that it discourages entrepreneurship. We get health care at a subsidized rate, with no discrimination for preexisting conditions, from our employers. But if we leave our jobs, we lose that...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 2:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Health Economics  
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Where the teachers unions go, the union movement will follow

I keep thinking about something Andy Stern told me Wednesday. Organized labor "seem like a legacy institution and not an institution of the future," he said. "And legacies get shed." Harsh words. But he's right, of course. Insofar as...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 1:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (63)
Categories:  Unions  
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Lunch Break

The music is a bit cheesy, but the shots of human beings putting on a suit and, essentially, flying, are pretty amazing:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 1:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Americans don't like politics -- and that matters

Most people don't pay much attention to politics: To get a sense of what politics is like for many Americans, I suggest thinking of something that you do encounter in some way all the time, but that you just have...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 12:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
 
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Where's the competition in higher education?

Interesting point from David Leonhardt: If someone asked your grandparents 50 years ago to name the country’s best colleges, they would have come up with a list that looks very much like the list you’d come up with today. Can...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 10:33 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
 
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Everyone likes lists

The 11 things you'll learn about economics if you read 20 of the profession's most influential papers. Here's my favorite: 9. The average bill for surgery in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1953 was $99....

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 9:49 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Who is holding the economy back?

Grim GDP news today: We'd thought GDP grew in the fourth quarter of 2010 by 3.2 percent. We were wrong. According to the released today by the Commerce Department, growth was closer to 2.8 percent. That's not nearly enough to put a dent in unemployment.

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 9:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (76)
Categories:  Economy  
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How do unions affect state spending and taxation?

Two interesting graphs from Barry Pump. The first looked into whether there's a clear correlation between union density and the progressivity of a state's tax system. There wasn't: This next graph is slightly confusing: it's looking for a relationship between...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 8:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Unions  
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Wonkbook: Senate Dems announce their own spending cuts

We're days away from a possible government shutdown, and the messages the two sides are offering are becoming more clear. The Republicans are the side that wants to cut. "It sounds like Senate Democrats are making progress towards our...

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 6:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (75)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: Andy Stern on the future of labor; the worst thing for an unemployed worker is another unemployed worker; and some pessimism about cooking. Elsewhere: 1) Avik Roy argues against Judge Gladys Kessler's ruling upholding the individual mandate. I'm linking...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 6:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
 
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Health-insurance industry: Still not that profitable

The health-care sector is absurdly profitable. According to this data at Yahoo Finance, the sector-wide profit margin is 21.5 percent. But the insurance industry is one of its least-profitable parts: Its profit margin is at 4.54 percent. Hospitals are also...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 4:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
Categories:  Health Economics  
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Cooking pessimism

I'm going to make a confession: I never bring my own lunch. For every five days I spend at work, I purchase five prepared meals from a nearby restaurant. It's not that I don't know how to cook, or that...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 4:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Food  
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Can you win the future without reducing war?

Erik Voeten notes that the one governmental institution dedicated to advancing our understanding of how to resolve international conflict non-violently is likely to get its funding cut: The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to cut nearly all funding...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 3:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Budget  
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How the media covers court rulings on the ACA in two charts

Nancy Pelosi's office is sending this around, and it's worth posting: The graph is based off of data Steven Benen pulled together. As I've written before, I'm sympathetic to the argument that pro-ACA rulings simply ratify the status quo and...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 3:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Health Reform, Polls  
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Why should Wal-Mart concede anything?

In our interview earlier today, Andy Stern painted an appealing picture of a world in which labor and the employers they seek to organize saw themselves as partners rather than mortal enemies. A smart friend in the labor movement writes...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 3:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Comparing the Daley machines

From John Judis's excellent look at the transformation of Chicago, and what it tells us, or doesn't tell us, about the sort of mayor Rahm will be: Here’s something that is important to know about Richard M. Daley: After his...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 2:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Unemployed public workers are bad for the economy

David Leonhardt posted the chart above to prove that there hasn't been a surge in government hiring, and he's right. But I also think the chart above speaks to what's driving the events in Wisconsin: a perception that people...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 2:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (29)
Categories:  Economy  
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Lunch Break

How to save a face (warning: includes some disturbing, albeit ultimately inspiring, photographs):...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 12:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Scott Walker understands power, part II

More evidence that Scott Walker isn't driven by deficits: Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, says that concern over his state's relatively modest budget crisis motivates his drive to strip public-sector employees of their ability to bargain collectively. And yet, he...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 11:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (39)
 
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Did John Boehner accidentally make a shutdown more likely?

John Boehner got some plaudits -- including from me -- for permitting an open amendment process on the House spending bill. But as Jon Bernstein notes, that process may have had the unintended consequence of making a government shutdown...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 10:54 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Congress  
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Scott Walker understands power

Thought Scott Walker's effort to reshape the balance of power in Wisconsin began and ended with his initiative to yank collective-bargaining rights away from public-employee unions? Think again. As my colleague Jennifer Rubin points out, he's using the absence of...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 10:07 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (77)
 
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Andy Stern: 'It may not end beautifully in Wisconsin.'

Last year, Andy Stern retired as the president of SEIU, the service employees union that he'd built into a 2.2 million member heavyweight. During his tenure, Stern was known -- and sometimes reviled -- for his efforts to reform...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 8:21 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (35)
Categories:  Interviews, Unions  
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Wonkbook: One step closer to shutdown?

Senate Democrats do not seem impressed with the proposal House Republicans have drawn up to delay a government shutdown by two weeks at the cost of $4 billion in immediate cuts. "This isn't a compromise," said Reid spokesperson Jon...

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 6:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (33)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: What a prank phone call proves about Wisconsin; Jamie Galbraith talks countervailing powers; and how long can Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hold out? Elsewhere: 1) Steve Pearlstein gives away all our tricks. 2) An economic analysis of over-the-top wine...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 6:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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The mood in Wisconsin

Eric Kleefeld reports from Gov. Scott Walker's news conference: The first questioner asked Walker whether he could be trusted to negotiate in good faith, given he had discussed with "Koch" methods of tricking the Democrats into coming back to the...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 5:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
 
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Do most senators really see themselves as possible presidents?

"It's still the case that most Senators see a president when they look in the mirror," writes Jon Bernstein, "and that continues to be an important ingredient that helps make the Senate what it is." You hear this all the...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 4:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Senate  
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'It’s got to be better than this devil-may-be marketplace'”

Hmmmm: A senior Patrick administration health care official said Friday that a single payer system may work more effectively and efficiently than Massachusetts’s existing insurance market, a high-profile endorsement that raised eyebrows at a legislative hearing. “I like the market,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 3:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Predicting state budget deficits in two graphs

You might already have seen this graph John Sides drew up to test whether there is an obvious correlation between the strength of public-employee unions and state budget deficits. There isn't: He's got some further graphs and commentary over at...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 2:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Charts and Graphs  
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National Democrats weren't that concerned about unions before Wisconsin

Josh Barro points out that there's some hypocrisy in Barack Obama's support for the workers in Wisconsin: The scope of collective bargaining for federal employees is sharply limited. They are forbidden to collectively bargain for wages or benefits; instead, raises...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 2:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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How long can Scott Walker hold out?

Mother Jones's Andy Kroll has been doing some great reporting from Wisconsin, and he runs through four of the possible endgames here. They are: 1) The bill passes. 2) The collective-bargaining ban gets dropped. 3) A weird procedural effort to...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 1:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (142)
Categories:  Unions  
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Lunch break

This is the cutest kid in the world:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 1:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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What a prank call proves about Wisconsin

Gonzo journalist Ian Murphy noticed one of Wisconsin's Senate Democrats complaining that Gov. Scott Walker was impossible to reach on the phone. So Murphy came up with a prank call: He posed as right-wing financier David Koch and called Walker's...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 12:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (135)
 
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Jamie Galbraith: 'The government is not, by any means, a pure representative of the working population.'

The events in Wisconsin are bringing the idea of "countervailing powers" back into the discussion. The concept comes by way of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who was trying to understand an economy where the competition was not between lots of...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 12:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Interviews, Unions  
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Another judge rules the individual mandate constitutional

This time it was Judge Gladys Kessler in the D.C. Circuit Court. Kessler, interestingly, rejected the idea that the individual mandate is a tax. Her ruling for the mandate's constitutionality rested on the "necessary and proper clause," and she had...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 10:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Fair point

That's from XKCD, of cours....

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 9:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Wonkbook: Will Wisconsin spread?

A few days ago, Gov. Scott Walker's effort to end collective bargaining for state employees looked almost certain to spread to other GOP-led states. And there has been some interest, notably from Ohio's John Kasich and New Jersey's Chris...

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 6:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: Wisconsin is about power; why unions care about Medicaid; and are Republicans overreaching or just negotiating effectively? Elsewhere: 1) Has Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker moved the conversation from what unions have done wrong to what unions have done right?...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 4:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Are Wisconsin's state and local workers overpaid? Part II.

Jim Manzi has posted a critique of the Economic Policy Institute's study (PDF) suggesting that Wisconsin's public-sector workers are underpaid relative to their private-sector counterparts. It basically boils down to the argument that this sort of thing is hard to...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 3:21 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (61)
 
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Are public workers and private workers really very different?

One place where you can see that managers in the public sector and managers in the private sector are more similar than different is that unions in the public sector and unions in the private sector tend to negotiate contracts...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 2:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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What Americans think about income inequality in one graph

More here....

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 2:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Charts and Graphs, Inequality  
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Lunch Break

A samurai fights a shadow:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 1:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Your doctor doesn't know what works

Let's say your doctor does everything right. She follows the best medical guidelines. She only prescribes treatments that have been vetted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and are widely believed to help. She never tries to make a...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 1:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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Why do unions care about Medicaid?

Jon Cohn looks at the Medicaid section of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's "budget-repair bill": Under Walker’s proposal for Medicaid, his Secretary of Health could use “emergency” powers to redefine some of the program’s most basic parameters: Whom it enrolls, what...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 12:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
 
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Did the auto industry cripple Detroit?

An interesting thesis from Ed Glaeser: Ford, Durant, David Dunbar Buick, the Dodge Brothers, the Fisher Brothers, Henry Leland – it seems as if Detroit once had an automotive genius on every street corner. ... But while their great...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 10:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
 
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The unintended costs of a government shutdown

Just anticipating a shutdown wastes a great deal of time -- agencies must understand OMB and Justice guidelines, and then develop contingency plans for reduced activities. Those plans must identify which employees are "excepted" from furloughs and which are not;...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 9:25 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Column: Wisconsin is about power, not money

You've probably heard politicians fret that state governments - or, worse, the federal government - will default on their debts. House Speaker John A. Boehner called the prospect of a federal default "a financial disaster not only for our country,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 8:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (60)
Categories:  Articles  
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Wonkbook: Are Republicans overreaching? Or just negotiating effectively?

The showdown in Wisconsin continues, and the one in Washington is just beginning. In Wisconsin, Democrats and unions have offered Gov. Scott Walker the benefit concessions he's asked for, but not the end to collective bargaining he's demanded. Thus...

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 6:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (38)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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You can't separate public and private unions

One of the themes some commentators have adopted is that private-sector unions are fine -- important, even -- but public-sector unions have to be stopped. Or at least it's all right if they're stopped. The difference, as Joe Klein puts...

By Ezra Klein  | February 21, 2011; 1:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (95)
 
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How to read the president's budget

Bruce Bartlett provides the Cliffs Notes....

By Ezra Klein  | February 21, 2011; 10:21 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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What's an elite education worth? (Part II)

A decade ago, two economists -- Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger -- published a research paper arguing that elite colleges did not seem to give most graduates an earnings boost. As you might expect, the paper received a ton of...

By Ezra Klein  | February 21, 2011; 10:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Education  
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Wonkbook: Rare holiday edition

Usually, Wonkbook doesn't go out on federal holidays. But we'd forgotten it was a federal holiday. And it seemed silly to waste the work. So here's a special, blog-only, edition of Wonkbook. Top Stories A House budget vote this weekend...

By Ezra Klein  | February 21, 2011; 8:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
 
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