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Ezra Klein: February 27, 2011 - March 5, 2011

Reconciliation

Recap: The best jobs report in three years; Washington isn’t nearly so scheme-happy as people think; and the GOP’s Mitch Daniels problem, or maybe Mitch Daniels’s GOP problem.Elsewhere:1) Pork: Be inspired.2) Will any of the Verizon LTE phones ever come...

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 6:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (45)
 
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Will John Boehner really protect Obama on entitlements?

The Hill reports that John Boehner has proposed a non-aggression pact with Barack Obama over entitlements: “Boehner has personally promised Obama that he will stand side by side with him to weather the strong political backlash expected from any proposal...

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 5:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Stingy insurance is not the answer

When you’re talking about health-care spending, you always need to distinguish between things that’ll save a bit of money next year and things that’ll actually cut the growth rate of health care. Saving a bit of money next year is nice, but it’s not that big of a deal. It’s cutting the growth rate that matters. If you don’t cut the growth rate, then any savings you achieve get wiped out in no time. It’s like tapping the brakes without taking your foot of the gas.

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 4:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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Lunch Break

Derence Kernek wants to marry his partner Ed Watson before Watson’s Alzheimer’s advances to the point that he can no longer participate in, and remember, the ceremony. But though it increasingly seems as though gay marriage is just around the...

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
 
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Is the February jobs report underestimating job creation?

David Leonhardt thinks so....

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 12:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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The GOP’s Mitch Daniels problem — and vice versa

Writing in the National Review, Cato’s Michael Cannon makes a really strong case for Gov. Mitch Daniels. “Whereas Obamacare requires states to open their Medicaid programs to families of four earning $31,000 (138 percent of the federal poverty level), Daniels...

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 12:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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Washington is bad at scheming

As far as I can tell, "The Adjustment Bureau" is about a group of superplanners who've mapped out every right turn, McDonald's combo meal and life decision we'll face. I say "as far as I can tell" because I...

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
 
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The best jobs report in three years

Is the February jobs report good? Compared with anything we’ve seen in the past three years -- including the numbers last spring, where were puffed up by temporary census hires -- it’s great. We created 192,000 jobs, and the...

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 9:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (90)
 
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Why we still need cities

There's lots of interesting stuff in Ed Glaeser's new book, "The Triumph of the City." One of Glaeser's themes, for instance, is the apparent paradox of cities becoming more expensive and more crowded even as the cost of communicating over...

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
 
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Wonkbook: The White House makes its first bid

Matthews is writing Wonkbook while Ezra is traveling. Top Stories The White House has offered $6.5 billion in additional spending cuts, report Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane: "The White House proposed Thursday to trim an additional $6.5 billion from federal...

By Dylan Matthews  | March 4, 2011; 8:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Gone flyin’

Speaking of trains, plains and automobiles, I’m heading to California tonight to be on Bill Maher’s show tomorrow. So blogging will end a bit early today -- i.e., now -- but it’ll be back to normal in the morning....

By Ezra Klein  | March 3, 2011; 3:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Can't I just be pro-transportation?

It took me a few days to put my finger on what I found so strange about my colleague George Will’s take on trains. In Will’s view, support for high-speed rail is a “disorder [that] illuminates the progressive mind.” More...

By Ezra Klein  | March 3, 2011; 3:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (65)
 
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Lunch Break

No one has ever laughed harder at anything than this baby every time she sees a piece of paper ripped to shreds:

By Ezra Klein  | March 3, 2011; 1:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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How low can your health care go?

I don’t think using the words “actuarial value” repeatedly will help grow this blog’s readership, But as I wrote yesterday, it really is the key concept for understanding what Republicans are now saying about health-care reform. Their reaction to Wyden-Brown...

By Ezra Klein  | March 3, 2011; 12:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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How Americans want -- and don't want -- to balance the budget

The quick version of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll everyone is talking about: Voters don't like deficits or most of the things that have to be done to reduce deficits. They disapprove of cutting most government programs but sometimes...

By Ezra Klein  | March 3, 2011; 11:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (35)
Categories:  Polls  
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What will the Democrats say?

I know what the Democrats wanted out of the tax deal. Their opening position was that the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000 should expire. Their eventual position was that stimulus was more important than the expiration of the...

By Ezra Klein  | March 3, 2011; 10:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
 
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Wonkbook: The White House gets off the bench

With the stopgap funding bill safely through Congress and the federal government given a two-week reprieve, the White House has decided to get in the game more directly: They've invited congressional leaders to sit down with Vice President Joe...

By Ezra Klein  | March 3, 2011; 6:54 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (36)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: We've gotten too comfortable with high unemployment; the two sides of the debate over state pension systems; and it's time for states to put up or shut up on health-care reform. Elsewhere: 1) Voters vastly overestimate the influence that...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 6:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Are state pensions underfunded? And if so, what should we do about it?

Tyler Cowen read Dean Baker's take on state pensions and says he prefers Josh Barro's more alarmed assessment. I read Barro's piece and was surprised to find that it agreed, in many respects, with Baker's piece, though the two articles...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 5:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Budget  
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Tom Coburn and waste

A frustrated reader writes: Ezra, I appreciate the posts about program duplication. I work at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to eliminate duplication and redundancy. As you...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 4:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Legal answers to nerdy questions

Is Superman an American citizen? Could Wolverine purchase health-care insurance? Is it legal to build a plastic prison for Magneto? Answers to these and other pressing questions of law and comic books can be found here....

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 3:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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'Sometimes it's useful to have multiple small programs'

Kevin Drum offers some words of caution on the GAO report -- or, more specifically, the reaction to the GAO report -- that I plugged yesterday: First, keep your eye out for attempts to turn the GAO report into a...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 2:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Government  
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What is the health-care reform that Republicans actually want?

By now, you probably know the basics of Wyden-Brown: If a state comes forward with a proposal to cover as many people, at as affordable a cost, with as comprehensive insurance, without increasing the deficit, it can ignore the...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 2:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Lunch Break

Jimmy Fallon visits Momofuku's secret test kitchen:...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 1:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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The argument for farm subsidies -- though not the ones we have now

Mark Bittman makes the case for mending, rather than ending, farm subsidies: Eliminating the $5 billion in direct agricultural payments would level the playing field for farmers who grow non-subsidized crops, but just a bit -- perhaps not even noticeably....

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 11:28 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (49)
Categories:  Food  
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How to increase the deficit by cutting government spending

I get the argument against new revenues. Tax increases are a drag on the economy, and they transfer funds from the private sector, which would use that money productively, to the public sector, which will use that money unproductively. What...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 11:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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Tom Toles is worth a thousand words

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 10:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Getting used to high unemployment

Political Correction had an amusing item yesterday noting that Sen. Mark Kirk has gone from touting economist Mark Zandi's support for extending the Bush tax cuts to dismissing his concerns about short-term spending cuts by calling him "a fairly discredited...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 8:34 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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Wonkbook: Whatever happened to uncertainty?

With the House passing a two-week funding extension and Harry Reid promising the Senate will do likewise, it looks like we have at least until March 18th before any federal agencies have to shut their doors. But then there's...

By Ezra Klein  | March 2, 2011; 6:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (35)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: The unions are polling well and Scott Walker is polling poorly; here are the programs the Government Accountability Office thinks we could do without; and what you need to know about state pension shortfalls. Elsewhere: 1) A tumblr devoted...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 6:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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What do John Taylor and Mark Zandi disagree about?

Mark Zandi says the GOP's proposed spending cuts will cost about 700,000 jobs. John Taylor says they will "increase economic growth and employment." Both are respected economists who immerse themselves in data, research and theory. So how can they disagree...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 5:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Economics  
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What you need to know about state pension systems

Let's forget about unions and collective bargaining. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says this is all about state pension funds. So let's take a look at them. This paper (PDF) by Dean Baker is one of the clearest examinations of...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 4:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Budget  
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Forget smaller class sizes, part III

Dana Goldstein takes a look at classroom sizes across advanced countries, and concludes that "that small class size is not clearly correlated with high achievement -- and neither is large class size." But she also reminds the wonks that...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 2:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Education  
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What the GAO thinks we can do without, part II

A reader writes: While the GAO findings are what they are, they are based on the faulty premise that the most efficient government is the "best" government. In fact, political scientists and scholars of public administration have long noted that...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 2:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Lunch Break

A guy dressed as Boba Fett plays songs from the Legend of Zelda on an accordion while sitting at a subway platform. Because, why not?...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 12:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Borders is bankrupt -- can Barnes & Noble be saved?

I happened to be driving around Northern Virginia last weekend and noticed a few Borders with darkened windows and giant "STORE CLOSING" banners wrapped around the front. It is, for me, a sad sight. I spent much of my...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 12:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
 
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What the GAO thinks we can do without

The Government Accountability Office has released a more than 300-page report tallying up 34 areas in which the government has duplicative, fragmented or overlapping programs, and an additional 47 areas where better management or spending decisions could save us money...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 11:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Budget  
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Unions polling well, Scott Walker polling poorly

Are unions popular? Sort of. According to a new NYT/CBS poll, a third of Americans view them favorably, a quarter of Americans view them unfavorably, and the rest are undecided. But are efforts to attack unions popular? Not at...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 10:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (86)
Categories:  Polls  
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Column: How unions can be more than a legacy institution

It looks increasingly likely that organized labor will manage to cheat death in Wisconsin. But where does that leave unions? Merely near death, that's where. Only 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized, down from about 25 percent in the...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 9:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  Articles, Unions  
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Wonkbook: GOP spending cuts would cost 700,000 jobs

For most of 2009 and all of 2010, all Republicans asked Democrats was, "Where are the jobs?" Every Democratic bill got the prefix "job killing," as in "the job-killing health-care bill." Every address by Minority Leader John Boehner asked why...

By Ezra Klein  | March 1, 2011; 6:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Recap: A government shutdown still looks quite likely; the White House endorsed Wyden-Brown; and how is the House GOP planning to create jobs, exactly? Elsewhere: 1) "The industrial revolution occurred in England after 1800 because the English underwent a gradual...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 6:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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How is the GOP planning to create jobs, again?

How much does the GOP care about jobs? A lot, if you listen to what they say. "House Republicans' top priority is helping to create jobs," declares Michael Steel, John Boehner's spokesman. Or watch the video atop this post,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 5:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (59)
Categories:  Budget  
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Forget smaller classes, part II

A reader writes: I am a retired teacher with 32 years teaching in Southern California (I have been both a department chair and mentor teacher). Here's what I found about pupil enrollment. There is an optimum number with which a...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 4:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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What makes the tea party different

I've been of the camp that says the tea party is mostly new branding for the conservative base of the Republican Party. Jon Bernstein says I'm wrong, and I think he's right about that: Yes, Tea Partiers are almost always...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 4:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Yes, health care improves health

I don't think this is too difficult to understand, but perhaps I need to make it clearer: There's no contradiction between saying that "health insurance reduces mortality" and "health insurance doesn't close the disparity in life expectancy between the rich...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 3:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Health  
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Lunch Break

Anti-gravity sculpture!...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 12:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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White House comes out for Wyden-Brown state waiver program

The White House's fact sheet here. For more on Wyden-Brown, which lets states receive money from the Affordable Care Act but implement an alternative policy so long as it accomplishes the law's basic goals, read this. Here's my interview...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 12:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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A shutdown is still likely

So does the two-week funding extension show that the two sides can compromise and avoid a shutdown? Not really. Look at what's in the legislation: It makes $4 billion in cuts over the next few weeks, which means it's cutting...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 11:12 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Forget smaller classes -- what about bigger ones?

Bill Gates isn't a fan of the conventional wisdom that smaller class sizes mean better education. "This belief has driven school budget increases for more than 50 years. U.S. schools have almost twice as many teachers per student as...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 10:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (64)
Categories:  Education  
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The budget battles of the '90s in two paragraphs

Budget guru Stan Collender isn't impressed with Newt Gingrich's revisionist take on the government shutdowns of the mid-1990s, and his riposte is a nice capsule summary of what drove the budget battles -- and budget successes -- of the era:...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 9:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Budget  
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Health care doesn't keep people healthy -- even in Canada

File this one under "health care doesn't work nearly as well as we'd like to believe." A group of researchers followed almost 15,000 initially healthy Canadians for more than 10 years to see whether universal access to health care meant...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 9:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Wonkbook: Government shutdown delayed

At least for a few weeks. Late on Friday, House GOP leadership unveiled a two-week extension of government funding that cuts $4 billion -- but only goes after programs President Obama targeted for elimination in his budget. For Democrats,...

By Ezra Klein  | February 28, 2011; 7:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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