Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein is a staff reporter at The Washington Post. You can read his blogging here. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Guardian, The Washington Monthly, The New Republic, Slate, and The Columbia Journalism Review. He's been a commentator on MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and more.

Recent Articles

STEALTH SUBSIDIES CONTINUE.

Tim Geithner's announcement that banks who wanted to repay their money early would have to also leave the FDIC's low-interest lending program received a pretty favorable response the other day. Banks shouldn't be able to leave only those government programs that impose regulatory constraints. No banks with benefits ! But as Binyamin Appelbaum and Neil Irwin explain , they'll still be getting government help: While the banking industry will remain on federal aid for the foreseeable future, officials also said they would now allow some of the healthiest banks to repay the government's initial capital investments. Nine of the 19 banks were found to have sufficient capital reserves. Firms that repay the government no longer face restrictions on executive compensation. Applicants will first be required to show that they do not need the shelter of a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. program that helps banks raise money at lower interest rates. But banks may continue borrowing from the Federal...

YOU CAN'T FIGHT CITY HALL.

I never understand the fuss over Supreme Court nominations. The president holds all the power. That's even more true if his party controls the Senate. So when conservative groups "concede that they have little chance of derailing Obama's choice, barring a scandal," what does it mean? If they derail Obama's choice, he'll just make another choice. It's not like defeating his first nominee would make him lose a turn, or let Mitch McConnell choose the next candidate. Bush, for instance, got beat on Harriett Miers, and then nominated a more conservative justice in her stead. The hubbub is baffling. The opposition can't win. They can only delay losing.

WHO'S REPRESENTING GLOOM?

There's been a lot of speculation over reports that the administration held the stress test results while the banks argued for more lenient treatment. But the Washington Post is the first paper I've seen with specifics on those conversations. Citibank, for instance, "successfully pushed to lower the amount of common equity it needs to raise to $5.5 billion by applying $52.5 billion from capital it has not yet reworked. It also was able to get a credit for the sale of a unit that has not been completed." Those aren't particularly crazy arguments. But they're unbalanced arguments. There are basically three poles in this debate: Independent analysts, who tend to think the situation is darker than the government does, but who arguably have some tendency to err on the side of gloom because they don't bear the downside risk of their solutions. The banks, who argue that the situation is much better than the government projects, but who have a strong tendency to err on the side of optimism...

YOUR STRESS TESTS IN GRAPHS: HOW STRESSFUL ARE THEY?

The administration's argument for the stress tests' stringency is made on page seven of the results . There's even a helpful graph: In short, the stress tests are assuming a loan loss rate -- that is to say, the percentage of loans a particular firm has written-off as non-recoverable -- higher than that of the Great Depression. An adverse scenario, in other words, that makes Franklin Delano Roosevelt look like a wimp. That seems comfortingly stringent. On the other hand, it's not clear that the two periods are directly comparable. Administration critics will tell you that Depression-era loans were less heavily leveraged. Mortgages had 50 percent downpayments. There was no housing bubble. This downturn won't be worse than the Great Depression in its total effect on society, but the loss rate is a misleading indicator. And in pushing that indicator, the administration is being a bit slippery. (And it's worth noting that some metrics in this recession have outperformed similar measures...

ARLEN SPECTER AND HIS ZOMBIE HORDES FIGHT FOR THE CURE.

Of late, Arlen Specter has been engaged in something of a crass-off against, well, himself. His argument for switching parties was that he'd lose the Republican primary. His argument for consistency was that he would still oppose the interests of the very voters he was now courting. But www.SpecterfortheCure.com is something of a new low. The site promotes "a bold new initiative to reform our government's medical research efforts, cut red tape and unstrangle the hope for accelerated cures." That "bold new initiative?" Arlen Specter's reelection campaign. "Senator Arlen Specter," we're told, "intends to build a bridge over the valley of death," which sort of implies that if he loses the Democratic primary, he might decide he's "simply not going to subject my 29-year record in the United States Senate to a primary electorate of living humans," and return with a mighty zombie horde who will look more favorably on his candidacy (Arlen Specter, D-Hades). But later on, the web site gives a...

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