Ezra Klein

THE KNIVES COME OUT -- QUICKLY -- FOR SONIA SOTOMAYOR.

You'll have to forgive me: I think I partially missed the point -- or at least one of the important implications -- of Richard Cohen's column citing opposition to affirmative action as described in Ricci vs. DeStefano as the crucial litmus test for the next Supreme Court nominee. Ricci vs. DeStefano turns out to have passed through the court of Sonia Sotomayor, the 2nd Circuit Judge who many consider a frontrunner for the nomination.

THE LIE OF THE "LEVEL PLAYING FIELD."

Earlier today, Ron Pollack, the director of Families USA, made a nice point before the Senate Finance Committee. "We keep on talking about a level playing field," he said, "but in Medicare, we don't have a level playing field. The payments to private plans in Medicare Advantage are considerably larger than they would be for someone in traditional Medicare."

PREFERENCES ON THE COURT.

My, err, soon-to-be-colleague Richard Cohen has an op-ed today arguing that Obama's next Supreme Court justice should face a "litmus test." But not on abortion. Rather, the next nominee to a Supreme Court that's 88 percent male and 77 percent white male should have to agree that "there is no need to cling to such a remedy" as affirmative action anymore. "Maybe once it was possible to argue that some innocent people had to suffer in the name of progress," Cohen allows, "but a glance at the White House strongly suggests that things have changed. For most Americans, race has become supremely irrelevant. Everyone knows this. Every poll shows this."

THOSE SCARY UNION ORGANIZERS.

I should probably feign surprise that yet another study, this time from the University of Illinois, has emerged showing that union intimidation not only isn't a problem, but doesn't appear to exist in any measurable quantities. This bit of research -- which was, in part, funded by the AFl-CIO, but uses public records in ways that can be easily reproduced -- examined majority sign-up in the Illinois public sector. In the past six years, 22,000 workers joined unions, and thousands more worked for agencies that managed to repel an organizing campaign.

SCHUMER DEFENDS THE PUBLIC PLAN.

Chuck Schumer just forced the Senate Finance Committee's Health Care Coverage Roundtable to address the public plan. And give Schumer some credit. He didn't hedge. "Just as bad as a public plan with an unfair advantage," he said, "is no public plan at all. My colleague from Kansas said the American people don't want the government involved. Well, let me tell you, the American people have some problems with the government. But they have a lot more problems with private insurers."

THE LESSONS OF SWINE FLU.

It's looking like swine flu doesn't have the genetic capability to mutate into anything especially lethal. The high death toll in Mexico may simply be evidence that the disease was much more widespread than was initially understood. All of which is very good news.

WILL WE GET TAX REFORM?

For a bit more on the administration's changes to the corporate tax code, check out this post from real life tax lawyer Daniel Shaviro. In particular, he offers a depressingly realistic take on the difficulties facing any effort to force corporations to pay higher taxes on investment abroad:

WHY IS OBAMA LOOKING TO END $190 BILLION IN CORPORATE TAX BREAKS?

Generally speaking, I'm a big Robert Reich fan. But his explanation for why the president is going after a variety of tax breaks that help corporations hide international income makes very little sense.

CAN CHUCK SCHUMER SAVE THE PUBLIC PLAN?

ChuckSchumerglasses.JPGDon't underestimate the importance of Chuck Schumer's proposed compromise on the public plan. The Senior Senator from New York is not freelancing on this. Max Baucus asked him to work out the details of the public insurance option. And so he did. The public plan he has proposed will not be subsidized by the government or partnered with Medicare.

DON'T HATE JAMES INHOFE FOR HIS HONESTY.

Inhofelying.jpgThere's a tendency to treat Senator James Inhofe as the Republican Party's crazy uncle. You invite him to dinner. You listen to him rant about global warming. You wait out his stories about asking Michael Crichton to testify before his committee as a climate expert. You try not to look away from your peas.

THE PROBLEM WITH STRESS TESTS.

Its a bit of a dead if you do, dead if you don't, problem. James Kwak explains:

FEDERAL RESERVE PRESIDENT WANTS US TO GO ALL SWEDEN.

Thoma Hoenig, President of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, is a pretty credentialed guy. He's been with the Federal Reserve since 1973, specializing in banking supervision. He knows, presumably, both how banks work and also how effective regulators can be when they choose to interfere with their workings. So it seems meaningful that he's giving aggressive speeches arguing for a plan that "is similar to what was done in Sweden." An excerpt:

WHY WE SHOULD GET RID OF MEDICARE.

Representative Tom Price has an op-ed in Politico today where he argues:

Because of Washington’s inability to deliver high-quality care, the American people remain wholly opposed to turning control of medical decisions over to the government. To overcome this, Democrats in Congress have begun promoting an innocent-sounding “public option.” They claim the public option would simply “compete” with private plans.

DOES EUROPE REALLY HAVE LESS UPWARD MOBILITY THAN AMERICA?

Tax quibbles aside, Russell Shorto's explanation of how he stopped worrying and learned to love the European welfare state is nicely done. The answer is pretty simple: He started to like the welfare state when he began to receive its services. This, incidentally, is the sort of thing that conservatives worry about quite publicly in the United States. When Ben Nelson says he'll oppose the public plan because "at the end of the day, the public plan wins the game," he's gesturing towards this point. People, in general, like the welfare state.

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