Ezra Klein

APPLES, ORANGES, AND HIGH EUROPEAN TAX RATES.

Writer goes to the Netherlands. Writer notices 52 percent tax rate. Writer freaks. Writer finds out that the situation is rather more complicated than all that:

THE STRESS TEST LEAKS.

best-of-2008-in-our-business-product-leaks.jpgFelix Salmon wonders "who would be so foolish as to leak these things?" But this seems an inevitable result of Treasury's decision to delay the results so banks can argue "for a more lenient a

WHY IS STEVE JOBS SO EVIL?

Scott Sumner makes a (mostly) interesting point here.

Bill Gates essentially taxed middle class consumers all over the developed world, and is giving almost all of the money to the disadvantaged in poor countries. That's something governments don't do, and yet for his "monopoly profits" he is despised by many on the left.

WHAT IF THERE HAD BEEN NO HOUSING BUBBLE?

James Surowiecki does a nice job making a point I've been hearing occasionally. Most bubbles leave the country with something of worth. The tech bubble, say, gave the country the tech sector. The initial enthusiasm leaves the country with a bit of a hangover, but you've still got a pocket of phone numbers from the night before. It was worth it. This is all very predictable in mathematical simulations: Economic changes almost always produce bubbles. The weird thing about the housing bubble is that it was effectively worthless. Surowiecki explains:

CAN BETTER DATA SAVE US?

Barry Eichengreen has a long piece in the latest National Interest arguing that economics didn't miss the financial crisis so much as the relevant folks engaged in "a partial and blinkered reading of [the] literature" in order to ignore results that would cut against them making more money. As the old saying goes, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his income depends on his not understanding it.

DOES BEING HEALTHIER LOWER HEALTH CARE COSTS?

healthy-breakfast-lg-large.jpgI'm a little bit loathe to enter this subject because I'm finishing up an article on a related topic. But suffice to say that even though the data on whether being healthier would make health care cheaper is pretty mixed, we can still be pretty sure it's a good thing.

A VERY WEIRD FORM OF CONSISTENCY.

Not to fill the blog with Arlen Specter related content this morning, but this bit from Meet the Press deserves to be quoted.

MR. GREGORY: Do you support taxing the value of, the value of employer-provided health care for workers?

SEN. SPECTER: No, I'd be very reluctant to do that. Health care provided by employers, which is deductible for them and not added on as income to the recipient, has been the mainstay of health coverage for millions of Americans, and I'd be very reluctant to abandon that.

MR. GREGORY: So the health care reform you would like to see is what?

WHY DID ARLEN SPECTER BECOME A DEMOCRAT?

j_scott_applewhite.jpg"I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat," insisted Arlen Specter on Meet the Press. "I did not say that." And it's true, he didn't say that. But people about to compete in a Democratic primary in a blue state tend not to spend a lot of time trumpeting what loyal Democrats they aren't. It's a pretty simple principle. Lots of guys are bad, inattentive, boyfriends.

WHY THE BOSTON GLOBE MIGHT SHUT DOWN.

bostonglobe.jpgIt's a little dizzying to read that The New York Times is on the verge of shutting down the Boston Globe. And here I thought bloggers were the scoundrels killing the newspapers. Turns out it's...other newspapers.

DE-STRESSING.

The administration is expected to release the results of the stress tests this week. According to David Leonhardt, no banks will be judged insolvent. But some will be judged insufficiently capitalized. In other words, sick, but not dead.

And the Obama administration means to heal them without returning to Congress. One of the ways they'll do that is to encourage quick payback of taxpayer money from those banks that aren't underwater:

BEN NELSON AND ARLEN SPECTER OPPOSE THE PUBLIC PLAN. SHOULD ANYONE CARE?

PH2009022302832.jpgI understand why people might be angry over Ben Nelson's decision to come out against a public insurance option in health care reform. But not why they'd be surprised.

AND WALDO. I DEFINITELY SEE WALDO.

Portrait-thumb-560x308-7527.jpg

"From my misspent years in DC," writes James Fallows, "I believe I can identify every person in this photo." He's better than me, then. From left to right, I see Austen Goolsbee, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, and Jared Bernstein. Beyond that, I'm stumped.

WHEN FINANCIAL COMPANIES STOP BEING POLITE AND START TRYING TO KICK THE HELL OUT OF EACH OTHER.

Noam Scheiber has an interesting story in this week's New Republic tracking the effort by the banks to screw over the professional investors. The very short summary is that the banks wanted a "safe harbor provision" that would give them legal immunity from investor lawsuits if they modified mortgages. This has, in turn, generated a massive counter-lobbying campaign from the hedge funds and other types of investors. "Think of the new dynamic as a kind of Iran-Iraq war come to Capitol Hill," writes Scheiber. "Where there are no obvious good guys, the next best thing may be two powerful rivals beating each other to a pulp."

OBAMA ON THE FLU.

Obama just exited a cabinet meeting and gave a couple of quick remarks on the flu. I've attached his remarks beneath the fold, but in particular, I thought he offered a clear discussion of why this flu strain is different than the seasonal flu strains:

somebody asked, why is this different from other flus? We don't know for certain that this will end up being more severe than other seasonal flus that we have had. It's been noted I think before that you have over 36,000 die on average every year from seasonal flus; you've have 200,000 hospitalizations.

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