Ezra Klein

THE BUDGET VOTE.

Ed Kilgore crunches the numbers and finds that Pelosi and Reid managed to hold the caucus together pretty well:

47 House Democrats represent districts carried by John McCain in a bad Republican year. They voted 34-13 for the Obama-backed budget. 13 Democratic senators represent states carried by McCain; they voted for the budget 10-3.

WHY DOES THE SUPREME COURT HATE WHITE MEN?

"Let's put all this in perspective," writes Adam Serwer. "There have been 110 Justices on the Supreme Court. Of those, two have been women, and two have been black. The other 106 have been white men. That means that around 96% of Supreme Court Justices have been white men." The "this" that Serwer is perspectivizin' is Mark Halperin's unfortunate decision to respond to Souter's retirement by pasting a giant 'WHITE MEN NEED NOT APPLY" headline across his blog. Classy work, Mark.

BIG NUMBERS.

The Econ4u folks are dedicated to education Americans about all matters financial. To dramatize the importance of their mission, they put a poll into the field asking people how many millions are in a trillion. The results:

Q: How many times larger is a trillion than a million? Would you say…

One Thousand Times- 18%
Ten Thousand Times- 12%
One Hundred Thousand Times- 21%
One Million Times- 21%
Ten Million Times- 17%
Don’t Know- 12%

The correct answer is a million millions are in a trillion. But 79 percent of Americans got that wrong. And almost everyone got it wrong downward.

YOUR WORLD IN CHARTS: WHO IS SPECTER TRYING TO PLEASE?

Some expected, but still dispiriting, news out of the Senate last night, where Dick Durbin's "cramdown" legislation went down to defeat. The policy was simple enough: It would allow bankruptcy judges, at their discretion, to reduce the principal and interest-payments on primary mortgages. That would make it likelier that people could keep their homes. Unsurprisingly, the banking industry wasn't hugely enamored of the bill, and protested that they'd have to raise mortgage prices to deal with the resulting uncertainty in their revenues.

PRIMARY SOURCES: CHRISTINA ROMER GOES TESTIFYIN'.

Yesterday, Christina Romer appeared before the Joint Economic Committee to give the assembled congressfolk an update on the administration's economic thinking. So far as these documents go, it's a pretty clear outline of the White House's approach, and it includes an interesting bit on the interaction of Romer's research on the Great Depression and her take on the current crisis. She begins with a jaw-dropping fact: "By one measure, she says, "household wealth has fallen by $13 trillion, or 20%, since its peak." But she argues that economic loss hasn't been the driver of the ensuing pain. Rather, economic volatility has done the most damage:

WHY OBAMA IS PISSED AT THE HEDGE FUNDS.

One of the interesting threads in the Chrysler bankruptcy was Obama's evident fury at the hedge funds and investment banks that refused the deals the government offered. The reason for their reluctance was simple enough: Bondholders don't want to lose money. But the strategy behind their intransigence proved poor: They didn't think the government would send Chrysler into bankruptcy. And that gave them leverage. Out-of-court debt restructurings generally require consensus. But they were wrong. Not only did the administration let Chrysler fall to the bankruptcy courts, but Obama called the investors out by name:

WORTH QUOTING: I MISS TOM DASCHLE EDITION.

Came across this somewhat randomly yesterday. It's Tom Daschle giving a speech in Colorado. He was a bit more courageous on the framing of this issue than are most of the current participants.

But before we define the solution, I think it’s important that we define the problem. It’s important that we’re all on the same page, that we agree what the problem really is. Before we define the problem we have to destroy the myth. And the myth in our country has long been that we have the best healthcare system in the world. Why else would kings and leaders all around the world, people of prominence come to the United States?

DAVID SOUTER'S WELL-DESERVED RETIREMENT, AND WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT.

souter.jpgYou have to pity David Souter. By all accounts, he'd grown to hate his job. The Court was a grind. "An intellectual lobotomy," he called it. He was exhausted by the ideological jockeying. Dispirited by the institution's rightward turn. Shattered by the decision in Bush v. Gore. He loathed DC. "The world's worst city," he said. He thought often of quitting. As soon as each term closed, he'd fly home to New Hampshire and hike.

QUESTIONING THE FLU.

I'll be interviewing a pandemic flu expert in a couple of hours. I have my own questions, of course ("what investment opportunities does this open up for me and mine?"), but if there's anything you'd like me to ask, leave it in comments.

LUCK AND THE FOX BUSINESS CHANNEL.

"Contrary to what many parents tell their children," wrote Robert Frank, "talent and hard work are neither necessary nor sufficient for economic success. It helps to be talented and hard-working, of course, yet some people enjoy spectacular success despite having neither attribute." It's not a particularly bold claim. Nor is Frank's conclusion the sort of thing that ordinarily makes headlines. Saying that "the link between success and luck is stronger than many people think" borders on the trite.

THE FIRST 100 DAYS MADE FUNNY, THE FIRST 100 DAYS MADE INSPIRING.

Give it up to Slate: Their parody Facebook feed of Obama's first 100 days is very funny. Meanwhile, in other First 100 Days commentary, Mark Schmitt is skeptical of the whole construct, but I love his conclusion:

THE CHRYSLER BANKRUPTCY.

dec06_auto_chrysler300C03.jpg

I haven't written much about the Chrysler bankruptcy because I've not been sure I understand it well enough t have an opinion. But this is about the clearest explanation I've found:

BURPS, NOT FARTS.

Tom Laskawy is attending Princeton's "Feeding a Hot and Hungry Planet" conference. Fun stuff. But he must not be that engaged because he had time to send a couple IMs that suggested a truly disturbing ability to anticipate my interests:

Tom: i'm at an ag conf. at princeton listening to an official from the UN FAO. he had a tidbit i need to share with you.

90% of "enteric fermentation" GHG emissions are from BURPING.

cow farting is basically off the hook. i knew you'd want to be advised of this development

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