Ezra Klein

WHY WE MAY NEED TAX REFORM.

The Politico reports that "Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad predicted that the budget pressures will force action on a major overhaul of the current tax system by 2010 or 2011." You don't often hear that, so it's worth unpacking for a second.

THE CASE FOR (ANTIVIRAL) WASTE.

Just ran across an interesting study. In it, Ruby Siddiqui argues that it's cost effective to treat all symptomatic patients with antiviral medications, even given the fact that you'll inevitably waste some courses on patients who aren't infected. What isn't cost-effective is to try and test each case and then administer antivirals. it's one of those cases where it's less expensive to permit some waste of the resource than it is to tightly identify the affected population. Abstract here:

WORTH QUOTING: OBAMA ON WHY CUTTING HEALTH CARE SPENDING IS SO HARD.

From his interview with David Leonhardt:

I just recently went through this. I mean, I’ve told this story, maybe not publicly, but when my grandmother got very ill during the campaign, she got cancer; it was determined to be terminal. And about two or three weeks after her diagnosis she fell, broke her hip. It was determined that she might have had a mild stroke, which is what had precipitated the fall.

STUFF WHITE PEOPLE SAY.

Not really sure what to say about this.

It did make me realize that one of my favorite things in life is hearing people painfully enunciate slang. Saying the word "swagga" is not the same as saying the corrupted version of the word "swagger."

THE CASE FOR OVERREACTING TO THE FLU.

title_influenza_1.jpgThere's a bit of a "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" approach to the swine flu occurring in some corners of the blogosphere. I don't think that's quite accurate. Rather, we have nothing to fear but a lethal mutation of a pandemic influenza.

WORTH QUOTING: OBAMA ON THE DECISION MAKERS IN HEALTH CARE.

From his interview with David Leonhardt:

I have always said, though, that we should not overstate the degree to which consumers rather than doctors are going to be driving treatment, because, I just speak from my own experience, I’m a pretty-well-educated layperson when it comes to medical care; I know how to ask good questions of my doctor. But ultimately, he’s the guy with the medical degree. So, if he tells me, You know what, you’ve got such-and-such and you need to take such-and-such, I don’t go around arguing with him or go online to see if I can find a better opinion than his.

ARE SODA TAXES...POPULAR?

Till now, I've been of the opinion that arguing in favor of raising revenue by taxing unwanted behaviors is little more than a quixotic argument. Good for a blog post, maybe, but nothing beyond that. Then I heard that the prospect of sin taxes was actually emerging in the administration's internal discussions. No decisions have been made, but I was surprised to learn that a soda tax had even been considered. If this NPR/Kaiser poll is correct, however, then the public is significantly more open to these approaches than I'd assumed:

WORTH QUOTING: OBAMA ON A SMALLER FINANCIAL SECTOR.

From his interview with David Leonhardt:

THE PRESIDENT: What I think will change, what I think was an aberration, was a situation where corporate profits in the financial sector were such a heavy part of our overall profitability over the last decade. That I think will change. And so part of that has to do with the effects of regulation that will inhibit some of the massive leveraging and the massive risk-taking that had become so common.

Now, in some ways, I think it’s important to understand that some of that wealth was illusory in the first place.

So we won’t miss it?

IS JOE BIDEN RIGHT ABOUT SWINE FLU?

Unsurprisingly, the United States Travel Association has issued a statement asking unnamed officials to "resist inflammatory comments on Swine Flu." Comments like this one, from the Vice President, mayhaps?

OBAMA ON BIPARTISANSHIP.

Obama's digression into the meaning of bipartisanship last night was important for two reasons. The first was obvious: It's important to understand how the president defines the concept. And he was pretty clear. "I can't sort of define bipartisanship as simply being willing to accept certain theories of theirs that we tried for eight years and didn't work and the American people voted to change," he said. Rather, bipartisanship is "if I'm taking some of your ideas and giving you credit for good ideas." In other words, it's a process, not an outcome.

ARLEN SPECTER ON HEALTH REFORM.

specter522b.jpgWhen Arlen Specter originally switched parties, I didn't think it meant much for health reform. So far as Republicans went, Specter was a likely get. His switch to the Democratic side made him yet likelier. But it was hard to say anything more definitive than that.

BREAD AND BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS.

I'm with Ben Miller and Frank Bruni: Restaurants should charge for bread. As Bruni argues, there's no such thing as "free bread." Rather, there's such a thing as "slightly more expensive entrees." And that's the thing people are getting when they think they're getting free bread.

HEALTH POLICY OPTIONS.

The Finance Committee is going to be releasing a series of three documents on health policy options. One will deal with delivery system reform, another will cover financing, and the third will detail mechanisms for coverage expansion. Yesterday, the Committee released the delivery reform options, and put them up for download here. This is the piece of the puzzle that attracts the least attention, but in some ways, might be the most important. Delivery system reform is where you can really save money through things like comparative effectiveness data or changing the payment structure.

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