Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Surgical Prep
November 19, 2008

If you believe what the pundits are saying, enacting universal health insurance in the next year won't be difficult: It will be impossible. As the argument goes, it would cost too much money, antagonize too many interest groups, and--given the difficulty of finding 60 votes in the Senate--require too much raw political muscle. Even before Barack Obama won the election, allies were advising him to stay far away from major health care legislation, lest he fail as miserably as Bill Clinton did when he famously tried for universal coverage back in 1994.

Daschle At Hhs = Good News For Health Reform
November 19, 2008

So much health care news, so little time to blog. But let me weigh in on the news, via, CNN, that Tom Daschle will be Secretary of Health and Human Services. He will also serve as the White House point person on health care reform. This is a perfect role for Daschle. Although he was always been interested in health care, in the last few years he's become a true wonk on the subject, publishing a book called Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.

Annals Of Stupidity, Auto Executive Edition
November 19, 2008

Riddle of the day: When three auto industry executives came to Washington on Tuesday, in order to make the case for a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-backed rescue, did they fly coach or first class?  Ha! It's a trick question. They did neither. Instead, they took private jets. Three separate private jets.  ABC News has the goods (h/t Yglesias): While [GM executive Rick] Wagoner testified, his G4 private jet was parked at Dulles airport.

The Word From Rahm: We Will "throw Long And Deep"
November 19, 2008

There's been a lot of debate about how quickly the Obama Administration can move on its domestic policy agenda--and for how long it might have to shelve big-ticket items like fighting climate change and major health care reform. It appears we have an answer, via incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Last night, Emanuel addressed a group of business executives.

Quoth The Budget Director, "nevermore." (updated)
November 18, 2008

Word has it that Congressional Budget Office director Peter Orszag will be joining the Obama Administration as its budget director. This has potentially major implications for the future of Obama's agenda, for reasons I will explain tomorrow when I have the benefit of some more sleep. For now, though, I'd like to focus on a far less weighty, but no less intriguing, issue: What Orszag's move would mean for the literary quality of future Obama administration policy reports. Yes, that's right--literary quality.

A Kinder, Gentler Bankruptcy For Gm?
November 18, 2008

As a number of analysts have noted, the biggest reason a General Motors bankruptcy is so frightening is that it might not work out like the airline bankruptcies have. Remember, if General Motors were trying to reorganize itself under bankruptcy, it would have to come up with cash in order to buy parts. Thanks to the problems on Wall Street, that could be extremely difficult. That means GM could end up filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, rather than Chapter 11, and going through liquidation. The ripple effects could take down the rest of the auto industry or some significant portion of it.

Disclosure Statement
November 17, 2008

The propriety of giving paid speeches has been a subject of debate for many years. Readers may wonder whether appearing before a group biases a writer towards the group’s point of view--or whether writers are tilting their work in ways to generate more speaking income.

Why And How To Bail Out Detroit (continued)
November 17, 2008

One reason nobody is excited about bailing out the auto industry is that it defies the free market. If the companies can't make it on their own, shouldn't the government just let them die? It's a reasonable argument. But today in the Washington Post, an economist with some pretty cood intellectual credentials--Jeffrey Sachs--makes the case for a bailout anyway. ...the automakers cannot turn to ordinary borrowing to tide them over until that happens because of the ravaged capital markets. The risk spreads of corporate bonds over U.S.

Panic in Detroit
November 14, 2008

General Motors has come to Washington, begging for a $25 billion bailout to keep it and its ailing Detroit counterparts going next year. But nobody seems too thrilled about the prospect. Liberals dwell on the companies’ gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles. Conservatives obsess over all the well-paid union members with gold-plated benefits. And people of all ideological backgrounds remember how they used to buy domestic cars, years ago, but stopped because the cars were so damn lousy.

Universal Coverage: Full Speed Ahead
November 12, 2008

I'll have more to say on Max Baucus's health care announcement tonight or tomorrow.  (Boy, did I pick the wrong day to spend out of the office reporting!) Quickly, though, I want to highlight one key development. In the full paper, Baucus says it will take three to four years before we'd get to universal coverage. But that doesn't mean he wants to delay working on a bill. Here's what Carol Guthrie, spokesperson for the Democratic staff at the Finance Committee, just told me: Senator Baucus would like to move a comprehensive reform bill in 2009.