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David Sanger's story in today's NYT about the Obama administration's unsuccessful back-channel efforts to get Iran to agree to a nuclear deal finishes with this telling--and not unrelated--detail: Mr. Obama is reported to have sent Ayatollah Khamenei two private letters this year, but he received only one response, mostly a litany of past grievances. And now comes the news that Iran is charging those three American hikers with espionage. At this point, it's almost impossible to see how Obama meets his self-imposed end-of-the-year deadline for diplomatic progress with Iran.

One of the most revealing moments in Saturday's debate over health care reform was when Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York took the floor. Weiner is a rising star in the Democratic Party, having quickly established himself as an unusually engaging speaker. But, in this case, it was Weiner's effective use of a prop that stood apart. The prop was the handbook for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, or FEHBP--which is, very roughly speaking, a model for how a reformed health care system might work.

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Though comparatively less divisive than abortion debate roiling the House this weekend, the immigration issue in the health-care bill also has yet to be settled. The controversy is over whether to prohibit unauthorized immigrants from purchasing insurance that’s available through the new insurance exchanges. The Senate Finance bill includes such a prohibition, and conservatives have been pushing to include a similar one in the House bill.

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Paul Krugman wants lawmakers to create a modern version of the Works Progress Administration, an important New Deal-era agency which put millions of people to work on public infrastructure projects: A question I’m occasionally asked at public events is, why aren’t we creating jobs with a WPA-type program? It’s a very good question. ... You can make a pretty good case that just employing a lot of people directly would be a lot more cost-effective; the WPA and CCC cost surprisingly little given the number of people put to work.

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Jacob S. Hacker is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University, author of The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream, and an occasional contributor to The Treatment. Diane Archer is the director of the Health Care Project at the Institute for America's Future and the founder and past president of the Medicare Rights Center. How short memories are in Washington.

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In an interview with The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert, Al Gore made an interesting point I hadn't seen elsewhere (it's that last paragraph there): Once the world makes it clear that we are going to follow a roadmap to a low-carbon economy, the best-managed businesses will seek to race out in front of that emerging trend.

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While Congress slogs through the final months of the health reform debate, the American people remain focused on the economy. With good reason: We’re in a very deep hole, and it’s not clear how we’re going to get out.  As Christina Romer, chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, pointed out in her recent testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, “The shocks that hit the U.S. economy last fall were, by almost any measure, larger than those that precipitated the Great Depression.” And despite unprecedented government action, the labor market has reflected these shocks.

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Nuclear Option

Nukes, nukes, and … nukes. These days, when it comes to energy and climate change, that seems to be all Republicans want to talk about. Throughout last week's hearings on the Senate climate bill, Lamar Alexander kept interjecting that a massive ramp-up of nuclear power was the only real solution to global warming, bringing up the subject at every turn. For many of his colleagues, it's one of the few energy ideas that piques any interest at all.

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More competition among insurers isn't always a good thing. (Austin Frakt, Incidental Economist) Dealing with Medicare is usually easier (or at least less difficult) than dealing with private insurers. (Joe Paduda, Managed Care Matters) The public option won't make a huge difference. (Eric Pianin, Mary Agnes Carey, Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News and Janet Adamy, Wall Street Journal) Obama's health care strategy: Brilliant! (Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times) Why we should eat dogs. And not the kind you get at the ballpark. (Jonathan Safran Foer, Wall Street Journal) 

As if we needed more reminding, the country has a huge gap between costs required for transportation needs and the funding sources to pay for them.

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