* Paul Ryan today rolled out a major critique of federal anti-poverty programs, in advance of Obama’s budget release, and Zachary Goldfarb explains the economic contrast between the parties that the two blueprints embody, and what they tell us about both sides’ political gamble for 2014.
* The Obama administration says it’s “highly likely” that it will impose additional sanctions on Russia if it doesn’t pull back, even as the European Union is also threatening punitive steps, though it remains unclear whether such moves will have any impact.
* Michael Hirsh has a fair overview of the dilemma Obama faces as he struggles with a lack of options to dissuade Putin. Key nugget:
It is critical that Obama respond strongly, and that this response be swift. At stake is not only the future of Ukraine, where the chaotically disorganized opposition to Yanukovich is waiting and wondering, but in the Middle East and throughout Asia, where many leaders have taken to questioning America’s commitment to the world. After pledging and then backing down from strikes against Syria last year, and staking his presidency on the withdrawal from America’s wars, Obama now has something to prove: He can take aggressive action. Whether he likes it or not, Putin and other world leaders appear to view him as indecisive and unwilling to take risks.
The only reasonable response, then, must be a powerful diplomatic thrust to isolate Putin and make immediately clear the costs of moving beyond Crimea into the rest of Ukraine. The risks for Obama in this are huge but he has no choice but to take them. Despite the fact that he needs the good will of Moscow in order to resolve the nuclear talks with Iran and peace negotiations over Syria, Obama must gamble that if he leads a decisive, united world response to the Crimean incursion, it will at once impress the Russian president and make Putin worry about his and Russia’s international image, a concern of the Kremlin’s that was so obvious during the just-concluded Sochi Olympics. Putin must be made to calculate that further recalcitrance not only over Ukraine but over Iran and Syria as well will only isolate him further.
* Meanwhile, Daniel Larison on what Obama critics who have no intention of ever being mollified really mean when they call for Obama to exercise more “leadership” and “resolve” in situations such as this one.
* Also see Michael Cohen on the real subtext of charges that Obama’s and America’s “credibility” is on the line here.
* And Benjamin Wallace-Wells on the real subtext of charges that Obama’s “toughness” is on the line here.
* This will leave a mark: The Associated Press turns up evidence that the GOP Senate candidate in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land, opposed the auto-bailout and derided GM as “General Government” and “Government Motors.” Land is already trying to moderate herself by coming out for the Medicaid expansion.
* The North Carolina Democratic Party releases a video lampooning expected GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis’ refusal to take a position on Obamacare: He’s pro-repeal, but of course he’d replace the law with something that would accomplish its goals (though he won’t say what). You read about this here first.
* This from the Wall Street Journal seems inconvenient:
The Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health law, is already boosting household income and spending.
The Commerce Department reported Monday that consumer spending rose a better-than-expected 0.4% and personal incomes climbed 0.3% in January. The new health-care law accounted for a big chunk of the increase on both fronts.
* The White House is preparing to ramp up its outreach to Latinos to get them to enroll in Obamacare, which will be crucial given previous reports that they’d been slow to sign up.
* Senator Rand Paul appears to be serious about teaming up with Attorney General Eric Holder to find common ground on sentencing reform, and it’s good to see the prospects of a right-left alliance on this issue are real.
* And Ryan Cooper has a deep dive into the intellectual roots and policy advisability of a simple solution to economic stagnation: Give people free money.