* Prospects for getting a federal minimum wage increase through this Congress may be slight, but activists are getting a raise through in one state after another. The latest: Maryland, where a bill to raise it to $10.10 in stages is set to be signed by Governor Martin O’Malley. It’s a good bet O’Malley will be touting that if and when he runs for president.
* Dems respond to the Paul Ryan budget: Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is releasing his own, and it doesn’t balance as quickly as Ryan’s, because it doesn’t take a machete to social programs. Strange how having the government do things for people costs money.
* The Senate is set to pass an extension of unemployment insurance tonight. But it isn’t expected to go anywhere in the House, despite a group of moderate Republicans urging Speaker John Boehner to allow it to come to a vote.
* Meanwhile, Wesley Lowery reports that Dems are planning a full-court press to try to get the extension passed, including a media strategy targeting Republican members from districts with high unemployment. Even if it doesn’t get the bill through the House, it will still extract from Republicans a cost to opposing the extension.
* Esquire reports that David Wildstein, who may or may not have engineered that infamous “traffic study” in Fort Lee, is cooperating with the feds in their investigation of Chris Christie’s administration. Right about now, Christie is probably asking himself whether it was such a good idea to go after Wildstein in the press.
* Brian Beutler has taken his talents to the New Republic, and here at his new home, he notes that conservatives who were all about employers’ rights when it came to what birth control you can use or even your free speech are suddenly outraged that Brendan Eich was pushed from his CEO position at Mozilla for his opposition to marriage equality.
* When House Ways and Means Committee chair Dave Camp released a tax plan, many liberals gave him credit for not only including actual details, but even agreeing to an increase in some taxes for Wall Street. But now Bob McIntyre of Ctizens for Tax Justice has run all the numbers on Camp’s plan, and guess what:
The tax cuts would favor the rich and multinational corporations while lower-income Americans would face a tax increase. Two-thirds of single parents would pay an extra $1,100 a year in taxes.
In other words, it was more like a typical Republican tax plan than people thought.
* Fun times as Philip Rucker and Robert Costa explain the wonky part of the “invisible primary,” in which potential GOP presidential candidates seek out people who will help them find Ukraine on a map and grill them on which three agencies they want to eliminate, so there won’t be any “Oops” moments.
Key nugget: All the hopefuls are in close contact with John McCain. “I tell them to touch base with Henry Kissinger — of course,” he says. Which is where you go if you’re looking for a fresh perspective.
* New numbers from Gallup suggest that the number of Americans without health insurance is going steadily down. Ed Kilgore tells us how Republicans are likely to react:
Let’s remember there is a conservative fallback position if it does ultimately appear Obamacare is working as intended: it just means the number of Americans enslaved by dependence on the federal government is increasing. There simply cannot be any proximate point at which the Right accepts the law as a positive development. Heads they win, tails you lose.
On the other hand, the argument that people who get Medicaid are worse off than when they were uninsured has never been particularly persuasive to the broader public. Not that that will stop them from saying it.
* Jonathan Berstein asks a key question that goes to the heart of whether Democrats can get political benefits from the Affordable Care Act: “How many of those in the exchanges, in expanded Medicaid, and newly eligible for their parents’ insurance plans are aware that they are covered by Obamacare?”
With a program like Medicare, if you’re on it, you know you’re on Medicare. Since the ACA is a complex system of regulations and not a program per se, no one is “on Obamacare,” which makes them much less likely to give credit for its benefits to the administration.
* Jonathan Chait has a long exploration of race and politics in the age of Obama:
Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history, has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world. Liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable. Conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs. And the horrible thing is that both of these forms of paranoia are right.
There should be something in his article to anger you, no matter what your beliefs.
* And finally, GOP Rep. Vance McAllister of Louisiana, who got elected touting his Christian faith and firm family values, got caught on a security camera making smoochy-smoochy with an aide, who like McAllister is married to someone else. McAllister is asking for forgiveness, because, you know, he got caught.