Wonkbook: The very different fortunes of abortion and gay marriage

March 27, 2013

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas's morning policy news primer. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

Protesters attend an abortion-rights rally at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on March 25. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)
Protesters attend an abortion-rights rally at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on March 25. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)

This quote brought me up short: ”As recently as 2004, we talked about abortion and same sex marriage in the same breath. They were the values issues. Now, it doesn’t make sense to lump them together anymore. We’ve seen a decoupling."

That's Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, talking to my colleague Sarah Kliff. As Sarah notes, there were two major "social issue" stories in the country yesterday. The gay marriage arguments before the Supreme Court, and 1,500 miles west of Washington, North Dakota's enactment of a (probably unconstitutional) law banning all abortion procedures after six weeks.

The "decoupling" Cox refers to is this: Attitudes on abortion and gay marriage used to go hand-in-hand. Today, they don't. Attitudes on gay marriage have shifted dramatically -- to the point that the attitudes of the young look nothing like the attitudes of the old. According to Pew, 78 percent of millennials support gay marriage, while support among seniors hovers in the mid-30s.

On abortion, however, the views of millennials tracks the public at large. As Sarah writes, "Fifty-two percent of the general public thinks abortion is 'morally wrong.' Among Millennials, that number stands at 50 percent. Fifty-six percent of all Americans think abortion ought to be legal, compared to 60 percent of the younger crowd."

It's not just polling. Almost a dozen states have legalized gay marriage since 2000. But no state has liberalized its abortion laws since then, and the last decade has, in fact, seen a sharp uptick in the passage of abortion regulations.

Changes in public opinion, in other words, are going to decide the gay marriage issue no matter what the Supreme Court does. The same can't be said for abortion.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $450 million. That's the estimated deficit reduction from legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the CBO. More on the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage below. 

Wonkblog's Graph of the Day: Number of people living in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal, by year

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) Defense of Marriage Act gets its day in court; 2) payroll tax increase earns sound of silence; 3) can tech save medicine?; 4) should a secure border and citizenship path go hand in hand?; and 5) Obama signs CR.

1) Top story: Supreme Court hears DOMA arguments today

Supremes listen in on Prop 8 arguments. "A cautious and conflicted Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed wary of a broad constitutional finding on whether same-sex couples have the right to marry, and some justices indicated that it may be premature for them to intervene in a fast-moving, unsettled political environment...The court’s historic review of same-sex marriage continues Wednesday with a more limited question: May Congress withhold federal benefits from same-sex couples married in those states where it is legal?" Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.

Read: A full transcript of the Supreme Court's oral arguments on same-sex marriageDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Or read a little less: These are the excerpted exchanges you need to see from today's oral argumentDylan Matthews

Listen: An audio recording of oral argumentsMatt DeLong in The Washington Post.

Wonkblog explainer: Everything you need to know about the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage casesDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Wonktalk: Will the Supreme Court support gay marriage? Dylan Matthews and Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

How opinion is changing on same-sex marriage, and what it means. "Support for same-sex marriage is increasing — but is it doing so at a faster rate than in the past? Is it now safe to say that a majority approves it? How much of the shift is because people are changing their minds, as opposed to generational turnover? Is there still a gap between how well same-sex marriage performs in the polls and at the ballot booth? How many states would approve same-sex marriage today, and how many might do so by 2016?" Nate Silver in The New York Times.

@BuzzFeedAndrew: Bill O'Reilly on legalizing gay marriage: "The compelling argument is on the side of the homosexuals."

Social scientists short on data on effects of same-sex parenting on children. "Researchers have been delving into the effects of same-sex parenting only since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the studies involve relatively small samples because of the rarity of such families. Still, there is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents is not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development. What matters more, researchers found, is the quality of parenting and the family’s economic well-being" Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.

Explainer: 9 charts that show gay marriage is winning in the "court of popular opinion." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

What's with the disconnect in popular opinion between abortion and gay marriage, two social issues? "For decades, support (or opposition) for gay marriage and abortion went hand in hand. They were the line-in-the-sand “values” issues that sharply divided the political parties...Younger Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage in a way that hasn’t necessarily happened for abortion rights. Young Americans’ views on same-sex unions look nothing like previous generations. But when it comes to abortion rights, Millennials look a lot more lilke their parents." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

@jbarro: We get it, you support gay marriage. Now change your avatar back to a picture of your face so I can tell you all apart.

Jeb Bush wants to keep this a state issue. "The day before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of gay marriage, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview that the issue should be decided by the states." Todd Beamon and John Bachmann in Newsmax.

SUNSTEIN: Four possible paths for Court on same-sex marriage. "In its 1971 decision in Reed v. Reed -- its first serious effort to engage the problem of sex discrimination -- the court took the path of minimalism. Striking down an odd Iowa law that gave a preference to men over women as administrators of estates, the court declined to issue a broad pronouncement that would immediately threaten all discrimination on the basis of sex. Instead it began a long series of case-by-case rulings -- accompanying, but not pre-empting, democratic judgments -- that ultimately produced strong safeguards against such discrimination. With respect to same-sex marriage, the court might be able to adopt a similar approach." Cass R. Sunstein in Bloomberg.

@TheStalwart: If SCOTUS imposes gay marriage on everyone, are those of us who are already married exempt?

RAUCH: The 'off-ramp' option on gay marriage. "The justices did show a lot of interest in a fourth option: an off-ramp. They would decide that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the case, because California had chosen not to appeal a district court's decision overturning Proposition 8. The effect would be to knock down California's gay-marriage ban on a technicality, without affecting the rest of the country.Politically the off-ramp presents problems of its own. As several justices pointed out, it implies that if state officials don't like the result of a voter initiative, they could subvert it by defending it badly, baiting a court to overturn it, and then choosing not to appeal." Jonathan Rauch for the Brookings Institution.

KUZNICKI: A new view of civil marriage. "When the federal government must act in this area, it should do so only with a view toward preserving individual rights. This paper considers federal marriage policy in a new light by suggesting that some, though far from all, of the federal provisions governing marriage may be understood as protections of this kind, or as guarantees of individual responsibility, as in the case of children. When marriage acts in such a way, it merits federal recognition, but not otherwise." Jason Kuznicki for the Cato Institute

BARRO: What's the fiscal impact of gay marriage? "How would same-sex marriage affect government budgets? There’s been a surprisingly large amount of research into this question, and the answer is that same-sex marriage would probably improve governments’ fiscal situations a little...The CBO’s findings suggest that federally recognized gay marriage would reduce the budget deficit by about $450 million a year, or roughly 0.01 percent of total federal spending. So, I’m sorry, straight America: We’re not going to balance your budget by getting married, but we’ll help a little bit." Josh Barro in Bloomberg.

MILBANK: Why gay marriage is unstoppable. "In the case the justices are hearing Wednesday, it is widely expected that they’ll strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to ignore other states’ same-sex unions. In Tuesday’s case, justices appeared to be looking for a narrow way to rule — something that would apply to Proposition 8 and nothing else." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

@pourmecoffee: If you were exposed to pro gay marriage arguments today, you should procreate with opposite sex spouse in next 24 hours just to be safe.

DOWD: Courting cowardice. "Their questions reflected a unanimous craven impulse: How do we get out of this? This court is plenty bold imposing bad decisions on the country, like anointing W. president or allowing unlimited money to flow covertly into campaigns. But given a chance to make a bold decision putting them on the right, and popular, side of history, they squirm...If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court." Maureen Dowd in The New York Times.

BALZ: Parties scramble as political winds shift on gay marriage. "The political and legal systems are caught between past and future. Public opinion has shifted rapidly, and a majority of Americans now back legalizing same-sex marriage. Among those younger than 40, support is overwhelming. The question is when and in what form the future arrives...Today, it is considered perilous for any Democrat with national aspirations not to support same-sex marriage" Dan Balz in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: The Band, "Ophelia," 1975.

Top op-eds

WILLIAMS: Race and the gun debate. "One thing you don't hear much about in the discussions of guns: race. That is an astonishing omission, because race ought to be an inescapable part of the debate. Gun-related violence and murders are concentrated among blacks and Latinos in big cities. Murders with guns are the No. 1 cause of death for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34...In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 54% of all murders committed, overwhelmingly with guns, are murders of black people. Black people are about 13% of the population." Juan Williams in The Wall Street Journal.

MARCUS: The gun control opportunity. "Requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases is a change that is simultaneously more effective than banning assault weapons and more politically achievable. Which is why the real worry of gun control advocates shouldn’t be Reid’s supposed perfidy in jettisoning assault weapons — it’s whether the background-check measure passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee is too strong even to make it to the Senate floor." Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post.

ORSZAG: Fix our roads, our bridges. "Our structures are aging as fast as we are. From 2000 to 2010, the median human age in the U.S. rose by almost two years, from 35.3 to 37.2, and the average age of nonresidential corporate fixed assets increased by about the same amount. Fixed assets as a whole aged from an average of 20.7 years to 22.1...In the absence of such steps, our infrastructure will only become less safe and less productive. Although we may not be able to do much about our own aging, there’s plenty we could do to keep public infrastructure young." Peter Orszag in Bloomberg.

YGLESIAS: A man walks into a bar. It's a business opportunity, not just a punchline. "Cities need to recognize that bars and restaurants are not the ugly stepchildren of the modern urban economy: They are its greatest strength. They spur small-business growth and creation citywide. When cities consider whether to allow them, they should think about the overall benefits to the region, not the particular complaints of near neighbors...Under the circumstances, promoting the development and expansion of nightlife hubs should be a key economic development priority for cities. Or, rather, preventing neighborhood busybodies from stifling them ought to be." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

PORTER: How the Court is changing copyright. "In a 6-to-3 decision, the court took sides with Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai math student at Cornell who generated roughly $900,000 in revenue reselling in the United States cheap textbooks that his friends and relatives sent from Thailand. John Wiley & Sons had argued that Mr. Kirtsaeng was infringing on its copyright by importing the books without permission...But the court held that the publisher’s right to ban imports was trumped by Mr. Kirtsaeng’s right of first sale." Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.

Film interlude: The evolution of movie opening credits.

2) On payroll tax increase, the sound of silence

Firms shift spending into higher gear. "One closely watched gauge of business investment—new orders for nondefense capital goods, excluding aircraft—fell slightly in February after climbing in January, the government said Tuesday. But the longer-term picture is of businesses steadily increasing spending after a big pullback in the middle of last year. The gauge's three-month moving average has risen every month since October." Brenda Cronin in The Wall Street Journal.

Housing values continue to rise. "The 20-city home price index, a key gauge of U.S. home prices, climbed 8.1 percent in the 12-month period that ended in January. The healthiest gains were in parts of the country hardest hit by the housing downturn. Prices in Phoenix were up 23.2 percent. San Francisco home prices were up 17.5 percent. Prices increased 15.3 percent in Las Vegas and 10.8 percent in Miami." Michael A. Fletcher in The Washington Post.

Companies in the Dow stock index are paying lower effective corporate tax rates. "A Washington Post analysis found that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, companies in the current Dow 30 routinely cited U.S. federal tax expenses that were 25 to 50 percent of their worldwide profits. Now, most are reporting less than half that share." Jia Lynn Yang in The Washington Post.

Here's a riddle: If the payroll tax rate rises, and nobody notices, does it have macroeconomic effects? "A new survey from Bankrate.com finds that just 30 percent of Americans have cut back on spending as a result of the payroll tax hike. A full 48 percent of Americans haven’t noticed the change at all...In particular, low-income Americans were least aware of the change, with 59 percent not noticing any difference." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Honey, I shrunk the world's supply of safe assets. "The global pool of government bonds with triple A status from the three main rating agencies, the bedrock of the financial system, has shrunk more than 60 per cent since the financial crisis triggered a wave of downgrades across the advanced economies. The expulsion of the US, the UK and France from the “nine-As” club has led to the contraction in the stock of ­government bonds deemed the safest by Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, from almost $11tn at the start of 2007 to just $4tn now, according to Financial Times analysis." Ralph Atkins and Keith Fray in The Financial Times.

Fun fun fun interlude: Take part in a real-life treasure hunt.

3) Can tech save medicine?

Can Big Data improve cancer care? "A major oncology group is launching an ambitious project to collect data on the care of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients and use it to help guide treatment of other patients across the health-care system...A prototype system has collected about 100,000 breast-cancer records so far from 27 oncology groups, many of which use different types of electronic records." Ron Winslow in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: These 21 graphs show one thing that American health care costs are completely insaneEzra Klein in The Washington Post.

Urban Institute sees benefits to veterans in Medicaid expansion. "Researchers with the Urban Institute reported that as many as 40 percent of uninsured U.S. veterans would be eligible for healthcare under the law's insurance exchanges or its expanded Medicaid program. There are currently about 1.3 million uninsured veterans, the report said." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Debate: Are rationing and consolidation the future of the health industry? Is that a good futureThe New York Times.

ND governor continues the 'my abortion law is more restrictive than yours' one-upmanship among the red states. "North Dakota became the nation’s most restrictive state on abortion rights on Tuesday as Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a measure banning the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.Dalrymple signed two other abortion bans Tuesday that were approved by the state’s GOP-led legislature. The first would ban abortions based on genetic defects like Down syndrome – the first such measure in the country – and on gender selection. The second would require that any doctor performing abortions in the state be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges." Lara Seligman in The Hill.

Onion interlude: Read their amusing take on the Supreme Court's oral arguments on same-sex marriage.

4) GOP wants to link path to citizenship with border security

Obama looks to dive back into immigration reform. "Democrats welcome the pivot after watching Obama’s standing in polls fall amid fights with Congress over the budget and the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester...They see immigration and gun reform as a better playing field for Obama that could provide political wins for the president." Justin Sink in The Hill.

WH mum on plan to link a path to citizenship with improvement in border security. "Republicans in the Senate have pushed for an agreement that would only grant a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants if certain goals were met. The White House has indicated that it does not believe that the two goals should be linked, although it has so far not explicitly ruled out such an agreement." Justin Sink in The Hill.

The AFL-CIO wants to pay foreign workers more than native-born ones. Why? "The dispute is over whether businesses should have to pay a premium to hire foreign workers through a newly created guest-worker program and, if so, what that premium should be. Business wants to be able to pay foreign workers the same as native-born workers, with the federal minimum wage as a floor...Union officials, by contrast, have proposed a tiered system that would ask employers to pay anywhere between 20 percent and 70 percent more to hire foreign workers." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

The link you're going to send to everyone right now interlude: All of Woody Allen's stammers.

5) The continuing resolution is done

Obama signs CR. "President Obama on Tuesday afternoon officially signed into law a measure funding the government through Sept. 30, ensuring that the government will stay open through the remainder of the fiscal year." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Baucus voted against the Senate Democratic budget. "The powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee broke with leadership and the majority of his caucus by voting against a budget framework that would raise nearly $1 trillion in new revenues." Bernie Becker and Erik Wasson in The Hill.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Texas wants its gold back. Wait, whatNeil Irwin.

Must-read exchanges from Tuesday's oral argumentsDylan Matthews.

The decoupling of gay marriage and abortion in social politicsSarah Kliff.

Read: Transcript of Tuesday's oral argumentsDylan Matthews.

9 charts that show the rise of popular support for gay marriageSarah Kliff.

Wonktalk: Will the Supreme Court support gay marriageDylan Matthews and Sarah Kliff.

The AFL-CIO wants to pay foreign workers a lot. Why? Suzy Khimm.

The end of emergency unemployment benefits, in one chart. Suzy Khimm.

21 graphs, 1 message: U.S. healthcare costs are beyond the paleEzra Klein.

The invisible payroll tax hikeBrad Plumer.

Et Cetera

EPA report: More than half of American rivers are in poor shapeDina Cappiello in The Washington Post.

GOP scrutinizes new regs for civilian nuclear exportsBen Goad in The Hill.

After Newtown shooting, support for gun control fades awayAaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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March 27, 2013

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas's morning policy news primer. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

Protesters attend an abortion-rights rally at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on March 25. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)
Protesters attend an abortion-rights rally at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on March 25. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)

This quote brought me up short: ”As recently as 2004, we talked about abortion and same sex marriage in the same breath. They were the values issues. Now, it doesn’t make sense to lump them together anymore. We’ve seen a decoupling."

That's Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, talking to my colleague Sarah Kliff. As Sarah notes, there were two major "social issue" stories in the country yesterday. The gay marriage arguments before the Supreme Court, and 1,500 miles west of Washington, North Dakota's enactment of a (probably unconstitutional) law banning all abortion procedures after six weeks.

The "decoupling" Cox refers to is this: Attitudes on abortion and gay marriage used to go hand-in-hand. Today, they don't. Attitudes on gay marriage have shifted dramatically -- to the point that the attitudes of the young look nothing like the attitudes of the old. According to Pew, 78 percent of millennials support gay marriage, while support among seniors hovers in the mid-30s.

On abortion, however, the views of millennials tracks the public at large. As Sarah writes, "Fifty-two percent of the general public thinks abortion is 'morally wrong.' Among Millennials, that number stands at 50 percent. Fifty-six percent of all Americans think abortion ought to be legal, compared to 60 percent of the younger crowd."

It's not just polling. Almost a dozen states have legalized gay marriage since 2000. But no state has liberalized its abortion laws since then, and the last decade has, in fact, seen a sharp uptick in the passage of abortion regulations.

Changes in public opinion, in other words, are going to decide the gay marriage issue no matter what the Supreme Court does. The same can't be said for abortion.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $450 million. That's the estimated deficit reduction from legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the CBO. More on the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage below. 

Wonkblog's Graph of the Day: Number of people living in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal, by year

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) Defense of Marriage Act gets its day in court; 2) payroll tax increase earns sound of silence; 3) can tech save medicine?; 4) should a secure border and citizenship path go hand in hand?; and 5) Obama signs CR.

1) Top story: Supreme Court hears DOMA arguments today

Supremes listen in on Prop 8 arguments. "A cautious and conflicted Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed wary of a broad constitutional finding on whether same-sex couples have the right to marry, and some justices indicated that it may be premature for them to intervene in a fast-moving, unsettled political environment...The court’s historic review of same-sex marriage continues Wednesday with a more limited question: May Congress withhold federal benefits from same-sex couples married in those states where it is legal?" Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.

Read: A full transcript of the Supreme Court's oral arguments on same-sex marriageDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Or read a little less: These are the excerpted exchanges you need to see from today's oral argumentDylan Matthews

Listen: An audio recording of oral argumentsMatt DeLong in The Washington Post.

Wonkblog explainer: Everything you need to know about the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage casesDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Wonktalk: Will the Supreme Court support gay marriage? Dylan Matthews and Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

How opinion is changing on same-sex marriage, and what it means. "Support for same-sex marriage is increasing — but is it doing so at a faster rate than in the past? Is it now safe to say that a majority approves it? How much of the shift is because people are changing their minds, as opposed to generational turnover? Is there still a gap between how well same-sex marriage performs in the polls and at the ballot booth? How many states would approve same-sex marriage today, and how many might do so by 2016?" Nate Silver in The New York Times.

@BuzzFeedAndrew: Bill O'Reilly on legalizing gay marriage: "The compelling argument is on the side of the homosexuals."

Social scientists short on data on effects of same-sex parenting on children. "Researchers have been delving into the effects of same-sex parenting only since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the studies involve relatively small samples because of the rarity of such families. Still, there is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents is not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development. What matters more, researchers found, is the quality of parenting and the family’s economic well-being" Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.

Explainer: 9 charts that show gay marriage is winning in the "court of popular opinion." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

What's with the disconnect in popular opinion between abortion and gay marriage, two social issues? "For decades, support (or opposition) for gay marriage and abortion went hand in hand. They were the line-in-the-sand “values” issues that sharply divided the political parties...Younger Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage in a way that hasn’t necessarily happened for abortion rights. Young Americans’ views on same-sex unions look nothing like previous generations. But when it comes to abortion rights, Millennials look a lot more lilke their parents." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

@jbarro: We get it, you support gay marriage. Now change your avatar back to a picture of your face so I can tell you all apart.

Jeb Bush wants to keep this a state issue. "The day before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of gay marriage, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview that the issue should be decided by the states." Todd Beamon and John Bachmann in Newsmax.

SUNSTEIN: Four possible paths for Court on same-sex marriage. "In its 1971 decision in Reed v. Reed -- its first serious effort to engage the problem of sex discrimination -- the court took the path of minimalism. Striking down an odd Iowa law that gave a preference to men over women as administrators of estates, the court declined to issue a broad pronouncement that would immediately threaten all discrimination on the basis of sex. Instead it began a long series of case-by-case rulings -- accompanying, but not pre-empting, democratic judgments -- that ultimately produced strong safeguards against such discrimination. With respect to same-sex marriage, the court might be able to adopt a similar approach." Cass R. Sunstein in Bloomberg.

@TheStalwart: If SCOTUS imposes gay marriage on everyone, are those of us who are already married exempt?

RAUCH: The 'off-ramp' option on gay marriage. "The justices did show a lot of interest in a fourth option: an off-ramp. They would decide that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the case, because California had chosen not to appeal a district court's decision overturning Proposition 8. The effect would be to knock down California's gay-marriage ban on a technicality, without affecting the rest of the country.Politically the off-ramp presents problems of its own. As several justices pointed out, it implies that if state officials don't like the result of a voter initiative, they could subvert it by defending it badly, baiting a court to overturn it, and then choosing not to appeal." Jonathan Rauch for the Brookings Institution.

KUZNICKI: A new view of civil marriage. "When the federal government must act in this area, it should do so only with a view toward preserving individual rights. This paper considers federal marriage policy in a new light by suggesting that some, though far from all, of the federal provisions governing marriage may be understood as protections of this kind, or as guarantees of individual responsibility, as in the case of children. When marriage acts in such a way, it merits federal recognition, but not otherwise." Jason Kuznicki for the Cato Institute

BARRO: What's the fiscal impact of gay marriage? "How would same-sex marriage affect government budgets? There’s been a surprisingly large amount of research into this question, and the answer is that same-sex marriage would probably improve governments’ fiscal situations a little...The CBO’s findings suggest that federally recognized gay marriage would reduce the budget deficit by about $450 million a year, or roughly 0.01 percent of total federal spending. So, I’m sorry, straight America: We’re not going to balance your budget by getting married, but we’ll help a little bit." Josh Barro in Bloomberg.

MILBANK: Why gay marriage is unstoppable. "In the case the justices are hearing Wednesday, it is widely expected that they’ll strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to ignore other states’ same-sex unions. In Tuesday’s case, justices appeared to be looking for a narrow way to rule — something that would apply to Proposition 8 and nothing else." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

@pourmecoffee: If you were exposed to pro gay marriage arguments today, you should procreate with opposite sex spouse in next 24 hours just to be safe.

DOWD: Courting cowardice. "Their questions reflected a unanimous craven impulse: How do we get out of this? This court is plenty bold imposing bad decisions on the country, like anointing W. president or allowing unlimited money to flow covertly into campaigns. But given a chance to make a bold decision putting them on the right, and popular, side of history, they squirm...If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court." Maureen Dowd in The New York Times.

BALZ: Parties scramble as political winds shift on gay marriage. "The political and legal systems are caught between past and future. Public opinion has shifted rapidly, and a majority of Americans now back legalizing same-sex marriage. Among those younger than 40, support is overwhelming. The question is when and in what form the future arrives...Today, it is considered perilous for any Democrat with national aspirations not to support same-sex marriage" Dan Balz in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: The Band, "Ophelia," 1975.

Top op-eds

WILLIAMS: Race and the gun debate. "One thing you don't hear much about in the discussions of guns: race. That is an astonishing omission, because race ought to be an inescapable part of the debate. Gun-related violence and murders are concentrated among blacks and Latinos in big cities. Murders with guns are the No. 1 cause of death for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34...In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 54% of all murders committed, overwhelmingly with guns, are murders of black people. Black people are about 13% of the population." Juan Williams in The Wall Street Journal.

MARCUS: The gun control opportunity. "Requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases is a change that is simultaneously more effective than banning assault weapons and more politically achievable. Which is why the real worry of gun control advocates shouldn’t be Reid’s supposed perfidy in jettisoning assault weapons — it’s whether the background-check measure passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee is too strong even to make it to the Senate floor." Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post.

ORSZAG: Fix our roads, our bridges. "Our structures are aging as fast as we are. From 2000 to 2010, the median human age in the U.S. rose by almost two years, from 35.3 to 37.2, and the average age of nonresidential corporate fixed assets increased by about the same amount. Fixed assets as a whole aged from an average of 20.7 years to 22.1...In the absence of such steps, our infrastructure will only become less safe and less productive. Although we may not be able to do much about our own aging, there’s plenty we could do to keep public infrastructure young." Peter Orszag in Bloomberg.

YGLESIAS: A man walks into a bar. It's a business opportunity, not just a punchline. "Cities need to recognize that bars and restaurants are not the ugly stepchildren of the modern urban economy: They are its greatest strength. They spur small-business growth and creation citywide. When cities consider whether to allow them, they should think about the overall benefits to the region, not the particular complaints of near neighbors...Under the circumstances, promoting the development and expansion of nightlife hubs should be a key economic development priority for cities. Or, rather, preventing neighborhood busybodies from stifling them ought to be." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

PORTER: How the Court is changing copyright. "In a 6-to-3 decision, the court took sides with Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai math student at Cornell who generated roughly $900,000 in revenue reselling in the United States cheap textbooks that his friends and relatives sent from Thailand. John Wiley & Sons had argued that Mr. Kirtsaeng was infringing on its copyright by importing the books without permission...But the court held that the publisher’s right to ban imports was trumped by Mr. Kirtsaeng’s right of first sale." Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.

Film interlude: The evolution of movie opening credits.

2) On payroll tax increase, the sound of silence

Firms shift spending into higher gear. "One closely watched gauge of business investment—new orders for nondefense capital goods, excluding aircraft—fell slightly in February after climbing in January, the government said Tuesday. But the longer-term picture is of businesses steadily increasing spending after a big pullback in the middle of last year. The gauge's three-month moving average has risen every month since October." Brenda Cronin in The Wall Street Journal.

Housing values continue to rise. "The 20-city home price index, a key gauge of U.S. home prices, climbed 8.1 percent in the 12-month period that ended in January. The healthiest gains were in parts of the country hardest hit by the housing downturn. Prices in Phoenix were up 23.2 percent. San Francisco home prices were up 17.5 percent. Prices increased 15.3 percent in Las Vegas and 10.8 percent in Miami." Michael A. Fletcher in The Washington Post.

Companies in the Dow stock index are paying lower effective corporate tax rates. "A Washington Post analysis found that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, companies in the current Dow 30 routinely cited U.S. federal tax expenses that were 25 to 50 percent of their worldwide profits. Now, most are reporting less than half that share." Jia Lynn Yang in The Washington Post.

Here's a riddle: If the payroll tax rate rises, and nobody notices, does it have macroeconomic effects? "A new survey from Bankrate.com finds that just 30 percent of Americans have cut back on spending as a result of the payroll tax hike. A full 48 percent of Americans haven’t noticed the change at all...In particular, low-income Americans were least aware of the change, with 59 percent not noticing any difference." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Honey, I shrunk the world's supply of safe assets. "The global pool of government bonds with triple A status from the three main rating agencies, the bedrock of the financial system, has shrunk more than 60 per cent since the financial crisis triggered a wave of downgrades across the advanced economies. The expulsion of the US, the UK and France from the “nine-As” club has led to the contraction in the stock of ­government bonds deemed the safest by Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, from almost $11tn at the start of 2007 to just $4tn now, according to Financial Times analysis." Ralph Atkins and Keith Fray in The Financial Times.

Fun fun fun interlude: Take part in a real-life treasure hunt.

3) Can tech save medicine?

Can Big Data improve cancer care? "A major oncology group is launching an ambitious project to collect data on the care of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients and use it to help guide treatment of other patients across the health-care system...A prototype system has collected about 100,000 breast-cancer records so far from 27 oncology groups, many of which use different types of electronic records." Ron Winslow in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: These 21 graphs show one thing that American health care costs are completely insaneEzra Klein in The Washington Post.

Urban Institute sees benefits to veterans in Medicaid expansion. "Researchers with the Urban Institute reported that as many as 40 percent of uninsured U.S. veterans would be eligible for healthcare under the law's insurance exchanges or its expanded Medicaid program. There are currently about 1.3 million uninsured veterans, the report said." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Debate: Are rationing and consolidation the future of the health industry? Is that a good futureThe New York Times.

ND governor continues the 'my abortion law is more restrictive than yours' one-upmanship among the red states. "North Dakota became the nation’s most restrictive state on abortion rights on Tuesday as Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a measure banning the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.Dalrymple signed two other abortion bans Tuesday that were approved by the state’s GOP-led legislature. The first would ban abortions based on genetic defects like Down syndrome – the first such measure in the country – and on gender selection. The second would require that any doctor performing abortions in the state be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges." Lara Seligman in The Hill.

Onion interlude: Read their amusing take on the Supreme Court's oral arguments on same-sex marriage.

4) GOP wants to link path to citizenship with border security

Obama looks to dive back into immigration reform. "Democrats welcome the pivot after watching Obama’s standing in polls fall amid fights with Congress over the budget and the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester...They see immigration and gun reform as a better playing field for Obama that could provide political wins for the president." Justin Sink in The Hill.

WH mum on plan to link a path to citizenship with improvement in border security. "Republicans in the Senate have pushed for an agreement that would only grant a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants if certain goals were met. The White House has indicated that it does not believe that the two goals should be linked, although it has so far not explicitly ruled out such an agreement." Justin Sink in The Hill.

The AFL-CIO wants to pay foreign workers more than native-born ones. Why? "The dispute is over whether businesses should have to pay a premium to hire foreign workers through a newly created guest-worker program and, if so, what that premium should be. Business wants to be able to pay foreign workers the same as native-born workers, with the federal minimum wage as a floor...Union officials, by contrast, have proposed a tiered system that would ask employers to pay anywhere between 20 percent and 70 percent more to hire foreign workers." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

The link you're going to send to everyone right now interlude: All of Woody Allen's stammers.

5) The continuing resolution is done

Obama signs CR. "President Obama on Tuesday afternoon officially signed into law a measure funding the government through Sept. 30, ensuring that the government will stay open through the remainder of the fiscal year." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Baucus voted against the Senate Democratic budget. "The powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee broke with leadership and the majority of his caucus by voting against a budget framework that would raise nearly $1 trillion in new revenues." Bernie Becker and Erik Wasson in The Hill.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Texas wants its gold back. Wait, whatNeil Irwin.

Must-read exchanges from Tuesday's oral argumentsDylan Matthews.

The decoupling of gay marriage and abortion in social politicsSarah Kliff.

Read: Transcript of Tuesday's oral argumentsDylan Matthews.

9 charts that show the rise of popular support for gay marriageSarah Kliff.

Wonktalk: Will the Supreme Court support gay marriageDylan Matthews and Sarah Kliff.

The AFL-CIO wants to pay foreign workers a lot. Why? Suzy Khimm.

The end of emergency unemployment benefits, in one chart. Suzy Khimm.

21 graphs, 1 message: U.S. healthcare costs are beyond the paleEzra Klein.

The invisible payroll tax hikeBrad Plumer.

Et Cetera

EPA report: More than half of American rivers are in poor shapeDina Cappiello in The Washington Post.

GOP scrutinizes new regs for civilian nuclear exportsBen Goad in The Hill.

After Newtown shooting, support for gun control fades awayAaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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Dylan Matthews | March 26, 2013