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Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 9. That's the number of Senate Democrats who don't support gay marriage, out of the 55 in their caucus, counting the two independents. The number has fallen from 17 as of the last election. Much more below.
Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) now the Court deliberates; 2) Obama wants a second date with Senate Republicans; 3) actuaries predict spike in medical costs; 4) food stamp use remains high; and 5) is vacation all immigration reform ever wanted?
1) Top story: Oral arguments wrap up for same-sex marriage
Justices appear skeptical of Defense of Marriage Act. "A majority of the Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared ready to strike down a key section of a law that withholds federal benefits from gay married couples...It appeared Kennedy’s interest in states’ rights might align with the concerns of the court’s four liberals that the law impermissibly targeted gay couples." Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.
Primary documents: A full written transcript of oral arguments and an audio recording, too. Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post
Explainer: A primer on Wednesday's same-sex marriage oral arguments. Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.
Excerpts only: The most important 8 exchanges of today's oral arguments, annotated. Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.
As it happened: The Washington Post's live blog on the Supreme Court oral arguments.
Wonktalk: Public opinion is changing on gay marriage. Why not on abortion? Sarah Kliff and Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.
Sorry, Justice Scalia: There's no evidence that gay parents aren't bad parents. "[A]doption by gay couples is one of the best arguments for gay marriage, not an argument against it. We should be begging gay couples to adopt children. We should see this as a great boon that gay marriage could bring to kids who need nothing more than two loving parents. The answer to Kagan’s question is that gay marriage doesn’t harm traditional marriage. But the answer to Scalia’s retort is that he’s got it precisely wrong: Gay marriage is good for children in the foster system." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.
Justices question Obama's actions over DOMA. "President Barack Obama believes the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, but continues to enforce it. That stance came in for serious criticism Wednesday from conservative members of the Supreme Court, and led the justices to tackle some thorny procedural questions...In light of this constitutional command, Chief Justice John Roberts said the administration was making an unprecedented bid to invoke Supreme Court jurisdiction, given that it and Ms. Windsor both believed lower courts were correct in striking down the law." Brent Kendall in The Wall Street Journal.
Politicians take new views as public warms to gay marriage. "Congress overwhelmingly supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, even though same-sex marriage was not yet legal anywhere in the United States. As recently as the 2000s, it was viewed as politically safer for most candidates to oppose same-sex marriage than to support it. The picture today is notably different." Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.
@BuzzFeedAndrew: Actually, think it's 48 Senators who now support gay marriage.
...Especially the Senate Democrats. "Then there were 10. No, wait. Nine. As recently as the last election, 17 of those Democrats did not support same-sex marriage. By this week, however, the number was smaller. And getting more so by the day." David Fahrenthold and Paul Kane in The Washington Post.
But can political success be a setback to judicial gains? "While the court may throw out a federal law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the justices signaled over two days of arguments that they might not feel compelled to intervene further, since the democratic process seems to be playing out on its own, state by state, elected official by elected official. The prospect that gay rights advocates may become a victim of their own political success was underscored during arguments on Wednesday over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act." Peter Baker in The New York Times.
Meet Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case. "As Ms. Windsor stood on the steps of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, wearing that same brooch on her lapel, she marveled at the fact that someone who was once so afraid of saying that she was a lesbian had become the central figure in the case that could strike down the law forbidding federal recognition of marriages like the one she and her partner, who is now deceased, entered into in 2007." Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.
@justinwolfers: If you reported being married to a same-sex spouse in the 1990 Census, they "corrected" you, re-coding either your gender or marital status.
The fiscal conservative's case for gay marriage. "[M]ost of the research to date suggests that legalizing gay marriage would have a positive net impact on government revenues, thus helping to decrease the deficit. There are two major ways that increasing gay marriage — and, for that matter, any kind of marriage — would affect the budget. First,
MILBANK: The swing vote. "Imagine how gratifying it must feel to be Anthony Kennedy. As the justice who most often serves as the swing vote on the Supreme Court, he is the target of endless sycophancy, solicitude and general kissing up...May I take your coat, Justice Kennedy? What an elegant robe you’re wearing today, Justice Kennedy! You’re looking well today, Justice Kennedy. The liberal justices were particularly solicitous of Kennedy on Wednesday because the Reagan appointee gave every indication that he would be voting to strike down DOMA, as it is known." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.
@ObsoleteDogma: Wait, there are still people opposed to same sex marriage?
BLOW: History in real time. "This is either to be America’s Era of Enlightenment or Entrenchment. Will we move into the future guided by ancient religious texts or current scientific ones? Will we follow the dictates of supposed deities or the prescript of universal dignity?...[Y]ou should be free to have your faith govern your life but not to extend it to the governance of others’ lives." Charles M. Blow in The New York Times.
MARCUS: Inching towards equality. "Listening to the Supreme Court hear arguments in the same-sex marriage cases was like watching a novice diver inch to the edge of the high board for the first time. Eventually, she’ll probably take the plunge — just not yet. In the meantime, though, she can execute an impressive maneuver from lower heights...[T]he justices seemed tempted to put off deciding the question of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But they appear, at least reading the oral-argument tea leaves, prepared to take the significant step of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and granting full federal benefits to same-sex couples in states that recognize their marriages." Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post.
Music recommendations interlude: Nick Drake, "River Man," 1969.
KLEIN: Obamacare battles move to states. "The law’s opponents hope this sort of truculence will harm Obamacare -- and it probably will. But it will do so primarily by harming the resisting states’ health-care systems. It’s a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite Obama. And because the law can vary so much state-by-state, the dysfunction in states that fight the law will probably stand out compared with states that genuinely work to implement it effectively." Ezra Klein in Bloomberg.
DIONNE: Big money vs. big money on gun control. "The Supreme Court has stuck us with an unsavory choice. If the only moneyed people giving to politics are pushing for policies that favor the wealthy, we really will become an oligarchy. For now, their pile of dough needs to be answered by progressive rich people who think oligarchy is a bad idea. But playing the game as it’s now set up should not blind anyone to how flawed its rules are. Politics should not be reduced to a contest between liberal rich people and conservative rich people." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.
LAFFER AND MOORE: One by one, red states pull back taxes. "Consider the South. We predict that within a decade five or six states in Dixie could entirely eliminate their income taxes. This would mean that the region stretching from Florida through Texas and Louisiana could become a vast state income-tax free zone...Meanwhile, in the South, watch for a zero-income-tax domino effect. Georgia can hardly sustain a 6% income tax if businesses can skip across the border into neighboring states like Florida, Tennessee or South Carolina." Arthur B. Laffer and Stephen Moore in The Wall Street Journal.
BLOOMBERG VIEW: An essay on the future of monetary policy. "The combination of QE and an explicitly higher inflation goal -- the step central banks are so reluctant to take -- would be far more powerful than QE by itself. But the most powerful monetary stimulus of all would go even further than this...There’s still another possibility, however, broached only recently by Bernanke: The Fed needn’t sell all its securities. Instead, it could wait for some to reach maturity, and then let the Treasury redeem them." Bloomberg View Editorial Board.
Adorable animals interlude: A baby giraffe stands for the first time.
2) How 'bout a second date?
Obama wants a second date with Senate Republicans. "President Obama apparently liked the company of Senate Republicans so much after dining them earlier this month that he will do so again in April. Or at least he seems to believes the intimate sessions are his best hope of finding a way to forge agreement on a series of contentious issues, including the budget, immigration and guns...The dinner party – no location or guest list has been announced yet – will come during what will otherwise likely be a fiery week for Obama and the Republican opposition." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.
The 86,000 budget ideas that got away. "After President Obama set up a national online suggestion box asking federal workers for new ways to cut the budget, 86,000 ideas came in...In the end, none of those things happened. Instead, those suggestions became a little-known part of the maddening story of Washington’s budget wars." David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.
Woah interlude: The last of the glass-eye makers.
3) Actuaries predict 32 percent increase in medical claims cost
Society of Actuaries predicts 32 percent increase in cost of medical claims. "The study attributes potential premium hikes to the expected influx of sicker people into the healthcare market...Study authors noted that claims increases will vary dramatically by state on the individual insurance market, rising 62 percent in California and more than 20 percent in Florida by 2017." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.
Why Democrats and Republicans can never agree on health care. "There is a sense in which the fundamental health-cost theories of Republicans and Democrats have become perfectly contradictory. Republicans believe Medicare is the singular problem contributing to the relentless growth in health-care costs...Democrats look at the lower prices paid in single-payer countries as well as the lower prices paid by Medicare in this country and come away with a very different conclusion: We could be paying much less and getting much more, but the insurance industry, at the moment, doesn’t have enough power vis-a-vis hospitals and other providers." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.
How Fortune 500 companies are working to reduce health costs: Act like Medicare. "As General Electric’s director of health services, Robert Galvin was the guy responsible for managing the health insurance costs of about 150,000 employees... Galvin decided to do something a bit different, something that could make GE a bit more like those behemoth programs. He reached out to two-dozen other Fortune 500 countries and state agencies, who also had an interest in controlling health-care costs. That’s how, in 2010, nonprofit Catalyst for Payment Reform emerged." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.
The 'family glitch' in Obamacare. "Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Tuesday that millions of workers’ dependents would still be left without options for affordable family health insurance under the Affordable Care Act...Wyden said that there is a “family glitch” because workers will be ineligible for federal tax credits to help them buy into the health insurance exchanges starting in 2014, unless the cost of their individual employer-based health coverage premium exceeds 9.5 percent of a worker’s household income. Wyden said that glitch ignores the fact that family coverage is much more expensive than individual coverage, and could leave some middle-class workers in a tough spot." Ramsey Cox in The Hill.
Interview: Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards talks with Sarah Kliff. The Washington Post.
TN to hold off on Medicaid expansion. "Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday said no—for the time being—to his state expanding Medicaid under the federal health-care law...The governor told state lawmakers that he favors enrolling tens of thousands more people in private insurance policies, rather than signing them up for the state's Medicaid program." Louise Radnofsky in The Wall Street Journal.
Smart animals interlude: A cat walks a dog home with his leash. This is great.
4) Food stamp use is still high
Food stamp use stays high. "Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as the modern-day food-stamp benefit is known, has soared 70% since 2008 to a record 47.8 million as of December 2012. Congressional budget analysts think participation will rise again this year and dip only slightly in coming years...The biggest factor behind the upward march of food stamps is a sluggish job market and a rising poverty rate. At the same time, many states have pushed to get more people to apply for SNAP, a program where the federal government picks up the tab." Damian Paletta and Caroline Porter in The Wall Street Journal.
How rising inequality can leave society worse off. "As the wealthy have gotten wealthier, the economists find, that’s created an economic arms race in which the middle class has been spending beyond their means in order to keep up. The authors call this “trickle-down consumption.” The result? Americans are saving less, bankruptcies are becoming more common, and politicians are pushing for policies to make it easier to take on debt." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.
How much of the improvements in housing have been speculative? "In the last year or so, after all, some of the big institutional investors have bought up a lot of distressed properties because they perceived the market to be undervalued, and saw some major opportunities in the rental market. Blackstone, for example, is now the biggest owner of single-family homes, having purchased about 20,000 homes across the country, most of them foreclosures." Catherine Rampell in The New York Times.
Hawk or dove, that monetary policymaker is talking about ending QE. "Inside the Federal Reserve, consensus is growing over the need to dial back the central bank’s $85-billion-dollar-a-month bond-buying program — but for very different reasons. It boils down to two sides: Hawks, who want to curtail quantitative easing programs because of the risks they create. And doves, who see evidence that they’re working well enough at stimulating growth that they might soon no longer be needed." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.
Housing program looks to cut monthly payments. "The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced that borrowers who are more than 90 days late on their mortgages will become automatically eligible for a modification to the terms of the home loan. The goal is to reduce monthly payments." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.
The link you're going to send to everyone right now interlude: How closely can you draw a circle, in terms of perimeter-to-area ratio?
5) Is vacation all immigration reform ever wanted?
Senators are touring the U.S.-Mexico border. "During a tour of border control measures in Nogales, Ariz., the foursome saw a woman successfully scale an 18-foot fence, according to an account provided by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Twitter. McCain attached a photo of himself and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the tour, though the woman was not visible in the shot. The senators, including Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), were on the tour as part of their work on an eight-member bipartisan group that is developing legislation that would overhaul the nation’s immigration laws." David Nakamura in The Washington Post.
...And Obama is going to Mexico and Costa Rica. "President Obama will visit Mexico and Costa Rica in early May amid a major push to overhaul immigration laws at home...Obama will meet with newly elected Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on the trip, from May 2 through May 4. In Costa Rica, he will meet with President Laura Chinchilla and leaders from other Central American countries and the Dominican Republic." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.
Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.
Dell needs a coherent model of corporate governance. Neil Irwin.
The euro's a bust. So why does Poland want in? Dylan Matthews.
Inequality and consumption cascades. Brad Plumer.
A primer on Wednesday's same-sex marriage oral arguments. Dylan Matthews.
Why fiscal conservatives should love gay marriage. Suzy Khimm.
Read: The primary documents for Wednesday's oral arguments. Dylan Matthews.
Wonktalk: Public opinion is changing on gay marriage. Why not on abortion? Sarah Kliff and Suzy Khimm.
Excerpts only: The most important 8 exchanges of today's oral arguments, annotated. Dylan Matthews.
Fed hawks and doves talk about the QE endgame. Ylan Q. Mui.
Two Thursday longreads: In The American Prospect, Monica Potts recounts the story of the "weeklies" -- the new American homeless living in budget hotels. Then head over to Ed Yong in Wired, who writes about the new science of collective behavior.
Prisons charge an arm and a leg to make a phone call. Should the FCC force those rates down? Pete Kasperowicz in The Hill.
Nationwide campaign effort to roll out for gun control. Philip Rucker in The Washington Post.
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