Weekend | 16 March 2013


Reihan Salam | Reuters

Between these two budgets lies a potentially attractive middle ground, and the interesting question is which party will get there first. It has become commonplace to argue that Republicans are constrained by a highly ideological conservative base that will brook no compromise on taxes or spending. And there is something to that. But the tensions within the Democratic coalition mean that Democratic politicians will have an even harder time embracing root-and-branch spending reforms. By offering a fiscally sustainable path to universal coverage and a better deal for middle-income parents, conservative reformers have a shot at breaking America’s political stalemate.

The first step would be for Republicans to rally around James Capretta’s market-based alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Like Ryan, Capretta starts out by repealing most of the ACA. But he also reforms the tax treatment of health insurance to curb the benefits for the highest earners while creating a refundable tax credit for individuals without access to job-based coverage. He also overhauls the Medicaid program by giving state governments a fixed amount of money per Medicaid beneficiary that they can combine with the refundable tax credit to buy coverage for low-income residents. To broaden insurance coverage as much as possible, Capretta proposes that states provide default insurance options for individuals who don’t actively use their tax credit to purchase coverage. Capretta’s path to universal coverage wouldn’t be free, but he argues that it would cost a fifth or less of what the coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act are expected per year.

The second step would be for Republicans to call Patty Murray’s bluff on taxes. Murray is right to believe that cutting tax expenditures on high earners could generate a great deal of revenue. Diane Lim of the Pew Charitable Trusts recently observed that capping the total dollar value of itemized deductions at $17,000 would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue over the next decade. One awkward challenge for Murray, however, is that some of the biggest beneficiaries of the loopholes and unfair spending in the tax code she condemns are two-earner couples living in high-tax jurisdictions like New York, New Jersey and California, a vital part of the Democratic coalition.

With this in mind, Republicans ought to embrace Murray’s call for closing loopholes and cutting unfair tax code spending. But instead of using this new revenue to finance government spending, Republicans should insist it be used to dramatically expand the popular child tax credit.


Huma Yusef | Latitude | The New York Times

LONDON — Pak Tea House, a café that was home to Pakistan’s intelligentsia for decades and an icon of resistance to authoritarian rule, reopened last week in Lahore after being closed for 13 years.
Coming on the heels of literary festivals in Lahore and Karachi last month, the café’s return has stirred excitement about a literary revival in Pakistan and the proliferation of venues where the country’s myriad problems — insurgencies, extrajudicial executions, nuclear weapons procurement, the fallout of the war in Afghanistan — can be openly debated.

Instead, in its new incarnation, Pak Tea House highlights the precarious position of free speech in Pakistan today.

Carlos Puig | Latitude | The New York Times

MEXICO CITY — In a country with barely any Internet access, the activist Yoani Sánchez has managed, with a blog and a Twitter account as her only tools, to tell the outside world about repression in Cuba. This has brought her a couple of arrests and a dozen international awards, including a special mention from the Maria Moors Cabot Prize committee and the Ortega y Gasset prize for online journalism.

But in Mexico, Cuba’s most famous dissident was given a decidedly cool welcome.

A couple of weeks ago, Sánchez finally got an exit visa to leave Cuba and started a three-month tour that will take her across Latin America, the United States and Europe. Her first stop in Mexico was in Puebla, two hours from Mexico City, at the annual meeting of the Inter American Press Association. When some of her Mexican friends asked politicians and nongovernmental organizations to host an event in her honor, they found no takers. At the conference itself she was harassed and insulted. Organizations no one had ever heard of published manifestos in local newspapers repudiating her visit.


Louis Malle | The Criterion Collection | Hulu

The Lovers presents Jeanne Moreau as a restless bourgeois wife whose eye wanders from her husband and her lover to an attractive passing stranger.


Destination Doo Wop | Youtube



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