Economic Daily Outlook

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2012



GOP on budget: Bitten, but not shy

For the second year running, Republicans are betting big on the budget.

Despite getting hammered by Democrats last year, the GOP is gambling that going big and bold on their fiscal blueprint — think major changes to Medicare and Medicaid — will convince voters the GOP is the nation’s responsible party, comprised of lawmakers attuned to the nation’s fiscal woes.



With Gas Prices Rising, Smog Rules May Stall

The Obama administration, facing political heat over high gasoline prices, may delay new rules that would cut pollution from cars but also could bring higher prices at the pump, environmental and industry leaders said.

The rules would require refiners to make cleaner-burning gasoline and auto makers to build cars that emit fewer smog-forming pollutants. The Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to roll out the rules before April, but it hasn’t yet submitted them for White House review.



Week ahead: Republicans poke holes in healthcare law as Dems celebrate two-year anniversary

House Republicans will vote to repeal the healthcare law’s cost-cutting panel next week as Democrats and their allies celebrate the law’s two-year anniversary.

And as if that wasn’t enough health policy news, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will announce his much-anticipated budget on Tuesday during an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute. On the menu: Medicare premium support and Medicaid block grants.

OPINION: Hurray for Health Reform (Paul Krugman)

It’s said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies. If the same principle applies to legislation, the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law two years ago, but for the most part has yet to take effect — sits in a place of high honor.



Republicans go on offensive over rumors Obama may tap emergency oil reserves

Republicans launched a preemptive strike last week against rumored plans by the White House to tap the country’s emergency oil reserves.

Releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a 696-million-barrel stockpile stored on the Gulf Coast, is a ploy to score political points amid gas prices that are nearing a national average of $4 per gallon, Republicans argued.



High school graduation rate rises in U.S.

More high school students across the country are graduating on time but dropouts continue to be a significant national problem, creating a drag on the economy, according to a report to be issued Monday by a nonprofit group headed by former secretary of state Colin L. Powell.

The national graduation rate increased to 75.5 percent in 2009, up from 72 percent in 2001. And the number of “dropout factories” — high schools where at least 60 percent of students do not graduate on time — fell from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,550 in 2010.



OPINION: Why the U.S. should intervene in Syria (Jackson Diehl)

They are three distinguished senators, but their staffers call them the “three amigos” — because they travel abroad together a lot, because they often speak up together and because they not infrequently find themselves standing alone. This month, John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are talking about Syria. They are making the case for why the United States should lead an intervention to stop the slaughter being perpetrated by dictator Bashar al-Assad.

“The Syrian people are outmatched. They are outgunned. They are confronting a regime whose disregard for human dignity and capacity for sheer savagery is limitless,” said a statement the three issued March 6. “Still they carry on their fight. And they do so on behalf of many of the same universal values we share, and many of the same interests as well . . . . Shame on us if we fail to help them now in their moment of greatest need.”

OPINION: Falling In and Out of War (Bill Keller)

When you’ve been wrong about something as important as war, as I have, you owe yourself some hard thinking about how to avoid repeating the mistake. And if that’s true for a mere kibitzing columnist, it’s immeasurably more true for those in a position to actually start a war.

So here we are, finally, messily winding down the long war in Afghanistan and simultaneously being goaded toward new military ventures against the regimes in Syria and Iran. Being in the question-asking business, I’ve been pondering this: What are the right questions the president should ask — and we as his employers should ask — when deciding whether going to war is (a) justified and (b) worth it? Here are five, plus two caveats, and some thoughts about how all this applies to the wars before us.