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Playing politics
March 27, 2014
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With ObamaCare in need of fixing, Yahoo News' Matt Bai hearkens back to a 2009 conversation he had with then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who warned that Democrats "could ram through a health-care overhaul on a partisan vote. But you wouldn't be able to sustain it."

"Baucus turned out to be prescient," Bai concedes, echoing Baucus' contention that "this kind of sprawling social legislation... doesn't end with a single vote."

True enough. Unfortunately, Bai then advances the conventional, if revisionist, wisdom that "Democrats didn't have a whole lot of choice."

But they did. As the AP reported in 2009, a "middle-of-the-road measure fashioned by the committee under Baucus' leadership" had won over the support of GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe. President Obama even praised this development as "a critical milestone."

A few days later, however, Harry Reid scuttled the deal, insisting on a public option. As CNN reported:

Snowe issued a statement Monday saying she was "deeply disappointed" with Reid's decision on the public option. She argued that a decision in favor of a trigger "could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate."

Democrats chose to eschew a bipartisan health-care compromise, guaranteeing there would be zero Republican skin in the game. The consequence being that Democrats now solely "own" it. Matt K. Lewis

The New Daily Showdown
1:35 a.m. ET

Trevor Noah signs on as host of The Daily Show on Sept. 28, and Comedy Central's newest ad campaign for its flagship topical comedy show seems aimed at reassuring viewers that Noah isn't going to crash Jon Stewart's car. And their main way of doing that seems to be mocking the Daily Show correspondents. In one new spot, Jessica Williams, Hasan Minhaj, and Jordan Klepper try to show off their affinity with Noah's native South Africa, only to be reassured that "nothing's going to change" (and that we've apparently all been pronouncing "zebra" wrong). In a second ad, Noah talks straight to the viewers to let them know he and his "Best F#@king News Team" will still cover the 2016 election (and try to sell them jewelry).

Perhaps the best new ad features Williams and John Hodgman, who vie for Noah's attention with gifts and painful personal sacrifices. Here's hoping Hodgman plays a bigger role in the rebooted show. You can watch him mutilate his upper lip (not really) in the video below. Peter Weber

Sharing Economy
12:58 a.m. ET
EDUARDO MUNOZ/Reuters/Corbis

On Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco granted class action status to a lawsuit by three Uber drivers who argue that they are more employees than independent contractors, as Uber contends. The class includes up to 160,000 Uber drivers in California, as long as they have not waived their right to class-action arbitration. Uber says that leaves a small number of potential plaintiffs, while the lawyer representing the drivers says it will include many thousands, and many more if the class action is widened to include all U.S. Uber drivers.

Class action suits generally give plaintiffs more leverage, and if the case ultimately goes against Uber, the car-service startup could be forced to pay for its drivers' Social Security, workers comp, unemployment and health insurance, and automotive maintenance costs. That would upend Uber's entire business model and possibly affect other companies based on the "sharing economy." Uber says it will appeal Judge Edward Chen's ruling, while plaintiff lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan tells The Wall Street Journal that she and her clients "will seek reimbursement for expenses, as well as tips that were not distributed to Uber drivers, around the country." Peter Weber

last night on late night
12:37 a.m. ET

Anthony Sadler, one of the three Americans awarded France's top civilian honor for stopping a heavily armed man from shooting up a train from Amsterdam, was on The Tonight Show on Tuesday to tell what happened. It's a pretty amazing story, and Sadler told Jimmy Fallon he could recount it all day. One of the details really struck Fallon, however: "We were having so much fun in Amsterdam, we almost stayed," Sadler said, explaining why he and his two friends were very nearly not on the train.

Get it? They had been in Amsterdam? They were asleep on the train? If not Fallon sort of beat the inference to death, singing reggae in case the ganja vibe wasn't clear enough. He went on with the innuendo for so long that Sadler's laughter started to get a little polite. You can watch Sadler's heroic tale, and Fallon's attempts to... lighten the mood? below. Peter Weber

Iran nuclear deal
September 1, 2015
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said they will support the Iran nuclear deal, putting the White House just one vote short of the 34 senators needed to sustain his veto of the Senate's probable disapproval resolution. Coons had expressed strong reservations about the deal as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but said in a speech early Tuesday that while it "is not the agreement I had hoped for," it is the best realistic option to constrain Iran.

The deal also got the endorsement of two prominent House Democrats on Tuesday, Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), who has close ties to pro-Israel advocacy groups. Congress will open debate on the binding disapproval resolution next week, but if another senator goes on record as being in favor of the deal, the next hurdle for the White House will be getting 41 senators to support a filibuster, sparing President Obama a veto entirely. Peter Weber

China Slumping
September 1, 2015

American politics still tends to think of China in terms of cheap and plentiful exports, and as the hoarder of the globe's manufacturing jobs. But that industrial boom required enormous raw materials, and it came with a rising middle class that wants stuff.

As Joseph P. Quinlan, a chief market strategist at Bank of America, demonstrated in a recent note to clients, that's made China a key source of global consumption as well — a title our politics tends to bestow on America itself. In fact, China recently overtook the U.S. in terms of how many countries rely on it to buy their exports:

(Graph courtesy of Business Insider)

If the recent slowdown in China does spread, this is the route by which it will happen: By depriving the world of the aggregate demand it needs to keep providing enough jobs and rising income to everyone around the globe.

This also clarifies what should worry us about China. Yes, its authoritarianism is wrong. And yes, it would probably be wise to liberalize its markets. But in many ways China faces the same problem as the already-democratic and already-liberalized U.S. and Europe: Whether its socioeconomic order can keep enough purchasing power in the hands of enough ordinary people to maintain aggregate demand. Jeff Spross

This just in
September 1, 2015
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If all you've ever wanted was an Egg McMuffin for dinner, you're finally in luck. McDonald's announced Tuesday that, following months of deliberation and testing, it will begin serving breakfast all day long on Oct. 6 in all 14,300 of its U.S. restaurants.

Under the current rules, McDonald's breakfast fans have to sacrifice precious beauty sleep to snag a hash brown before the cutoff at 10:30 a.m., when the chain switches from heating up eggs to heating up Big Macs.

After years of customer complaints, McDonald's USA President Mike Andres said the company had finally decided to give the people what they wanted. "This is the consumers' idea," Andres told The Wall Street Journal. Since the fast-food chain's sales have been in a slump, Andres and McDonald's franchisees are hopeful that all-day breakfast sales could offer the boost they've been looking for, even if preparing two kinds of meals at once does introduce some additional costs and complexities.

Mark your calendars. Becca Stanek

marijuana vs. tobacco
September 1, 2015
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Today's college students prefer lighting up a joint to sparking up a cigarette, a new study released Tuesday revealed. The number of U.S. university students using pot a on near-daily basis has reached a 35-year high, supplanting cigarettes as the most popular smokeable substance.

Nearly six percent of college students smoke pot "either every day or at least 20 times in the previous 30 days," A 2014 University of Michigan survey of full-time college students found.

But, parents, your kids still aren't as big potheads as you were back in the day. While the latest pot-smoking stats are dramatically up from just four years ago in 2007, when just 3.5 percent of students reported using pot on a near-daily basis, kids today still haven't reached the 7.2 percent high of 1980.

Meanwhile, cigarette smoking's popularity has seen a drop that's more dramatic than marijuana's rise. While 19 percent of college students identified as "heavy cigarette smokers" back in 1999, only 5 percent of students do now. Becca Stanek

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