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Wonkbook: More jobs bills; Wall Street turns on Obama; the calorie information cometh


Thought the wars over job-creation bills were over? Apparently not. In a speech in the Rose Garden yesterday, President Obama announced his administration was working on new legislative measures to spur job growth to be unveiled in coming weeks. It's hard to imagine the White House getting much in the way of new bills passed, but it's a good fight for them to have going into the midterm election.

Oh, and speaking of the midterm election, one of the quietly important stories is that Republicans have managed to both paint themselves as the enemy of bank bailouts while also taking the majority of Wall Street's money away from the Democrats. Andrew Ross Sorkin tells you why finance turned on Obama. And did you know that health-care reform included a little-noticed provision that will force every eatery with more than 20 locations to post calorie information on their menus? Well, it did, and the FDA is about to start making sure that restaurants are following the rules.

All that and more in Wonkbook, the (not-)book for wonks.

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From Obama's speech: "So, as Congress prepares to return to session, my economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term, and increasing our economy’s competitiveness in the long term. Steps like extending the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year. Redoubling our investment in clean energy and R&D. Rebuilding more of our infrastructure for the future. Further tax cuts to encourage businesses to put their capital to work creating jobs here in the United States. And I’ll be addressing these proposals in further detail in the days and weeks to come.

Watch the whole thing here:

Obama also condemned GOP opposition to a small business jobs bill as "directly detrimental" to economic growth:

Robert Reich tweets: "O blasting R's for blocking small biz bill is like swatting mosquitos when your home is on fire. It's too little and beside the point."

Andrew Ross Sorkin explains why Wall Street executives are deserting Obama: "The prevailing view is that bankers, hedge fund mangers and traders supported the Obama candidacy because he appealed to their egos. Mr. Obama was viewed as a member of the elite, an Ivy League graduate (Columbia, class of ’83, the same as Mr. Loeb), president of The Harvard Law Review — he was supposed to be just like them. President Obama was the “intelligent” choice, the same way they felt about themselves. They say that they knew he would seek higher taxes and tighter regulation; that was O.K. What they say they did not realize was that they were going to be painted as villains."

The FDA is getting ready to enforce health-care reform's menu labeling provisions, reports Janet Adamy: "The health-care law said chain restaurants with 20 locations or more are required to post the caloric information on their menus. That requirement took effect when President Barack Obama signed the law, but the places that serve food aren't expected to begin complying until penalties kick in next year. In preliminary guidelines released last week, the Food and Drug Administration said the scope of the law stretches beyond restaurants to encompass airlines, trains, grocery-store food courts, movie theaters and convenience stores that qualify as chains. Within grocery stores, the agency said, it is considering including salad bars, store bakeries, pizza bars and delicatessens. Stadiums aren't listed since they aren't chains."

The recipe for the best bean salad I've ever had:

Still to come: The IMF is expanding lending to countries still suffering the aftereffects of the financial crisis; Robert Reich doesn't think the Fed can save us; a major opponent of action on climate change does an about face; and William Langewiesche tells you what it's like to have your ship boarded by Somali pirates.


The IMF is extending new lines of credit to countries still recovering from the financial crisis, reports Howard Schneider: "The new program will carry the same philosophy a step further, to countries that may have significant problems in one or two aspects of their economic policies - a weak banking system or a large government budget deficit, for example - but are considered to be in generally good shape. The money under the new program will come with strings attached - a commitment to bolster economic policies that the IMF considers flimsy or troublesome - but that would not hold up access to it in a crisis. The country would agree to a semiannual review."

Former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld and Fed chair Ben Bernanke will testify before before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission this week:

Consumer spending grew in July even adjusting for inflation, reports Justin Lahart: "Consumer spending rose 0.4% in July from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Monday, after staying flat in June. Adjusted for rising prices, spending grew 0.2%..'It's pretty sluggish, but it's not a collapse,' said James O'Sullivan, an economist at MF Global in New York. He calculates that July's increase puts consumer spending on track to grow at a 2% annual rate in the third quarter--the same pace as in the second quarter."

Robert Reich argues Fed action can't spur job growth: "Individuals aren't borrowing because they're still under a huge debt load. And as their homes drop in value and their jobs and wages continue to disappear, they're not in a position to borrow. Small businesses aren't borrowing because they have no reason to expand. Retail business is down, construction is down, even manufacturing suppliers are losing ground. That leaves large corporations. They'll be happy to borrow more at even lower rates than now -- even though they're already sitting on mountains of money. But this big-business borrowing won't create new jobs."

Andy Kessler argues for a second TARP:

"Clearinghouses" in FinReg might become new carriers of systemic risk, argues Ilya Podolyako: "Now that clearinghouses have become ingrained into our official market framework, they are likely to become susceptible to the same business pressures that led other too-big-to-fail institutions to dance while the music is playing and not worry about what happens after. In the absence of mandatory clawback requirements, the people who own CME Clearing, OCC, and any other entity that can successfully break into the oligopoly will be able to benefit enormously by charging nonrefundable fees to process every transaction that the DF Act shoves onto their platforms from the previously scattered OTC markets...The possibility that these sophisticated, logical actors will overlook the fact that Congress has just anointed them as systemically critical parts of the U.S. economy (on whom farmers, power plants, and steel mills will depend to provide a backbone to their trades) seems slim."

Adorable animals fighting Nazis interlude: Voytek, the Polish soldier bear.


Bjørn Lomberg, formerly a major opponent of climate change legislation, is calling for $100 billion to reduce emissions, reports Juliette Jowit: "Examining eight methods to reduce or stop global warming, Lomborg and his fellow economists recommend pouring money into researching and developing clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and nuclear power, and more work on climate engineering ideas such as 'cloud whitening' to reflect the sun's heat back into the outer atmosphere. In a Guardian interview, he said he would finance investment through a tax on carbon emissions that would also raise $50bn to mitigate the effect of climate change, for example by building better sea defences, and $100bn for global healthcare."

The Obama administration is considering letter grades for vehicle efficiency:

More and more banks are refusing to lend to coal companies engaging in mountaintop removal mining, reports Tom Zeller: "The policy shift by Wells Fargo follows others over the last two years, including moves by Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank, to increase scrutiny of lending to companies involved in mountaintop removal -- or to end the lending altogether. HSBC, which is based in London, has curtailed its relationships with some producers of palm oil, which is often linked to deforestation in developing countries."

China has announced regulations shutting down old, inefficient coal plants:

Surrealist trend interlude: Album covers with tacos Photoshopped in.

Domestic Policy

Over a million Medicare beneficiaries have received a rebate under health care reform, reports David Herszenhorn: "In its news release, the White House said it expects to distribute some four million of the $250 rebate checks, and that one-quarter of those have been disbursed. 'Many seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare face extraordinary prescription drug costs, and too often stop following the drug regimens that their doctors have recommended as a result,' the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, said in a statement."

Falling home prices reduce the likelihood of students going to college:

A new study suggests that immigration improves native-born workers' incomes across the board, reports Michael Derby: "Peri’s work estimates that an inflow of immigrants equal to 1% of employment boosts income per individual by 0.6% to 0.9%. On a larger scale, 'total immigration to the United States from 1990 to 2007 was associated with a 6.6% to 9.9% increase in real income per worker.' Peri says that gain 'equals an increase of about $5,100 in the yearly income of the average U.S. worker in constant 2005 dollars' for a gain that equals '20% to 25% of the total real increase in average yearly income per worker registered in the United States between 1990 and 2007.'"

Health Care for America Now is financing Affordable Cart Act supporters in the midterms:

Peter Boyer profiles NIH head Francis Collins, the man at the center of the stem cell court fight:

The Department of Justice is suing Arizona community colleges for discriminating against immigrant students, reports Jerry Markon: "In Monday's lawsuit, Justice officials said the colleges discriminated against nearly 250 noncitizen job applicants by mandating that they fill out more documents than required by law to prove their eligibility to work. That violated the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, the department said..Justice Department officials said the lawsuit is unrelated to the case against Brewer and the probe of Arpaio and stems from a different investigation that began in January 2009 - the month the Obama administration took office."

The vast majority of household workers are paid under the table, writes Nancy Folbre: "First, our estimates of the number of private household workers are woefully inaccurate. Individuals who work under the table are unlikely to report their jobs, especially if they are undocumented immigrants. As a result, it’s difficult to estimate precisely the rates of noncompliance with tax reporting requirements. According to Dr. Haskins’s estimates, somewhere between 80 percent and 97 percent of household employers were flouting the law in 2006...Some policy remedies are at hand. Dr. Haskins’s research suggests that tax simplification, education and improved enforcement could all have a positive impact."

Long-form interlude: William Langewiesche on what it's like to have your ship boarded by Somali pirates.

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Ou.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2010; 1:30 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reconciliation
Next: Wondering what's going on with the financial regulation bill?


Please stop buying Japanese products until they stop murdering whales and dolphins. At some point you have to tell yourself there is something worth giving up in our none-ending materialistic quests and instead try to do a small part in changing the world. Don't buy that Infinity or that Toyota or that Akai stereo system. Buy American, help our economy, and put pressure on the Japanese to stop murdering these beautiful and intelligent animals.

Posted by: lauren2010 | August 31, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

"And did you know that health-care reform included a little-noticed provision that will force every eatery with more than 20 locations to post calorie information on their menus? Well, it did, and the FDA is about to start making sure that restaurants are following the rules."

Didn't you tell us nearly a year ago that there was essentially no effect from menu labeling?

Posted by: justin84 | August 31, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Hey Obama

Get off your butt and appoint more federal judges.

This perhaps is your biggest failure so far.

Use whatever means possible to get more progressives into the courts.

Can someone explain to me why Obama is so darn lazy and un-energetic with his duties?

Posted by: lauren2010 | August 31, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

"What they say they did not realize was that they were going to be painted as villains."

Maybe if they hadn't acted villainous...

Posted by: JkR- | August 31, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, JkR. They're like angry children refusing to admit they've done anything wrong, but if there's a bad guy in this story, it's them.

Lauren, 2010, aren't a lot of Toyota's made in the U.S.? Granted, whenever I end up buying my next car I do plan on "buying American", but that's more an issue of supporing unionization than anti-whaling. Not that I'm pro-whaling. I love Star Trek IV as much as the next guy. I'm just not sure that in a global economic downturn the Japanese are necessarily going to connect a dip in Toyota's sales figures (especially after the recall) with their position on whaling. I think donating to a non-profit that can lobby the Japanese government or getting a US elected official to meet with someone would be more effective.

Posted by: MosBen | August 31, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

That Sorkin piece is both funny and sad. Or maybe I should say pathetic. So to understand this correctly the money people are against Obama because he took their destruction of the world economy as a sign and decided to take some steps so they could not do it again?

The job istuation in this country sucks because the markets and economy were destroyed by an unregulated, uncontrolled mass of greed. The United States government stepped in and saved these idiots from themselves and decided they weren't going to be allowed to do it again and their feelings are hurt.

Every day these guys should wake up and thank Obama for not having them perp walked out of their homes and offices in front of TV cameras for the criminal activities that were Wall Street. Instead they whine becasue they are not allowed to go back to the business as usual approach that caused the economic sitiuation that almost put the world into Great Depression 2.0.

Maybe these guys should understand that before there was an Obama administration to supposedly "make them into villians" most of the country already thought they were villians. Without the actions and interventions of the Federal Government this country would have been in a Great Depression - the Obama administration was the only thing between these guys and the torches and pitchforks. These guys really need to go get a clue.

Posted by: zattarra | August 31, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"Health Care for America Now is financing Affordable Cart Act supporters in the midterms"

I had an extended exchange with their main blogger Jason Rosenbaum maybe 6-9 months ago, and he was unbelievably disingenuous, bordering on blatantly dishonest. I couldn't tell if he really had that poor an understanding of the issues or if he was basically a propagandist liar.

Posted by: ab_13 | August 31, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

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