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Wonkbook: The GOP's health care battle plan; Green's retrench; the pro-business recovery

With a comprehensive energy bill unlikely this session, environmental groups are moving their resources from advocating cap and trade to defending existing emissions regulations and, in particular, the EPA. But just to show that hope springs eternal, Carol Browner is still saying some sort of carbon cap might appear in a lame-duck session of Congress -- a comment that will surely give the GOP more ammunition against the lame-duck session.

Meanwhile, unemployment is extremely high, but we're also seeing a build-up in open jobs positions; Republicans map out their strategy for defunding health care reform, which might require shutting down the government; Ben Bernanke doesn't seem very impressed with the advice he once gave Japan; and for a purportedly anti-business president, Obama has sure run a business-friendly recovery.

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Green groups are moving cap and trade to the back burner, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "The National Wildlife Federation, the country’s largest environmental group with 4 million members and supporters, considers it 'Job No. 1' to defend EPA against lawsuits in the federal appeals court from a broad coalition of industry and conservative state leaders, including the attorneys general in Virginia and Texas."

Ezra Klein writes that Obama's recovery has seen business recover first, and best:

Even as unemployment stays high, some firms are finding it hard to get employees, reports Mark Whitehouse: "Matching people with available jobs is always difficult after a recession as the economy remakes itself. But Labor Department data suggest the disconnect is particularly acute this time around. Since the economy bottomed out in mid-2009, the number of job openings has risen more than twice as fast as actual hires, a gap that didn't appear until much later in the last recovery. The disparity is most notable in manufacturing, which has had among the biggest increases in openings."

Philip Klein previews Republican strategies for defunding the Affordable Care Act: "'It's possible to defund sections of it. It would be more likely that some of those things that were done as special provisions to capture one or two votes are more vulnerable than others.' For instance, he noted the 'Louisiana Purchase' of $300 million in Medicaid money, inserted as Democrats were courting Sen. Mary Landrieu to vote for the Senate bill. Another example is the increased funding for Internal Revenue Service agents to audit businesses and individuals to enforce mandates."

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Ben Bernanke is going against his own advice from the Japanese economic crisis of the 1990s, reports Jon Hilsenrath: "When Japan fell into deflation in the 1990s, Mr. Bernanke, then a Princeton professor, urged the Bank of Japan to set an objective of 3% to 4% inflation. The reason: With interest rates pinned at zero, rising inflation would mean that the real cost of borrowing, which is nominal interest rates minus inflation, would be falling. In theory that would spur demand. As Fed chairman, Mr. Bernanke has rejected that idea, in part because the U.S. doesn't have deflation now. But if deflation does set in, calls for inflation above the Fed's informal goal of 1.5% to 2% could become louder."

Late night rock interlude: Titus Andronicus play "A More Perfect Union" on Jimmy Fallon.

Still to come: The tax code encourages corporate debt; Obama's head energy advisor says a lame duck climate bill is possible; new legislation would return Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter to the Supreme Court; and pictures of dogs wearing goggles.


America's private debt problem has been egged on by the tax code, reports David Cho: "The combined impact of those two deductions can be tremendous, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Together, they can free a company from paying tax on any income produced by projects financed with debt. But that's not all. The combined deduction can be so large that a company may also be able to apply some of it to its other income, reducing the overall tax bill even further."

Nelson Schwartz reports on academics' belief that this level of unemployment may be the "new normal":

Identity confusion is causing debt collectors to hurt innocent peoples' credit scores, reports Sonja Ryst: "In the uncertain economy, people are especially sensitive to anything that can hurt their credit rating. The FTC said it recognizes that third-party collectors contact millions of people each year, and it receives more complaints about the debt-collection industry than about any other. In its 2010 annual report on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the FTC said it received 119,364 complaints about third-party and in-house debt collectors in 2009, up from 104,766 the previous year."

The FDIC is preparing the first round of credit rating regulations:

Robert Frank argues that extending the Bush tax cuts makes for poor stimulus: "Because most poor and middle-income families consume their entire income, higher tax rates for those families would indeed deprive the economy of much-needed short-run stimulus. But extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest families would be one of the worst possible ways to stimulate spending. These families typically consume much less than their income. Instead of trying to use up all their savings before they die, most prefer to leave substantial bequests. Letting their tax cuts expire might reduce those bequests, but it will not reduce their current consumption significantly."

James Suroweicki wants to soak the super-rich:

Former NEC director Keith Hennessey explains how the White House economic staff works in the wake of Christina Romer's departure: "NEC does economic policy and decision-making, and CEA does economics. They’re different. CEA staff apply economic theories and data to economic policy, while NEC staff operate at the intersection of economics, policy design, the law, communications, politics, strategy, and the practical aspects and constraints of legislating and managing a bureaucracy."

Bruce Bartlett thinks the NEC is unnecessary:

Photograph interlude: America in full color, from 1939 to 1943.


Carol Browner says a climate bill is "possible" in Congress' lame duck session, reports Manu Raju: "Browner said on NBC's 'Meet the Press' that President Barack Obama is still committed to pushing the bill through the Senate, and that there was 'potential' for the bill to come up in a post-election, lame-duck session of Congress. Browner's remarks will almost certainly give ammunition to Republicans who say Democrats are plotting to do mischief in a lame-duck session -- even though top congressional Democrats have thrown cold water on an overly ambitious lame-duck agenda."

Krissah Thompson and David Fahrenthold detail Gulf residents' concerns as the oil spill recovery winds down:

Recent fires are waking Russia up to climate change, reports John Collins Rudolf: "The heat-induced disaster may come as little surprise to Russian climate scientists, who have warned for years that the country is experiencing rapid warming that will only accelerate over the course of the 21st century. Drawing on the work of leading climate researchers, a 2008 report compiled by Russia’s state environmental agency concluded that Russia was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and experienced an average temperature increase of about 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the 20th century."

Thad Allen gives BP mixed scores on the spill cleanup effort:

Julie Makinen writes that insurance companies are embracing green tech: "They are advising companies on how best to incorporate renewable energy systems into their factory operations and offering property insurance that will pay not just to rebuild a structure in the event of a loss like fire but reconstruct it in a more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way. They are even offering coverage to carbon traders. So, if you are a European utility engaged in an emissions offset program in China and a devastating earthquake damages your partner power plant in Sichuan, you have some peace of mind."

Adorable animals on Flickr interlude: Dogs wearing goggles.

Domestic Policy

A bill from Pat Leahy could call back retired Supreme Court justices when current ones recuse themselves, reports Robert Barnes: "In her first term, which concluded in June, Sotomayor recused herself from six cases, for instance, and did not take part in a greater number that the court was considering whether to review. Elena Kagan, the newest justice, will be absent from the court's mahogany bench for more than that. She already has identified a dozen cases she worked on as solicitor general that she will not hear as a justice, and more are likely as the court accepts new cases for the term that begins in October."

House liberals will try to restore food stamp funding in the state aid bill, reports Walter Alarkon: "DeLauro oversees annual spending on the food stamps program as chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee for Agriculture. Asked if she would try to restore the food stamps money in future legislation, DeLauro said, 'Yes, absolutely, I will be fighting for these funds.'"

Matthew Yglesias argues economic downturns foster xenophobia:

Immigration rights groups are bashing the Democrats over the new border spending bill, reports Carrie Budoff Brown: "'If the Democrats try to feed the beast of enforcement that Republicans seem to be fixated on, they are never going to satiate that appetite,' said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress. 'I don’t know if Schumer thinks this is the candy that coaxes them back to the table, but it’s sort of like my fourth grader -- there is never enough candy in the world to make her happy.'"

Robert Samuelson argues the tax code punishes parenthood:

Paul Krugman sees America's infrastructure crumbling in the face of the recession: "The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud -- to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole."

James Fallows proposes term limits for Supreme Court justices:

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 9, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: This is not your Founders' Senate


Health care (transformation) is one of the best issues this current administration has done thus far. With this change individuals will have the opportunity to seek professional and quality health care services. Who would want to return to the days of the horse and buggy, b/w tv sets, manual typewriters, pac man, you get the point? That's about how old the health care system was in the USA. Each day the news is filled with social tragedies in which lives are taken at the hands of known acquaintences and/or family members. Our society is stricken with the institutions of white collar crime permeating throughout this great nation and greed which tends to strike at the very fabric of our country. If you are looking for affordable health insurance check out . I hope everyone will soon recognize and use the resources made by this transformation to seek professional medical attention as the need arises rather than turning to illegal and criminal activities to resolve their issues.

Posted by: capperfred | August 9, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse


read your administration slanted piece over the weekend. I seemed to have heard somewhere though that its fine to do "opinion" pieces in your blog but when its an article for the Post it shouldn't be quite so slanted. Oh well, guess rules are meant to be broken, no?

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 9, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

also is it really defunding when funds were insufficient in the first place for Dems grandiose plans? $5 billion for high risk pools always was way too little. Will Dems try to spin this as Republicans trying to shake down the sick. Of course they will!!!

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 9, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

@visionbrkr: "read your administration slanted piece over the weekend. I seemed to have heard somewhere though that its fine to do "opinion" pieces in your blog but when its an article for the Post it shouldn't be quite so slanted."

For a lefty, Ezra is the epitome of objectivity. He deserves kudos for being open to conservatives with serious, if flawed, policy ideas (like Paul Ryan, in the face of much liberal criticism). And I'm pretty sure even the stuff for the WaPo is opinion journalism.

I was listening to the Ricochet Podcast (excellent, highly recommended for thoughtful center/center-right people everywhere) where they were discussing bias in the media, and I believe it was Rob Long who said that the problem with the media is when reporters stopped being reporters and became journalists. "Reporters weren't on anybody's side! They thought everybody was on the take!" With some nostalgia about cigarettes and black coffee and barking stories into pay phones.

Still, I expect most reportage to demonstrate a bias of perspective (even if it's just regional, and Ezra lives in DC, ya know), and Ezra seems more fair in his take than most.

I'm sure that when he's in his 80s, he, like Walter Cronkite (who once seemed like the fairest man in America) will turn into a hyper-partisan curmudgeon, but he's got a long way to go yet.

"Will Dems try to spin this as Republicans trying to shake down the sick. Of course they will!!!"

Yeah, but they have a much harder time making that stuff stick, now. Bless the new media. On the other hand, I have less sympathy for the Republicans and unfair spinning than I once did--although there's no doubt Bush was tarred-and-feathered and Social Security Reform was just out-and-out lied about (and still is, after they defeated it, they still gotta lie about it) and Sarah Palin has gotten waaaay more venom than she deserves, the Republicans have developed "socialism" Tourettes.

"Today, Obama proposed--"

"Socialist! Socialist! Communist! Plans to Nationalize the Donut Industry! Socialist!"

Every time I hear an (elected) Republican speak, it's nothing but spin. Plus, I've been pretty well convinced they could get a lot of concessions out of Obama, if they weren't so political.

And I'm still not sure why they can't be talked into going along with higher taxes for the super rich--I'd say the majority of folks making $10 million or more a year probably vote for the Democrats, anyway. I understand why they don't want takes going up on folks making $250k, but, even then, they shouldn't be holding tax cuts for middle-class Americans hostage to extending tax cuts for the well-to-do. And, frankly, if it's not an economically good idea to raise taxes on people making $250k a year or more, then that negative economic impact will tarnish Obama and the Democrats, so . . .

Ah, politics.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | August 9, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse


You mean there is no catfood commission? really? Ya I know they all do it but for some strange reason I hold Ezra to a higher standard because he has in the past tried to stay above the fray with his willingness to at least listen to the Paul Ryan's of the world. That's why when he "falls off the non-partisan wagon" it upsets me as it does. Everyone with half a brain knows Limbaugh and Beck et al are partisan hacks and should judge their points accordingly. The most dangerous ones to me are the partisans on either side that blur their partisanship with non-partisanship.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 9, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"@visionbrkr: "Everyone with half a brain knows Limbaugh and Beck et al are partisan hacks and should judge their points accordingly."

You know, Limbaugh is actually very good when the Republicans are in charge. Right now, all the talk about the Obama regime and whatnot grates on me . . . still worth listening to for the sound bites that the MSM (as conservatively biased as it supposedly is) still somehow manages to miss, when it makes Democrats or liberals sounds bad, hypocritical, or crazy. Much better conservative commentators are Dennis Miller (I listen to his intereviews, as there's a Dennis Miller podcast that gives the interviews from his show for free) and the Ricochet Podcast. Of course, I love Rob Long, but James Lileks and even Tucker Carlson appear frequently.

"The most dangerous ones to me are the partisans on either side that blur their partisanship with non-partisanship."

Fair enough, but you do have to expect partisans to view the world in a certain way, and operate on the assumption that certain facts (anthropogenic global warming is proven, tax cuts don't stimulate the economy, ever) are so hard-wired into the belief system that it's not bias as much as it is a mild form of myopia. Ergo, it's not intentionally disingenuous, it's just the nature shape of their world view.

And, while I didn't read the piece, the right seems so out of phase with the facts regarding the Obama administration, I'm not gonna hold a little spin against his supporters. If one side was going out of it's way to be rational, that would be one thing. However, Tea Partiers are Nazis and Democrats are Communists so . . . my expectation have been so lowered that just avoiding calling anybody a socialist or a Nazi strikes me as a high level of political decorum. ;)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | August 9, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Titus Andronicus is the truth...

Posted by: ThomasEN | August 9, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Re: photography interlude

That reminds me of this classic Calvin and Hobbes strip:

It certainly is strange to see the distant past in color.

Posted by: bcbulger | August 9, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

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