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Wonkbook: Worst jobless claims since Feb; Warren profile; Obama signs border bill


Jobless claims are up yet again this week. Worst week since February, in fact. Obama is signing a $600 million border enforcement bill today (can you guess how many senators it took to pass it?); broadband deployment is slowing; Daniel Indiviglio explains Treasury's $3 billion program to help unemployed homeowners; and Brady Dennis profiles Elizabeth Warren. Oh, and some Arcade Fire for you.

It's Friday. Amazing how that happens. Welcome to Wonkbook.

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Jobless claims rose again this week, report Jeff Bater and Luca di Leo: "Initial unemployment claims rose by 2,000 to 484,000 in the week ended Aug. 7, the Labor Department said in its weekly report Thursday. The last time claims were this high was the week ending Feb. 20. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had predicted filings would fall by 14,000 to 465,000. The four-week moving average, which aims to smooth volatility in the data, increased by 14,250 to 473,500. New claims for the previous week, ending July 31, were revised up, to 482,000 from the originally reported 479,000."

Brady Dennis profiles Elizabeth Warren: "Warren tells the story of how first lady Hillary Clinton vowed in a private meeting to help fight a bankruptcy bill pending in Congress that Warren warned would dismantle vital protections for families. President Bill Clinton subsequently vetoed the bill. But when the bankruptcy bill came back before the Senate in 2001, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton voted in favor. The lesson for Warren was that even a sympathetic ally could be swayed by wealthy special interests. 'As New York's newest senator, however, it seems that Hillary Clinton could not afford such a principled position...Big banks were now part of Senator Clinton's constituency. She wanted their support, and they wanted hers,' Warren wrote."

Warren visited the White House yesterday:

Obama will sign a $600 million border security bill today, reports Jim Abrams: "The border security measure would fund the hiring of 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to be deployed at critical areas along the border, 250 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and 250 more Customs and Border Protection officers. It provides for new communications equipment and greater use of unmanned surveillance drones. There are currently seven such drones along the border."

The bill was passed by just two senators:

Broadband deployment is slowing, reports Cecilia Kang: "Smith said the economic recession contributed to the slowdown in rates of adoption. Economists continue to debate the immediate value of expensive projects to bring fiber lines across the great expanses of the country. Even when Internet lines are brought to homes, some consumers have resisted getting service because they don't understand the value of the technology, aren't educated on how to use it, or find it too expensive, according to the survey."

Daniel Indiviglio explains Treasury and HUD's $3 billion effort to prevent the jobless from foreclosing:

Stadium rock interlude: The Arcade Fire plays "Neighorhood Pt. 3 (Power Out)" and "Rebellion (Lies)" at Madison Square Garden.

Still to come: Affordable housing advocates are angry about the administration's housing policy panel; Paul Krugman outlines exactly what he thinks the Fed needs to do; Steve Pearlstein wants the FCC to have clearer online authority; and "Eye of the Tiger" played only with iPads.


Affordable housing advocates argue they're shut out from the administration's housing policy process, reports Zachary Goldfarb: "After the administration announced the 12 panelists for Tuesday's conference, the nonprofit National Community Reinvestment Coalition said consumer and community groups had been 'muscled out' by financial companies, economists and academics without a sense of how housing policy plays out in communities.

Foreign firms benefited from TARP:

A study from the Dallas Fed raises doubts about the stimulus' effectiveness, reports Emmeline Zhao: "Saving notes, however, that the stimulus fulfilled the 'targeted and timely criteria moderately well.' Large portions of the plan target those who are likely to spend immediately, and mostly during or shortly after the recession -- more than 40% of the funds arrive this year, and one-third came in 2009. Still, about 25% won’t arrive until long after the recession began: between 2011 and 2019."

Daniel Gross argues that workers are right to be choosy, even amidst a recession: In the past few decades, workers have generally lost ground against employers in negotiating terms of employment. Defined-benefit pension plans have been replaced by 401(k)s, and then employers sometimes cut the matching contributions. A smaller percentage of private-sector jobs today come with health insurance, while many workers who have insurance have to pay more for it...And so the main thing employees—and potential employees—look at when evaluating their current jobs and potential offers is wages. And here, too, corporate America hasn't been delivering. The median income in 2008 was below what it was in 1998.

Financial crises are almost always followed by large increases in public debt:

Paul Krugman wants more aggressive action from the Fed: "What could the Fed be doing? Back when, Mr. Bernanke suggested, among other things, that the Bank of Japan could get traction by buying large quantities of “nonstandard” assets -- that is, assets other than the short-term government debt central banks normally hold. The Fed actually put that idea into practice during the most acute phase of the financial crisis, acquiring, in particular, large amounts of mortgage-backed securities. However, it stopped those purchases in March. Since then, the economic news has grown steadily worse."

IMF official Jose Vinals credits FinReg with greatly increasing the US' financial stability:

Michael Darda argues that we need tax reform rather than a tax cut: "With the 2001-2003 tax cuts set to expire at the end of 2010, the time is now to move ahead with broad-based reform. A good starting point would be the bipartisan Wyden-Gregg tax reform bill. This bill is not incredibly bold, but is probably the best we could do in the current environment and is much better than the current tax code."

Robert Kimmitt and Matthew Slaughter suggest using multinational corporations to restart US manufacturing: "Despite the common assertion that U.S. multinationals simply "export jobs" out of the United States, these firms' expansion abroad has tended to complement their U.S. operations. More international investment and employment in their foreign affiliates has tended to create more U.S. parent company investment and jobs as well. Our calculations from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data show that from 1988 to 2007, employment in foreign affiliates rose by 5.3 million jobs -- while U.S. parent companies added nearly as many positions, 4.3 million."

Rocky III nostalgia interlude: "Eye of the Tiger" played on iPads.


BP will pay a $50.6 million fine and spend over $500 million on safety following refinery problems, reports Steven Greenhouse: "The OSHA penalty does reflect what many critics have said is a corporate culture that has emphasized speed and profits over safety. In agreeing to pay the $50.6 million fine, BP has the dubious distinction of topping the previous record OSHA fine of $21 million that it paid after the 2005 explosion in Texas City. 'The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP’s disregard for workplace safety,' said the secretary of labor, Hilda L. Solis, during a news conference announcing the agreement."

Mark Engler adds up the full cost of oil dependence: "The late Milton Copulos was a veteran of the Heritage Foundation, an advisor to both President Ronald Reagan’s White House and the CIA, as well as the head of the right-wing National Defense Council Foundation...In 2006, Copulos argued that, if you add to oil-related defense spending such factors as the economic impact of periodic oil supply disruptions and the opportunity costs of money spent on oil imports that might have been used elsewhere in the economy, the "hidden" costs of the U.S. dependence on petroleum would total up to $825 billion per year."

An administration study says carbon sequestration will remain expensive for years to come, writes Andrew Revkin: "Today the Obama administration put as optimistic a spin as possible on a report issued by a task force that President Obama convened earlier this year to identify hurdles to capturing and storing the gas in meaningful quantities at a feasible cost. The report concluded that the process will remain expensive for decades to come without substantial added government investment above and beyond a rising price on CO2 emissions."

The task force still urged expanding "clean coal" programs:

Robert Virchick explains how humans contribute to "natural" disasters: "The truth is, a lot of this is our fault. The population is expanding, and we are building where we shouldn’t -- in flood plains, on fragile beaches, in valleys, and on muddy hillsides. As we develop, we are destroying much of our protective “natural infrastructure,” too -- the marshes and swamps that protect New Orleans, the mangroves that protect Myanmar from cyclone surge, the forests that prevent mudslides in the Himalaya."

Even apart from greenhouse regulations, the EPA is cracking down on coal:

Long-form standup interlude: Mike Birbiglia talks about his first girlfriend.

Domestic Policy

Despite administration policies, undocumented students still fear deportation:

Steven Pearlstein wants the FCC to set basic Internet rules: "The promise of the Internet -- what we might call the public Internet -- is that it allows anyone who is on it to send any type of content to anyone else at any time. As it did with earlier generations of "common carriers," the government should set minimum service standards for speed, reliability and equal access, including a "neutrality" requirement that traffic be managed on a first-come, first-served basis. Beyond the minimum standards, companies should be free to offer different tiers of service at different prices while managing their networks as they see fit, as long as prices and practices are clearly disclosed."

Paul Ryan defends his Medicare plan:

Michael Gerson argues opponents of birthright citizenship target children: "Usually, opponents of illegal immigration speak of giving lawbreakers what they deserve. But this does not apply in the case of an infant. Consider two newborn babies at, say, Parkland Hospital in Dallas. One is the child of citizens, the other of illegal immigrants. Critics of birthright citizenship look at the child of immigrants and feel..disturbed? Outraged? But why? Do they see a child somehow tainted by illegality? That hardly seems fair. A burden on resources? No more than any other poor child. An alien lacking allegiance? How could they possibly know?"

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Sakina Rangwala. Photo credit: Daniel Acker/bloomberg News Photo.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 13, 2010; 6:21 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: Considering Warren


I'm not so much interested in what Ryan has to say.

I'd rather hear an objective analysis of his claims/plans.

Come on Ezra. In a rant unbecoming an elected official, the man called you (and all other progressives) a "cancer" and other terrible things.

And this is the kind of guy you are willing to give space to so you can hear what he has to say?

Get tough with this guy. And what I mean by tough is to tell us the blunt truth, because I have no doubt Ryan isn't doing it. The man is a scumbag.

Posted by: lauren2010 | August 13, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Percieved tolerance for high joblessness numbers is crazy bad for the image of a Democratic President.

Every time a bad number comes out, Obama should react with fury, heads should roll, and policy changes should be announced.

Posted by: Patrick_M | August 13, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse


Obama doesn't believe in drama.

Posted by: lauren2010 | August 13, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

To put the 484,000 initial jobless claims in perspective:

The average from September 21st 2001 - October 19th 2001 was 482,000.

The average from September 9th 2005 - September 16th 2005 was 423,000.

Posted by: justin84 | August 13, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

"A study from the Dallas Fed raises doubts about the stimulus' effectiveness"

That's not accurate (though it may have been fair to say that "the WSJ reports that a study from the Dallas Fed raises doubts about the fiscal stimulus").

The paper/study says that conditions in early 2009 were the textbook conditions where a fiscal stimulus makes the most sense, and that the stimulus was, generally speaking, well targeted.

It notes that many evaluations have determined that the stimulus saved millions of jobs, although there exist alternative viewpoints that have suggested those figures are significantly high or low.

In general it reads like Little Timmy's First Fiscal Stimulus Lesson.

The lead "it's unclear how large the boost has been" in the WSJ misleads as the context is the paper is justifying claims that the stimulus saved millions of jobs despite worse-than-projected employment numbers by saying we can't know how bad things would have been.

In no way does it raise new "doubts about the stimulus' effectiveness".

It's kind of sad, the Journal could have had a perfectly accurate attack on Obama based on the paper saying "as the Dallas Fed points out, while we'll never know how much benefit the stimulus gave, we do know the cost: an 'exacerbated near-term fiscal [imbalance].'" But that probably wouldn't have enabled her to meet the Journal's high standard for inaccuracy and dishonesty in every article.

Posted by: eggnogfool | August 13, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Not many comments and even less name calling. Hummm, it must be a Journolist holiday today.

Posted by: dcharlson | August 13, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

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