Wonkbook: WH plans health reform push; Fed likely to delay; BP well dead
Ding-dong, BP's well is dead. Or, at the least, sealed with cement plugs. Tests conducted Sunday affirmed that the "bottom kill" will hold, and thus that particular danger is over. Now there's just the long period of clean-up and damage assessment, and for BP, the long legal fight against claims and suits.
Speaking of long fights, the Obama administration is ramping up its campaigning on the Affordable Care Act. The bill has been battered lately by confident Republican opponents (not to mention poor poll numbers), but unbeknown to most, some of its more populist measures -- like caps on annual limits, and allowing children to stay on their parents' plans until they're 26 -- are taking effect. The White House is hoping they can use these parts as a base on which to build a campaign for the whole.
It's Monday. Welcome to Wonkbook.
Obama is renewing his defense of the Affordable Care Act, report Janet Adamy and Laura Meckler: "The Obama administration this week plans to revive its pitch for the health-care overhaul, hoping that a slate of consumer-friendly provisions will boost public support before midterm elections. Starting Thursday, insurers officially must adhere to about a half-dozen key changes under the law, including eliminating co-payments for preventive services and allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance policy until their 26th birthday. Democrats structured the provisions so they would kick in right before the elections, thinking incumbents would have a tangible achievement to promote on the campaign trail."
The GOP will focus on defunding health care reform if it takes Congress: http://bit.ly/cBj5Vb
The Fed will likely delay action on the economy at tomorrow's meeting, reports Sewell Chan: "The committee’s Aug. 10 meeting was dominated by a vigorous discussion over the decision to reinvest the mortgage-related bond proceeds -- an approach Mr. Bernanke favored. The meeting on Tuesday will probably be used to assess actions the committee might take at its meetings on Nov. 2 and 3 and Dec. 14. 'Officials are likely to spend much of the session debating the pros and cons of the various stimulus options so that they can be ready to act should future data prove disappointing,' Richard Berner, chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley, wrote in a report last week."
Jeff Green profiles Ron Bloom, Obama's manufacturing czar: http://bit.ly/cOgxXS
BP's oil well is now dead, reports Guy Chazan: "BP's well 'is effectively dead,' said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen in a statement after tests verified the strength of a cement plug placed at its bottom... The 'bottom kill' involved flooding the gap between the well casing and the rock formation that surrounds it with cement through a relief well that intersected the Deepwater Horizon well at a depth of 18,000 feet. The operation finished Friday, and cement tests early Sunday morning confirmed that 'the well has been permanently sealed with cement plugs,' a U.S. government statement said."
Meet the man who finally killed the well. Guy Chazan reports : "Mr. Wright is the man BP brought in to oversee the relief well that has finally closed the book on the Gulf oil spill. It brings to an end a saga that exploded into the public consciousness on April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 men. The relief well Mr. Wright drilled for BP is the 41st he has designed and managed in a legendary oil-industry career that took him from the seas of Alaska to the tea plantations of Bangladesh."
Electric blues interlude: The Black Keys play "Countdown" live.
Still to come: Older workers may never be able to re-enter the labor market; why we might want some inflation; BP's responsibilities have not ended even as the spill has; the food safety bill is still stalled in the Senate; and a cat gives another cat a massage.
Unemployed people over 50 face a real chance of never working again, reports Motoko Rich: "Of the 14.9 million unemployed, more than 2.2 million are 55 or older. Nearly half of them have been unemployed six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in the group -- 7.3 percent -- is at a record, more than double what it was at the beginning of the latest recession. After other recent downturns, older people who lost jobs fretted about how long it would take to return to the work force and worried that they might never recover their former incomes. But today, because it will take years to absorb the giant pool of unemployed at the economy’s recent pace, many of these older people may simply age out of the labor force before their luck changes."
College graduates face much greater job security than most Americans: http://bit.ly/bKRJtp
The recession is hurting family nest eggs, reports Ylan Mui: "In the 1980s and 1990s, the stock and real estate markets helped many families amass wealth to prepare for college costs or retirement. But now there is mounting concern among economists and business leaders over whether high rates of return will be sustainable in this century...Stock markets ended the past 10 years virtually flat. Meanwhile, the real estate crash has wiped out the gains homeowners saw earlier in the decade. Some economists are now dubbing the era a 'lost decade.'"
Home sales figure suggest a stabilizing market: http://bit.ly/c1LTw7
Neil Irwin explains how a little bit of inflation could help the economy: "The low inflation numbers reflect the reluctance of businesses to raise prices amid weak demand for their products and the inability of most workers to get raises at a time of high unemployment...Inflation would make the heavy debt that Americans carry a bit more manageable as wages rise but the amount owed stays the same. And it would create more incentive for businesses to invest their cash rather than sit on it, because inflation would reduce the value of hoarded money."
The SEC has unveiled stricter debt disclosure rules: http://bit.ly/93GVSG
Underwater mortgages can help the economy, write Glenn Hubbard and Chris Mayer: "We propose a new program through which the federal government would direct the public and quasi-public entities that guarantee mortgages -- Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, the Department of Veterans Affairs loan-guarantee program and the Federal Housing Administration -- to make it far easier and quicker for homeowners to refinance...The agencies would direct loan servicers -- the middlemen who monitor and report loan payments -- to send a short application to all eligible borrowers promising to allow them to refinance with minimal paperwork. Servicers would receive a fixed fee for each mortgage they refinanced, which would be rolled into the mortgage to eliminate costs to taxpayers."
Tyler Cowen argues the Fed could do good by just raising the public's confidence: http://nyti.ms/bXmedY
Paul Krugman critiques the growing populism of the rich: "These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don’t really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class -- the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet."
Great moments in cycling interlude: Drum-accompanied bike tricks.
BP will likely still use the oil reservoir the spill well tapped into: http://nyti.ms/9ifML4
DC's bag tax has proven effective, report Sara Murray and Sudeep Reddy: "The city doesn't have a precise way to measure the bag tax's impact. Prior to the law, residents used an estimated 270 million disposable bags a year, according to the city's chief financial officer; the city estimated that would decline by 50% in the first year after the tax was imposed...Through the end of July, the city collected more than $1.1 million from the bag fee and small donations. At that rate, receipts are likely to fall short of the expected $3.6 million in the first year. Some city officials say that suggests more people than expected are bringing their own bags to stores."
Garbage could help fight global warming: http://bit.ly/9xzQbu
California's progress on climate change faces a threat on the November ballot, reports Peter Henderson: "California is the clear U.S. leader on addressing climate change, unless California voters kill a landmark 2006 state law known as AB32, which was intended to cut carbon dioxide emission to 1990 levels by 2020. On Nov. 2 Californians will vote on Proposition 23, which would put AB32 on hold. The law would go back into effect when unemployment, now more than 12 percent, has remained at or below 5.5 percent for four quarters, which is not expected to happen for years."
Adorable animals being masseuses interlude: One cat gives another cat a massage.
A bill improving food safety is still stalling in the Senate, reports Gardiner Harris: "Cries of alarm about the legislation have arisen from some small farmers and their advocates, who have argued that the new regulations would be too costly and that F.D.A. inspectors would come barging into their homes. Linn Cohen-Cole, a small-farm advocate from Atlanta, calls the bill 'a fascist takeover of the entire food supply.' The bill’s sponsors in the Senate agreed to allow some exemptions for small farms and facilities, but those provisions are not forceful enough for Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana.'"
Adrian Fenty's loss in DC is worrying education reformers: http://politi.co/cEUg6S
The FDA will not require genetically modified salmon to be labelled, reports Lyndsey Layton: "The labeling question has emerged as the FDA determines whether to approve the fish, an Atlantic salmon known as AquAdvantage that grows twice as fast as its natural counterpart. The decision carries great weight because, while genetically modified agriculture has been permitted for years and engineered crops are widely used in processed foods, this would be the first modified animal allowed for human consumption in the United States.The AquAdvantage salmon has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish, and a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon."
A "college for all" philosophy is leaving students untrained for the workforce, writes Ilana Garon: "It has spawned a steep decline of “shop” and vocational programs at the high school level, which should ideally be the training ground for work in twenty-first-century industries. In 1990, 58 percent of New York City high school students were enrolled in some sort of vocational class, whether in a designated Career and Technical Education (CTE) school or a standard high school offering 'CTE pathways'; by 2007, that number had shrunk to 38 percent, with many of the vocational high schools underperforming in key achievement measures."
DC's experience doesn't suggest public dissatisfaction with school reform, writes Fred Hiatt: http://bit.ly/9VO3IK
Today's standardized tests can't measure students' education, writes Susan Engel: "We should come up with assessments that truly measure the qualities of well-educated children: the ability to understand what they read; an interest in using books to gain knowledge; the capacity to know when a problem calls for mathematics and quantification; the agility to move from concrete examples to abstract principles and back again; the ability to think about a situation in several different ways; and a dynamic working knowledge of the society in which they live...In recent years, psychologists have found ways to measure things as subtle as the forces that govern our moral choices and the thought processes that underlie unconscious stereotyping."
Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with help from Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: White House.
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