Wonkbook: Sandy pushes global warming — and Bloomberg — to the front of the campaign

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RCP Obama vs. Romney: Obama +0.1%; 7-day change: Obama +1.0%.

RCP Obama approval: 49.8%; 7-day change: +0.5%.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win: 66.2%; 7-day change: +3.4%.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $50 billion. That, according to the catastrophic risk modeling company Eqecat, is the latest estimate of the economic losses stemming from Hurricane Sandy and its knock-on effects. And the best evidence we have on climate change suggests that extreme weather events like Sandy are only going to become more common.

Top story: Sandy pushes global warming -- and Michael Bloomberg -- into 2012 campaign

Hurricane Sandy's cost: $50 billion, estimated. "Economic damages inflicted by Hurricane Sandy could reach $50 billion, according to new estimates that are more than double a previous forecast. Some economists warned on Thursday that the storm could shave a half percentage point off the nation’s economic growth in the current quarter...The flooding of New York’s subways and roadway tunnels and the extensive loss of business as a result of utility failures across the region were behind the sharp increase in the estimate, the firm said...New York [will] bear 34 percent of the total economic losses, with New Jersey suffering 30 percent, Pennsylvania 20 percent and other states 16 percent." Mary Williams Marsh and Nelson D. Schwartz in The New York Times.

@esoltas: Drove across central NJ today. Now convinced that dangerous shortages (food, water, gas) about to become big Sandy story.

Businessweek says it: 'It's global warming, stupid.' "Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all. Clarity, however, is not beyond reach. Hurricane Sandy demands it...'Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.'" Paul M. Barrett in Bloomberg Businessweek.

@Tyrangiel: Our cover story this week may generate controversy, but only among the stupid.

Does the Obama record on global warming deserve the attention? "Over the past four years, climate has largely taken a backseat to the economy, health care, and financial regulations. But the Obama administration has taken a few modest steps to curb carbon emissions...[A]n Obama second term would [likely] focus on using the EPA’s authority to further reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from stationary sources such as power plants and refineries." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

@Ben_German: Belief in global warming has been trending up in recent polls (Pew, Yale-GMU). Really curious to see what the first post-Sandy polls show.

Can we stop the seas from rising? Yes, but less than you think. "One of the main concerns with climate change is that it’s causing the oceans to advance. Global sea levels have risen about seven inches over the past century and that pace is accelerating. Not only does this threaten coastal regions, but it also makes storm surges much worse...As it turns out, reducing our emissions would help slow the rate of sea-level rise -- but at this point, it’s unlikely that we could stop further rises altogether. That’s the upshot of a recent study from the National Center on Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study estimated that aggressive steps to cut emissions could reduce the amount of sea-level rise by somewhere between 6 and 20 inches in 2100, compared with our current trajectory." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

@DeanBaker13: [G]lobal warming tax associated with Sandy damage -- equivalent to gas tax of 25-40 cents a gallon

Post-Sandy shortages show how critical gas is in economic system. "According to figures from AAA, of the gas stations it monitors, roughly 60 percent of stations in New Jersey and 70 percent on Long Island were closed...The ports and refineries that supply much of the region’s gas had been shut down in advance of the storm and were damaged by it. That disrupted deliveries to gas stations that had power to pump the fuel. But the bigger problem was that many stations and storage facilities remained without power." Kate Zernike in The New York Times.

@PaulPage: I guess the question is, when will business decide the cost is too high?

Obama surrogate tells climate event Sandy represents 'new normal'. "An Obama campaign surrogate said Thursday that super-storm Sandy amplified the need to more aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and better protect coastal infrastructure. 'We’re at a place where we have to focus on both mitigation — reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- and adaptation -- starting to move our vital infrastructure out of harm’s way. We know this is going to be our future. This is our new normal,' Kevin Knobloch, who represented the Obama campaign as a private citizen and is president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said at an event hosted by Climate Desk." Sam Baker in The Hill.

Meanwhile, in Romneyland: "A protester who yelled, 'Climate change caused Sandy' briefly disrupted a Mitt Romney rally Thursday. The man was tossed out of the event outside Richmond, while the pro-Romney crowd chanted 'U-S-A! U-S-A!'" Ben Geman and Justin Sink in The Hill.

Ex-GOP lawmaker: Republicans rejecting 'true science' on climate change. "The Republican Party is 'falling away from scientific opinion' on climate change, a former GOP lawmaker said Thursday. 'I believe that my party, the Republican Party, needs to do a much better job of making sure that we are examining the science,' Mike Castle, who served as governor and congressman in Delaware, said at a Washington, D.C., event hosted by Climate Desk." Zack Colman in The Hill.

Debate: Should New York build sea gates?.

BLOOMBERG: I support Obama because of climate policy. "The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast -- in lost lives, lost homes and lost business -- brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief...We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants...Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels...He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported." Michael R. Bloomberg in Bloomberg.

@ezraklein: Making it at least a bit more likely that the political elites will see Sandy as a proper forcing event for action on climate change.

POPE: Republicans are rejecting a green future. "The U.S. has the industrialized world’s oldest, dirtiest and least-efficient power plants -- shielded from pollution- control requirements, so power companies don’t have to upgrade. The U.S. lost its manufacturing dominance in two technologies -- solar and wind -- because outmoded electricity regulation strangled their market access. The nation produces millions of flex-fuel vehicles, few of which burn ethanol, because oil controls the service stations, which won’t pump a competitor’s fuel...U.S. paper companies bleed market share to imports manufactured with illegally logged timber because U.S. trade negotiators put overseas investors ahead of domestic manufacturing when they negotiated the World Trade Organization treaty. Oil interests have access to public capital markets through tax mechanisms explicitly denied to renewables. Each of these burdens on U.S. innovation has a solution, one that requires government to stop cosseting economic incumbents and give innovators a fair chance. And each solution violates the new right-wing orthodoxy, which is to defend the status quo against the future." Carl Pope in Bloomberg.

HARSHAW: The case for post-Sandy price gouging. "[It is] nearly impossible to find in Manhattan and lines in New Jersey [are] eternal. As I hoofed it home, I wondered if there was any cure for this post-disaster market failure. Well, a quick Google search provided a resounding answer: Make price-gouging legal. Now the idea that gas stations and others should jack up prices in Sandy's aftermath is not just counterintuitive, it is strongly at odds with efforts by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other officials to crack down on retailers looking to make increased profits off the storm. Yet the arguments in favor of extortion are pretty strong." Tobin Harshaw in Bloomberg.

SHLAES: Disasters lead to big but unproductive government. "Whew. That was the general reaction when President Barack Obama told waterlogged New Jersey that 'we are here for you.' After all, these days, a president is expected to 'be here.' Federal rescue is the American Way. Being there starts with helping to clear the flooded metropolitan-area tunnels between New Jersey and New York. But the concept extends to bridges, roads and all the other infrastructure challenges up and down the Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy...Why has the federal role expanded? One reason is another kind of flood: government spending. Once it rises, often to address an emergency at home or abroad, the spending doesn’t recede. High water becomes the new normal, until the next emergency, when a second rise comes, as an economist named M. Slade Kendrick noticed as far back as 1955." Amity Shlaes in Bloomberg.

Top op-eds

KLEIN: The data behind a Romney presidency. "What Romney values most is something most of us don’t think much about: management. A lifetime of data has proven to him that he’s extraordinarily, even uniquely, good at managing and leading organizations, projects and people. It’s those skills, rather than specific policy ideas, that he sees as his unique contribution. That has been the case everywhere else he has worked, and he assumes it will be the case in the White House, too. When we look at Romney’s career and see a coreless opportunist, we’re just looking at the wrong data." Ezra Klein in Bloomberg.

FRUM: My vote is for Romney. "[Y]ou don't have to believe the president a Marxist Muslim to prefer a different direction for the country over the next four years. Elections are about the future, not the past. President Obama got important things right in his first time, but he's heading the wrong way in his second: toward a future with a permanently larger state sector and much more government control over private decision-making. The United States needs to edge away from that future, and back toward a more market-oriented trajectory...I do want government out of the business of making investment decisions. The way to meet the climate change challenge is by taxing carbon emissions, not by government acting as venture capitalist to the green-energy industry. Fiscal stimulus was necessary in 2009. It's not an excuse for unending government subsidy to particular industries and firms." David Frum in The Daily Beast.

KRUGMAN: The blackmail caucus. "If President Obama is re-elected, health care coverage will expand dramatically, taxes on the wealthy will go up and Wall Street will face tougher regulation. If Mitt Romney wins instead, health coverage will shrink substantially, taxes on the wealthy will fall to levels not seen in 80 years and financial regulation will be rolled back...[A]re we ready to become a country in which 'Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it' becomes a winning political argument? I hope not. By all means, vote for Mr. Romney if you think he offers the better policies. But arguing for Mr. Romney on the grounds that he could get things done veers dangerously close to accepting protection-racket politics, which have no place in American life." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

BROOKS: The final reckoning. "Four years ago, Obama went to the White House with a Team of Rivals -- big figures with big voices. Now the circle of trust is much smaller and political. The mood has contracted. The atmosphere of expansive hope has often given way to a mood of aggrieved annoyance...Most of all, the vision has contracted. The arguments he made in his inaugural address were profoundly true. We are in the middle of an economic transition, a bit like the 1890s, with widening inequality, a corrupt and broken political system, an unsustainable welfare state, a dangerous level of family breakdown and broken social mobility. The financial crisis exposed foundational problems and meant that we were going to have to live with a long period of slow growth, as the history of financial crises makes clear. If Obama had governed in a way truer to his inauguration, he would have used this winter of recuperation to address the country’s structural weaknesses." David Brooks in The New York Times.

MCCRAW: Immigrants are innovators. "70 million immigrants have come to America since the first colonists arrived. The role their labor has played in economic development is widely understood. Much less familiar is the extent to which their remarkable innovations have driven American prosperity...[O]ur overly complex immigration law hampers even the most obvious innovators’ efforts to become citizens. It endangers our tradition of entrepreneurship, and it must be repaired -- soon." Thomas K. McCraw in The New York Times.

Top long reads

Nancy Cook profiles Obama chief of staff Jacob Lew: "Jacob Lew isn’t the most obvious figure to be charged with securing the Obama legacy. The purposefully low-key White House operative is content to work behind the scenes, and he always takes care to speak strictly on behalf of the president. Yet this Jewish son of middle-class parents from Queens, a stranger to President Obama’s Chicago-centric universe, could help cement the way the first African-American president is remembered if Lew can cut a sweeping budget deal in the coming months."

Cute animals interlude: Sea lions playing.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Still to come: what you need to know about tomorrow's non-farm payrolls number; law suits in health care; fiscal cliff watch; does the wind industry need a tax credit?; and the partisan makeup of the Congresses through history.

Economy

Today is jobs report day. "Friday’s jobs report for October -- the consensus forecast of economists, according to Bloomberg, is a net gain of 125,000 jobs -- will be met with a deluge of political spin and hyperbolic analysis. Campaigns and their surrogates are eagerly awaiting the numbers, their narratives pre-written and their talking points sharp...But it is highly unlikely that Friday’s jobs report will do much to change our understanding of the current state of the broader economy -- even if the numbers come in surprisingly high or surprisingly low, as they often do given the noisiness of the data." Annie Lowrey in The New York Times.

@ReformedBroker: Jack Welch's men lash him to the mast Odysseus-style ahead of tomorrow's big jobs report.

The politics of Friday’s jobs report. "There have been 45 monthly employment reports since Barack Obama was inaugurated president. Number 46 will be the biggest of them all...Economics writers tend to be dismissive of analyzing jobs numbers through a political lens; ultimately, what determines elections is the overall thrust of the economy and the persuasiveness of the answers offered by competing candidates, not any one month’s data. But the Labor Department’s October report, due out at 8:30 a.m. Friday, is an exception....The unemployment rate, which economists tend to view as a less reliable month-to-month measure of economic progress but which has greater political potency, is forecast to rise one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.9 percent, reversing a steep decline in September." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

@ObsoleteDogma: Remember: nobody is basing their vote on tomorrow's jobs report, nor should they.

ADP: We added 158,000 jobs in October. "ADP, the big payroll processing firm, has put out its October numbers in advance of Friday’s jobs report, and they’re pretty promising: 158,000 new jobs created, though their September number was revised down to 114,000 (coincidentally, exactly the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s number) from a first guess of 162,000. Normally, ADP is treated as the red-haired stepchild of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report: at best a good first guess, but not definitive at all. But as we detailed last month, ADP regularly does a better job predicting the final, revised BLS jobs numbers than BLS’s first report does."Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Another Fed governor calls for specific timetable for easing. "The Federal Reserve should buy bonds at least until the U.S. jobless rate falls below 7.25 percent, a top Fed official said on Thursday, pitching a plan that includes the first specific target for ending the central bank's quantitative easing program...Wading deeper into the debate over what parameters the central bank should use for maintaining its ultra-easy monetary policy, Rosengren said he would like the Fed to keep interest rates near zero until the jobless rate falls as low as 6.5 percent." Tim McLaughlin in Reuters.

@Neil_Irwin: Another FOMCer comes out with preferred thresholds--Rosengren wants bond buying until 7.25% unemp., low rates 'til 6.5%.

We've forgotten the long-term unemployed. "[T]he gigantic, overlooked underclass of long-term unemployed workers, whose safety net has now frayed bare and whose troubles are probably holding back the overall jobs picture as they become less and less employable...[is] 4.8-million-strong group [but] has gotten very little attention during the presidential campaign, despite the candidates’ purported focus on the economy...As of September, the most recent month for which data are available, 40.1 percent of the unemployed had been looking for work for at least 27 weeks. That’s not very far from the all-time high of 45.5 percent in March 2011." Catherine Rampell in The New York Times.

More cute animals interlude: A cat figures out how to take a 'selfie' on an iPad. Hilarity ensues..

Health Care

Hospitals sue Obama administration for refusing Medicare payments. "The American Hospital Association (AHA) is suing the Obama administration over Medicare payments it says are owed its members. Four hospital systems joined the AHA in the suit, filed Thursday. The groups argue that the Department of Health and Human Service breaks the law when it demands that hospitals repay Medicare for services that could have been provided on an outpatient basis." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Federal court exempts Mich. company from contraception mandate. "A federal judge in Michigan threw out one lawsuit against the Obama administration's contraception mandate while handing a small victory to the policy's critics in a separate suit. The court said one Michigan company does not have to comply with the mandate, which requires most employers in the U.S. to cover contraception in their employees' healthcare plans without charging a co-pay or deductible. The Michigan ruling is a narrow one, applicable only to the one company. It does not bar the Health and Human Services Department from implementing the policy nationwide, but it's nevertheless a small win for social conservatives who say the contraception policy violates the First Amendment." Sam Baker in The Hill.

Interview: George C. Halvorson, the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, on health exchanges.

Why Romney is the radical on health care. "Obama wants our health care system to keep evolving in the way it has for nearly a century -- so that people have greater financial protection from medical bills and, as a result, better access to care. Romney seems to have the opposite impulse. The policies he favors would leave more people exposed to crippling medical bills, either because they don’t have insurance or the coverage they have is inadequate. Romney likes to describe Obamacare as radical, but the changes Romney envisions are arguably more sweeping -- and, for anybody facing the prospect of serious illness, a lot more threatening." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

@ObsoleteDogma: Not sure how The Economist thinks Obama surrendered too much to "left wing Democrats" on health care. No public option!

House Dem writes bill tightening rules for drug compounders. "Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is preparing to introduce a bill that would impose stricter regulations on drug compounders...His bill would require compounders that distribute medications on a large scale to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as drug makers, subjecting them to tougher rules." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Domestic Policy

A rift in the business community over the fiscal cliff. "A rift has opened in the U.S. business community over whether tax increases should be an important part of the government’s strategy for tackling the federal deficit and heading off destabilizing changes in tax and spending policies set to kick in at the end of the year. The latest salvo was fired Wednesday when a coalition of business trade associations and advocacy groups warned Congress against agreeing to a deal that leans on new tax revenue. The group, which includes the Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the National Association of Manufacturers, urged lawmakers to put deep cuts in federal spending at the center of any plan to reduce the deficit." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

@mattyglesias: Maybe the deficit hawks who created the fiscal cliff should stop lecturing everyone about the need to avoid it?

Wonkblog explains: The tax report Senate Republicans don’t want you to see.

Study: Whom voters want to win is less predictive than whom they expect to win. "A new paper by Microsoft’s David Rothschild and University of Michigan’s Justin Wolfers suggests that reading by those numbers is a mistake...They compared state-level polls of voter intentions (“whom are you voting for?') to polls of voter expectations ('whom do you think is going to win?') to see which gives a more accurate prediction of an election’s outcome. Their surprise conclusion was that voter expectations polls are more useful than voter intention polls in predicting those results...For 80.9 percent of the time, voter expectations polls correctly guessed the winner of the state in the elections charted below, while voter intention polls did so only 69.3 percent of the time." Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Wonkblog interview: Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Report: Immigration courts falling behind despite more judges. "The Justice Department’s immigration courts have become less productive despite hiring more judges to handle deportation cases, according to a report released Thursday...In fiscal 2006, the EOIR’s 211 judges completed 324,040 immigration cases. But in fiscal 2010, the courts’ 238 judges were only able to complete 287,207 out of the 325,326 cases they received, or about 88 percent, according to the IG’s investigation." Jordy Yager in The Hill.

Amazing graphs interlude: The partisan makeup of Congress since its inception. Really, check this out.

Energy

Study by oil-backed group says wind industry doesn't need tax credit. "Critics of tax credits for wind energy projects are intensifying their push to kill the incentive with a study that calls it 'rent seeking' by an established industry that doesn’t need the subsidy...'[T]he federal PTC should expire since it has morphed from an ill-designed temporary subsidy for a purportedly ‘infant industry,’ into an inequitable tax hand-out for what is clearly a well-established industry that distorts markets and allows wind to compete unfairly with both conventional generation resources and even other types of renewables,' the study states." Ben German inThe Hill.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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Suzy Khimm · November 1, 2012