Wonkbook: 50 years after March on Washington, what do we have to show for it?

August 29, 2013

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(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 21 percent and 58 percent. The first is the share of workers who receive health insurance from a small employer with a deductible larger than $1,000 in 2007. The second is the share in 2013. Welcome to the high-deductible revolution in health insurance.

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: Ten charts show how the U.S. has changed for the better since MLK’s speechAnd these ten charts show the black-white economic gap hasn’t budged in 50 years.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) the March on Washington anniversary; 2) Bill Clinton, Obamacare salesman; 3) Syria war drumbeat quickens; 4) why we're trumpeting victory and muffling surrender on fin-reg; and 5) our fiscal nightmares resume.

1) Top story: 50 years in review after the March on Washington

March on Washington commemorated by thousands of celebrants at Lincoln Memorial. "A half-century to the hour after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his clarion call for justice from the Lincoln Memorial, it was the nation’s first black president who stood on that hallowed marble step, hailing the 50 years of racial progress that made his election possible but warning Americans that King’s dream remains unfulfilled...Forgoing an umbrella in spite of persistent drizzle, Obama then addressed a crowd that extended beyond the Reflecting Pool." Steve Hendrix, David Nakamura and Ashley Halsey III in The Washington Post.

Transcript: President Obama’s speech on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The Washington Post.

Explainers: Ten charts show how the U.S. has changed for the better since MLK’s speechAnd these ten charts show the black-white economic gap hasn’t budged in 50 yearsBrad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Saluting a dream, and adapting it for a new era. "The symbolic journey from Dr. King to Mr. Obama on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial animated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom more than any oratory. While Mr. Obama’s line about the White House changing was his only reference to his unique place in history, the power of his presence was lost on no one. But it also underscored the challenge to a movement to reframe its mission for a new era. With an African-American in the Oval Office, it is harder to argue about political empowerment than it was in 1963, and much of the day’s message centered on tackling persistent economic disparity, as well as newer frontiers of civil rights like equality for gay men and lesbians." Peter Baker and Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times.

Gallery: Six amazing photos from the 1963 March on WashingtonEzra Klein in The Washington Post.

President Obama returns to his rhetorical roots in March on Washington speech. "[I]n a speech Wednesday commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Obama returned to those rhetorical roots — tying the fight for equal treatment of African Americans to fights for equal recognition of gay Americans, those with disabilities and many other groups that have fought for their civil rights...Obama still believes in his vision of common values and moving beyond partisanship. But, as the last nine years has shown, changing Washington — and the broader partisan country in which we live  – is easier said than done." Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

Video: Watch Martin Luther King Jr. go on “Meet the Press” in 1963Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

On the question of race, Obama picks his moments. "When President Obama addresses the “Let Freedom Ring” rally Tuesday afternoon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it will mark one of the rare instances when he has addressed the question of race before a national audience." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post

Transcripts: Bill Clinton’s speech on the 50th anniversary of the March on WashingtonOprah Winfrey’s speech on 50th anniversary of March on WashingtonThe Washington Post.

John Lewis: ‘This moment has been a long time coming, but change has come.’ "Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the few speakers at Wednesday’s March on Washington anniversary who was also at the march 50 years ago, said nobody should underestimate the progress made over that span...“Come and walk in my shoes. Come walk in the shoes of those attacked by police dogs, fire hoses and night sticks, arrested and thrown in jail.” Lewis added: “Fifty years later, we can ride where we want to ride … and those signs that said ‘white only’ and ‘colored’ are gone.” Even as he emphasized the progress made, Lewis declared that the battle is not over. He made particular reference to the killing of Trayvon Martin, New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy, Voter ID and immigration reform." Aaron Blake and Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

At March on Washington, congressional leaders didn't show. "[N]ot one leader of the House or Senate is in attendance, on stage or speaking at the event. Other lawmakers spoke at the official commemoration in Washington on Wednesday, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) — the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march — and Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.). Sen. Angus I. King (I-Maine) also spoke...Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black Republican senator, was not invited to attend." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

...And Republicans were conspicuously absent. "Not a single Republican elected official stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday with activists, actors, lawmakers and former presidents invited to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — a notable absence for a party seeking to attract the support of minority voters." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

How Fox News is covering this: "50 years after March on Washington, some see rap music as problem."

Meet Bayard Rustin, the gay socialist pacifist who planned the 1963 March on Washington. "Rustin was a deeply committed pacifist, owing largely to his Quaker background, and got thrown in jail for conscientiously objecting to service in World War II. He was the one who introduced Gandhi’s tactics of nonviolent resistance (which he learned from visiting independence activists in India) to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King’s links to Rustin occasionally caused him trouble, not just because of his dalliances with Communism but because Rustin was openly gay, an astonishing fact at the time. Both segregationists and other civil rights leaders would use this against him and King." Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

KLEIN: President Obama shows the progress we’ve made. His speech shows how terribly we’ve failed. "Here at Wonkblog we wanted to do two sets of posts to mark the anniversary. The first would show, in charts and graphs, how much has gotten better over the last 50 years. The second would show, in charts and graphs, how much hasn’t. It proved depressingly easy to find the charts showing how little progress we’ve made and depressingly hard to find the charts showing how much. The case for optimism can be found most clearly in political participation. The economic data, however, tells an almost completely opposite story." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

GEOGHEGAN: King, forgotten as a labor leader. "For those who disbelieve, I highly recommend a collection of King’s labor speeches: “All Labor Has Dignity,” wonderfully edited and introduced by Michael K. Honey. Some of the speeches, which King gave to union conventions, may surprise readers. They reveal a man who, like Rustin, grasped that it was not just the civil-rights movement but also the labor movement that would actually make black Americans free. As King often made clear, he wasn’t trying to enforce just civil rights, least of all the right to sit at a lunch counter, but more like the right to work the counter and make (back then) $2 or $3 or, better, $4 an hour, and even run the restaurant." Thomas Geoghegan in Bloomberg.

MILBANK: The March on Washington commemoration didn’t live up to the original. "Instead of trying to compete with history, Obama reconciled himself to this less purposeful time...The original march was a challenge to the established order. The sequel was a rally of the powerful, including three presidents." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs, "Sugar Shack," 1963. This was, in fact, the biggest hit of the year, according to Billboard.

Top opinion

KLEIN: Summers pick fits Obama's preference for beaten path. "Obama’s reliance on Clinton-era econ whizzes was sensible. As a relative newcomer to national politics he didn’t have a network of economic experts of his own to choose from, and given the severity of the economic storm, there wasn’t time for his team to learn on the job. Culling experienced crisis managers from the last Democratic administration was the obvious choice. And even as Obama appointed a number of familiar faces, he brought some new voices to his economic team, too...Four years later, any newcomers Obama appointed are gone. The top slots on the economic team are all held by members of the Clinton clique." Ezra Klein in Bloomberg.

SOLTAS: How not to help the unemployed. "The U.S. has never been enthusiastic about redistribution, but it has always understood that bad things happen to good people...Georgia began last year to cut off its unemployed at 19 weeks. As of this July, it’s 18. Florida and North Carolina now stop at 19 weeks. In a few years, as unemployment rates fall, Georgians who lose their jobs will get no more than 14 weeks of support, and Floridians and North Carolinians just 12, according to new “sliding-scale” systems passed by their state legislatures. That’s less than the 15 weeks all three gave in 1938, the year the program fully launched...State benefits have already run out for three-quarters of the unemployed; when the federal support stops, they'll be on their own. It isn't what FDR had in mind." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg.

HENNINGER: Obamacare for everything. "Insofar as all these higher-ed reforms will be tied to federal rules for getting the money, it is beyond dispute that this will be ObamaCare for education, just as Dodd-Frank was ObamaCare for banking and finance...The education proposal reflects the Obama modus operandi. First, identify an American industry that long ago made a Faustian bargain for federal support, such as hospitals and housing. Then describe the subsidy-dependent industry's inevitable bloat and inefficiency in images so stark no reasonable person could disagree...Then after getting buy-in from the mortified industry, he imposes the solution—on his terms." Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal.

YGLESIAS: The case for doing nothing in Syria. "was in a meeting recently in Washington with a whole bunch of important people, when I heard a chilling phrase: Obama had “no good options” in Syria. It’s become a cliché...This is how Washington talks itself into a war that has little public support and scant basis in facts or logic. It’s completely unclear how much military strikes will weaken Bashar al-Assad’s regime and also completely unclear to what extent a weaker Syrian regime serves American or humanitarian interests. Military engagement has potentially large downsides and essentially no upsides. But we can brush that all under the table with the thought that there are no good options, which makes it OK to endorse some shoddy ones. Except, in this case, it’s total nonsense. Obama has an excellent option. It’s called “don’t bomb Syria.” Don’t fire cruise missiles at Syria either. Or in any other way conduct acts of war. Condemn Assad’s violations of international humanitarian law. If rebels violate international humanitarian law, condemn them, too." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

PINTER: The flood insurance disaster. "[T]hese reforms offered too much tough love and too little compassion for flood-prone homeowners...[P]olicy reform and fiscal discipline sound great until you sit across the table from flood-plain residents losing their homes because of skyrocketing insurance premiums...These reforms should be viewed as an opportunity to provide a pathway for willing flood-zone residents to move to higher ground. The Federal Emergency Management Agency administers programs for mitigating disaster losses, reducing exposure to flooding now, before the next disaster strikes. Homes can be elevated or floodproofed, or their owners can be bought out, depending on circumstances. Mitigation works; studies have found that every dollar invested in mitigation saves $4 to $5 in future expenditures." Nicholas Pinter in The New York Times.

Can this possibly be real? interlude: "Researcher Controls Colleague's Motions in First Human Brain-To-Brain Interface."

2) Bill Clinton, Obamacare salesman

Bill Clinton to speak about Obamacare next week. "Former president Bill Clinton will speak about President Obama’s signature health care law at an event Sept. 4 in Little Rock, Ark. Clinton will address Obamacare and health care policy in general at a speech at the Clinton Presidential Center, according to the Clinton Foundation. The foundation says Clinton will speak about “the critical role a high quality, affordable and accessible health care system plays in the United States and any country’s economic and social well being.” The speech will take place at 11 a.m. eastern time, and will be broadcast on the Clinton Foundation’s Web site." Aaron Blake and Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

States find new ways to resist health law. "Several Republican-led states at the forefront of the campaign to undermine President Obama’s health-care law have come up with new ways to try to thwart it, refusing to enforce consumer protections, for example, and restricting federally funded workers hired to help people enroll in coverage...More than a dozen states have imposed licensing rules and limits on these helpers, with the encouragement of professional insurance agents and brokers, who lobbied heavily for the restrictions" Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.

As rates soar, small business owners pass along more health care costs to employees. "A new study shows that the number of firms offering health care plans has held fairly steady in the past few years, but as prices have continued to climb, employers, particularly those at small businesses, are asking workers to pay much more for their care. The research was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, and for the first time since the group started taking readings in 1999, a majority of workers covered by a small employer (58 percent) now pay deductibles of more than $1,000, up from just 21 percent in 2007. “The trend continues, especially in smaller firms,” Drew Altman, Kaiser’s chief executive, said during a press call about the study, calling the uptick “part of a quiet revolution in health insurance from more comprehensive to less comprehensive with higher deductibles.”" J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.

HHS finalizes Obamacare rules on insurance oversight. "" Sam Baker in The Hill.

Michigan's bumpy road to expanding Medicaid. "At the same time, all the political wrangling suggests that Michigan’s implementation of the Medicaid expansion might be a bit bumpier than other states. Michigan is both starting at a later date and requesting waivers from the federal government that it may not receive...The state wants to treat people who have been on Medicaid for four years differently than those who have used the program for a shorter amount of time. Upon hitting the four-year mark, Medicaid enrollees would have two options: switch to a private health plan on the marketplace or stay in Medicaid and have their share of costs increase to as much as 7 percent of their income." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

...Mainly, this is a defeat for conservatives and a win for moderate Republicans and Democrats. "Governor Rick Snyder and the state Chamber of Commerce have been among the strongest proponents of expansion. The state's health care industry, naturally, has lobbied furiously. But Tea Party Republicans and their allies have been dead set againt it, arguing that Medicaid is a wasteful, expensive program that subsidizes the indolent—and that the size of the federal subsidies masked the true impact on the state, which would actually be negative." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

Interview: Why one Republican legislator is dropping out of Congress’ health planSarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Health lobby tries to undo dialysis cuts. "Eight months ago, Congress ordered the Obama administration to eliminate a stark example of federal government waste: more than $500 million a year in excessive drug payments being sent to dialysis clinics nationwide. But in a demonstration of just how hard it is to curb spending in Washington, more than 100 of the same members of Congress who voted in January to impose the cut are now trying to push the Obama administration to reverse it or water it down." Eric Lipton in The New York Times.

Cultural dose interlude: National flags made out of natural foods. Much more fun to name that country without reading.

3) The drumbeat for war in Syria quickens

White House expected to brief Congress on Syria. "With the United States apparently on the verge of launching military strikes in Syria, congressional leaders are expected to get a White House briefing on the situation Thursday afternoon, a senior Capitol Hill aide confirmed Wednesday. Many members of Congress, even some who are inclined to support military action, have expressed a belief that the White House should consult with lawmakers — or even seek authorization — before using military force." Jonathan Allen in Politico.

Key Obama interview: No decision to strike yetGwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff for PBS.

White House wants a Syria strike 'just muscular enough not to get mocked.' "Some experts said U.S. warships and submarines in the eastern Mediterranean could fire cruise missiles at Syrian targets as early as Thursday night, beginning a campaign that could last two or three nights. Obama leaves next Tuesday for a four day trip to Sweden and Russia, which strongly supports Assad's government, for the G-20 economic summit. One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity "just muscular enough not to get mocked" but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia. "They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic," he said." Kathleen Hennessey, Michael A. Memoli and Christi Parsons in the Los Angeles Times.

Britain to wait on weapons report ahead of Syria strikes. "The prospect of an imminent Western military strike on Syrian government targets appeared to encounter a delay on Wednesday when Britain signaled it would first await the findings of a United Nations inquiry into the suspected use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds near Damascus last week, and then hold a separate parliamentary vote, which could be days away." Stephen Castle, Steven Erlanger and Rick Gladstone in The New York Times.

...And Vladimir isn't transmitting any loud opposition on Syria strike. "The one voice that has remained silent, though, is the one that matters most. President Vladimir V. Putin has conspicuously avoided public comment on reports of a chemical weapons attack on civilians outside of Damascus." Steven Lee Myers in The New York Times.

More than 100 lawmakers ask Obama to seek congressional approval on Syria strikes. "More than 100 House lawmakers — at least 98 Republicans and 18 Democrats — have signed on to a letter formally requesting that President Obama seek congressional approval for any military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The letter, first written by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), suggests that failure to seek congressional authorization for military strikes would be unconstitutional." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

...And there's a big demand to see the intel on Syria. "More than a decade later, the Obama administration says the information it will make public, most likely on Thursday, will show proof of a large-scale chemical attack perpetrated by Syrian forces, bolstering its case for a retaliatory military strike on Syria...American officials said Wednesday there was no “smoking gun” that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack, and they tried to lower expectations about the public intelligence presentation. They said it will not contain specific electronic intercepts of communications between Syrian commanders or detailed reporting from spies and sources on the ground." Mark Mazzetti and Mark Landler in The New York Times.

Oh my god this is so great interlude: Statistician Joshua Katz's two tools (try both, here and here) on dialect diversity in the US.

4) On financial regulation, trumpet victory and muffle surrender

U.S. plan eases rules for mortgage lenders. "Six federal regulatory agencies released a reworked proposal on Wednesday that would require lenders to maintain a stake in the loans they bundle and sell as securities, part of efforts to limit the type of underwriting practices that fed the housing bubble...The new rules, the latest version of a 2011 proposal, were required under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. Mortgages to borrowers who do not have to spend big chunks of their monthly income repaying the debt will be exempt from the requirement. The regulators’ plan would exempt more loans than earlier proposals by eliminating a requirement that so-called qualified residential mortgages include a large down payment." Reuters.

Pending home sales drop. "Fewer people signed contracts to buy American homes in July, but the level stayed close to a six-and-a-half-year high. The modest decline suggests that higher mortgage rates have yet to slow sales sharply. The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales declined 1.3 percent, to 109.5 in July. That is close to May’s reading of 111.3, which was the highest since December 2006." The Associated Press.

Woah man interlude: What happens when you put a camera on a helicopter rotor. Yes, you should be thinking about harmonic frequencies and sinusoids.

5) Yes, you really do have to start thinking about fiscal issues again

Deficit talks resuming, but few sound hopeful. "[A] group of Republican senators will resume talks on Thursday with senior presidential advisers at the White House after a lapse that has lasted weeks...The two sides had said they would meet during the August recess, but the gathering will be the first in that time and is intended to take stock before Congress reconvenes in September...The apparent lack of progress after months of intermittent meetings suggests that the effort could soon be sidelined, if not ended, as the president and Congress turn to the more pressing work of negotiating measures to finance the government and increase the nation’s borrowing limit before October deadlines." Jackie Calmes in The New York Times.

The House GOP is bracing for debt-limit battle and likely to target Obamacare first. "Boehner (R-Ohio) has proposed a short-term budget bill to keep the government open into the new fiscal year with relatively little fuss. But during a speech in Boise, Idaho, on Monday, he said House Republicans will draw a line in the sand over lifting the federal debt limit, demanding spending “cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.”...[T]alks have focused on options such as delaying the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, which is set to take effect in January; repealing a new tax on medical devices that helps fund the law; and codifying Obama’s decision to delay penalties on employers who fail to offer insurance to workers." Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

I’m scared of the debt ceiling. You should be, too. "The savvy, sophisticated thing to say in Washington, D.C., is that the next debt limit fight is just Kabuki theater: Republicans folded last time. They’ll fold this time, too. And perhaps that’s right...No one — including me — believes that the debt ceiling will remain right where it is, forever and ever, amen. That would mean a financial crisis of epic proportions. But here’s what scares me: No one can tell me how one or both of those positions will change before we breach the ceiling in mid-October." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Meet Bayard Rustin, the gay socialist pacifist who planned the 1963 March on WashingtonDylan Matthews.

President Obama shows the progress we’ve made. His speech shows how terribly we’ve failedEzra Klein.

Ten charts show how the U.S. has changed for the better since MLK’s speechBrad Plumer.

Seriously, Fox NewsDylan Matthews.

Michigan’s bumpy road to expanding MedicaidSarah Kliff.

Watch Martin Luther King Jr. go on “Meet the Press” in 1963Brad Plumer.

Six amazing photos from the 1963 March on WashingtonEzra Klein.

These ten charts show the black-white economic gap hasn’t budged in 50 yearsBrad Plumer.

I’m scared of the debt ceiling. You should be, tooEzra Klein.

Why one Republican legislator is dropping out of Congress’ health planSarah Kliff.

The Tuition is Too Damn High, Part III — The three reasons tuition is risingDylan Matthews.

Et Cetera

Oxford Dictionaries adds ‘twerk,’ 'selfie.' Michael Dirda in The Washington Post.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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Sarah Kliff · August 28, 2013