Wonkbook: Obamacare is alive but Congress doing its job is dead

October 1, 2013

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas's morning policy news primer. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

(Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters)
(Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Obamacare is alive but the federal government is shut down.

That's the one-sentence summation of a very long night in Washington. Monday saw Republicans burn through almost every demand they could think of on Obamacare. After failing to defund it the previous week, they tried to delay it. Then they tried to delay the individual mandate.

By the end of the evening Republicans had stopped asking for anything in particular. They had retreated to a request of pure, abstract proceduralism: For Senate Democrats to name negotiators for a conference committee that would negotiate…something.

This is now a negotiation over whether there'll be negotiations.

Democrats were bemused by the GOP's request for two reasons. The first is that Democrats have been trying to persuade Republicans to join a conference committee to work out the budget since March. Republicans have refused, and Senate Republicans have gone so far as to filibuster the naming of conferees.

But late on the night of September 30th, with the government shutting down, Republicans rethought their opposition to the conference committee and decided this would be an excellent time for drawn-out negotiations.

The second is that Republicans haven't explained what they're willing to negotiate. Democrats don't believe, as President Obama out it, that Republicans are doing them "a favor" when they keep the government open. Both sides need to keep the government open. Democrats don't believe Republicans are doing them a favor when the lift the debt limit. Both sides have an interest in keeping the U.S. economy intact.

So what is it that Republicans are willing to give up in these negotiations? Higher taxes? More jobs spending? Universal pre-k? A constructive approach to Obamacare? This is why Senate Democrats say they won't appoint negotiators until Republicans reopen the government: Because they don't want Republicans to think this is a negotiation over reopening the government. It has to be a negotiation over some policy question where Democrats can get a little if they give a little.

Meanwhile, The Affordable Care Act actually opened for business last night. Even as the Office of Management and Budget was directing federal agencies to close, HealthCare.Gov was permitting people, for the first time, to sign up for insurance under Obamacare. The chance that Democrats will delay or defund it now is nil. At this point, for instance, delaying the individual mandate would invalidate the prices insurers are currently charging on exchanges -- and thus the insurance that Americans are already buying. It's not going to happen.

Democrats will get some affirmation in that from this morning's Quinnipiac poll. Obamacare posts its usual slight unpopularity, with 47 percent opposed and 45 percent approving. But the public opposes shutting down the government to stop Obamacare by a 72-22 margin. And they oppose defaulting on the debt to stop Obamacare by a 62-27 margin. Republicans have managed to put themselves on the wrong side of an unpopular bill -- no mean trick.

This gets to the upside of Washington's epic fail. Boehner's initial plan was to hold some of these negotiating positions -- like delaying Obamacare or delaying the mandate -- in reserve in order to increase his leverage on the debt ceiling. But he folded on all of them last night. Now Republicans have already proven that they will back off their core demands and retreat to face-saving measures when consequences loom -- and they're about to face the extended pain of a government shutdown. For that reason, a default is a bit less likely today than it was yesterday.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 800,000. That's the number of federal workers who just got furloughed.

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: Every government shutdown ever, in one chart.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) let Wonkbook be your government-shutdown buddie; 2) Obamacare, open for business; 3) the anti-Dimon crowd; 4) the solar revolution; and 5) CNN poll finds 10-point drop in congressional approval.

1) Top story: When the government shuts down, Wonkbook doesn't

Good morning, and welcome to the shutdown. "The U.S. government began to shut down for the first time in 17 years early Tuesday, after a Congress bitterly divided over President Obama’s signature health-care initiative failed to reach agreement to fund federal agencies...Shortly before midnight, the White House budget office issued a memo instructing agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.” The impasse means 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed Tuesday. National parks, monuments and museums, as well as most federal offices, will close. Tens of thousands of air-traffic controllers, prison guards and Border Patrol agents will be required to serve without pay." Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane in The Washington Post.

Primary source: Here’s the memo that just shut down the governmentEzra Klein in The Washington Post.

Senate rejects House spending measure. "The Senate on Monday voted to table amendments passed by the GOP-controlled House, effectively killing the Republican bill to the keep the government funded and enact major changes to the health-care law known as “Obamacare.” Senate Democrats had vowed to kill the amendments and only needed a simple majority to do so. The final vote was a straight party line 54-46." Sean Sullivan in The Washington Post.

@daveweigel: If you think we've hit rock bottom, remember: We haven't even seen Andy Borowitz's take on the shutdown yet.

House GOP seeks conference with Senate Dems on shutdown. "A conference committee would give a members of both chambers to meet face to face to decide how to move forward on a spending bill. But the House request to meet will be based on the latest GOP bill, which delays the individual health insurance mandate under ObamaCare, language hotly opposed by Senate Democrats. As a result, it's unclear how quickly the two chambers could agree to anything once they start meeting, which means a partial shutdown of non-essential government functions now seems certain after midnight — at least for a few hours, and possibly longer. The Rules Committee met shortly before 11 p.m. Monday, and quickly approved a rule allowing a vote on the request to meet with the Senate. That vote, which ended at 11:10 p.m., set up a House vote that was expected shortly thereafter." Pete Kasperowicz in The Hill.

Explainers: Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work. And every government shutdown ever, in one chartBrad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Confidence on the surface, worry about the economy underneath. "Mr. Obama appeared self-assured but was nonetheless powerless to influence scores of uncompromising Republicans...The biggest, most economically threatening showdown still threatens: By Oct. 17, Congress must raise the nation’s debt limit to pay for bills already incurred or provoke a globe-shaking default." Jackie Calmes in The New York Times.

Transcript: President Obama’s Sept. 30 remarks on the looming government shutdownThe Washington Post.

Interview: Obama on NPR.

How a debt-ceiling crisis could work. "While we think the probability of the debt ceiling causing a technical default in the Treasury market is near zero, nonetheless, there are likely to be market disruptions. The main issue is that the markets are not set up to trade or finance defaulted Treasuries. While many RP documents say that defaulted securities cannot be delivered as collateral, delivery systems are not set up to easily sort out which Treasuries have defaulted and which have not (there are no cross-defaults on Treasuries), so the RP markets can seize up as the debt ceiling drop-dead date approaches." Cardiff Garcia in The Financial Times.

@kaushikcbasu: There were two US shutdowns in 1995-6. Based on that experience this shutdown will reduce growth by 0.3 %age points in the last qtr of 2013.

Remember when Republicans were worried about ‘economic uncertainty’? "These are the conditions brought upon us by a small core of Republicans who can't let go of their opposition to a law their colleagues passed three years ago. And yet, not long ago, many of those same Republicans were declaring that uncertainty is the economy's biggest threat." Lydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

@pourmecoffee: Hour two of #shutdown. I find I no longer require sleep. Woke a neighbor and we built something together. From wood.

All of our old budgeting norms have gone out the window. "Congress in the past few years has abandoned its traditional budget and appropriations process and instead has assembled—often on the fly—last-minute agreements that delay decisions and fund the government for weeks or months at a time...Congress passed joint budget resolutions in all but three years from 1976 until 2010, but it hasn't passed one through this traditional process since, making it more difficult for lawmakers to pass spending bills...This year, Congress hasn't passed a single of the 12 major appropriations bills that fund operations for things like the military, homeland security, agriculture programs and education beyond the start of the fiscal year on Tuesday." Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.

Less-conservative Republicans may be key to solving federal fiscal drama. "[T]me and again in recent months, legislative battles have ended the same way — with a group of these not-as- conservatives aligning with Democrats to pass legislation over the objection of their party’s most conservative members...[Rep. King] said the group agreed it was prepared to support a “clean” continuing resolution, ensuring that many government workers would remain on the job, without linking the issue to defunding the new health-care law." Rosalind S. Helderman and Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

@JohnQuiggin: Former CBO director Doug Holtz-Eakin backs shutdown. Madness runs deep in Repubs

Sequester is almost certain to survive shutdown. "The automatic spending cuts that Congress adopted in 2011 for the coming decade, known as sequester, so far are surviving a series of fiscal fights, despite pressure from some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to replace them. Whatever bill emerges to keep the government open likely won't knock that trajectory off track. The cuts affect only the annual amounts appropriated by Congress, not federal spending on entitlement programs." John D. McKinnon and Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.

The FBI can’t investigate terrorists and fraudsters due to budget cuts. "The reason for the hard times at the FBI is the federal budget cuts that began with the 2011 debt ceiling deal, including the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration...As it turns out, slashing discretionary spending 5.6 percent doesn't cause massive, immediate, camera-ready dislocations in how government works...The new report from the FBI Agents Association is a reminder of the smaller, less visible effects that the cuts have had across the country. Any large organization can endure budget cuts like that in the short run. People work a little harder, less urgent projects are shifted to the back burner, empty positions go unfilled, and so on. But the longer the scrimping goes on, the less those tricks can fill the gap." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

@jimgeraghty: Is the FCC shut down? Could news anchors start swearing up a storm?

...And what a shutdown would mean for the Treasury Department. "The Treasury Department would continue disbursements of Social Security funds, automated revenue collections and the work of daily cash management for the government, in addition to paying interest on the federal debt. But the Internal Revenue Service, which is Treasury’s largest component, would cease some of its key functions, such as audits, examinations of returns, processing of paper returns and call-center operations for taxpayers with questions." Josh Hicks in The Washington Post.

...And, oh no, not the jobs report! Anything but the jobs report! "If the federal government does indeed shut down on Tuesday and remain closed for more than a day or two, data for unemployment and job creation in September is very unlikely to be released Friday, as scheduled. The data, based on separate surveys of businesses and households, goes through an extensive process of analysis and review before it is released. And if Congress fails to reach a budget accord before the start of the fiscal year, the staff necessary for that will be furloughed." Nelson D. Schwartz in The New York Times.

...And at CBO. "The only employees kept on the job would be “those who were analyzing legislation being actively considered by the Congress during the shutdown or who were necessary to support that analysis. We expect that those people would represent less than 10 percent of the agency’s overall workforce. If a shutdown persists, we will regularly reconsider which employees would be needed to meet the pressing demands of the Congress,” the agency said in a blog post." Eric Yoder in The Washington Post.

...Also, veterans' benefits would be disrupted by extended shutdown. "Veterans groups have reacted angrily to news that an extended government shutdown will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs unable to make disability compensation and pension payments to veterans. Losing the payments could have a devastating impact, particularly on severely wounded veterans who are unable to work and depend on VA checks." Steve Vogel in The Washington Post.

@BruceBartlett: Even though the government has shut down and the yoke of tyranny has been lifted, I don't feel more free for some reason.

KLEIN: Our governing crisis, in one sentence. "The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics — it is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. Okay, so that's not my sentence. It's Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein's sentence." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

YORK: How 30 House Republicans are forcing the Obamacare fight. "There are 233 Republicans in the House. Insiders estimate that three-quarters of them, or about 175 GOP lawmakers, are willing, and perhaps even eager, to vote for a continuing resolution that funds the government without pressing the Republican goal of defunding or delaying Obamacare. On the other side, insiders estimate about 30 House Republicans believe strongly that Obamacare is such a far-reaching and harmful law that the GOP should do everything it can --- everything --- to stop it or slow it down...In the continuing resolution fight, it is the 30 most committed members, along with their 20-30 allies in the next-most-committed group, who are setting the House Republican agenda." Byron York in The Washington Examiner.

BALZ: Shutdown stalemate shows larger GOP dilemma: How to be a governing party. "The GOP won the majority in 1994 and was returned to power in 2010 on a wave of antigovernment sentiment. In the majority, Republicans have often been stymied by the need to produce compromises while satisfying that part of their base that considers compromise as selling out principles." Dan Balz in The Washington Post.

@pdacosta: Not shut down: punditry

SOLTAS: With friends like these, U.S. economy doesn't need enemies. "[T]e effect that may have mattered the most, however, also took the longest to realize. The debt ceiling set off a chain of lowered expectations for economic growth. Economic forecasters spent the next two years writing away the prospect of a vigorous recovery. Before the debt ceiling, for instance, the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy, had thought the U.S. would see gross domestic product growing at 4 percent, adjusted for inflation, in 2011, 2012 and 2013. By the end of 2011, they had concluded that growth would run at half that pace." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg.

COLLENDER: What makes this shutdown different from all other shutdowns? "Although almost everyone has focused on the lapses that occurred in 1995 and 1996, they actually occurred a number of times in the 1970s and 1980s. You haven't heard much about them for several reasons: 1. Most of these lapses were short or happened over a weekend. They were barely noticed at the time and are not memorable now. 2. The lapses were not typically government-wide. Instead, they only happened to one or two agencies or departments. 3. In many ways most important, until Carter Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued memorandums in 1980 and 1981 that set up new rules and standards, agencies and departments that suffered an appropriations lapse were allowed to continue to operate as if there was no lapse at all. In other words, using today's terminology, there were shutdowns before 1980, but the agencies and departments didn't actually shutdown." Stan Collender on his blog.

KLEIN: Don’t forget what the shutdown is really about. "This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That's it. That's why the Republican Party might shut down the government and default on the debt." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

SEIB: The international perils in congressional dysfunction. "When will Washington's dysfunction, which has become a chronic condition, begin to erode allies' confidence in the U.S.? And when might America's foes decide they can take advantage of the paralysis?...It is one thing for the U.S. to be preoccupied by internal problems and disputes. It is another thing to be disabled by them, and that is the picture that must be emerging abroad." Gerald F. Seib in The Wall Street Journal.

@BuzzFeedAndrew: In Soviet Russia government shutdown you.

KLEIN: John Boehner’s ‘Plan C’ hurts Congress, hurts taxpayers, fixes nothing. "Plan A, of course, was tying funding of the government to defunding Obamacare. The Senate brushed that off. Plan B, which House Republicans initiated over the weekend, ties funding the government to delaying Obamacare. The Senate will reject that too. Plan C is the most bizarre of the bunch: It ties funding the government to ruining the lives of congressional staffers. It's pointless and cruel, and in the long-run, it will make Congress worse and K Street more powerful...The result of Vitter's amendment -- and of "Plan C" -- would not be that members of Congress and their staffs are treated like everyone else under Obamacare. Rather, they would be a) the only employees of a large employer whose employer is no longer allowed to offer them health coverage and b) the only employees of a large employer whose employer is not allowed to contribute to their health-care premiums." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

CHAIT: The GOP's legislative strike. "The analytic error here is the assumption by professional pox-on-both-housers that they can take an advocacy position on the government shutdown without siding with one of the parties. If you want to land on the conclusion that both sides are to blame, you need to equivocate on the underlying moral question of whether a shutdown is really a bad thing. If, on the other hand, you want to take a stance against crisis governance, you need to be honest about the fact that one party is pursuing this as a conscious strategy." Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

PONNURU: Republicans fighting Obamacare aren't crazy. "[T]here’s nothing wrong with continuing to resist Obamacare even though it has been on the books for three years. What would be strange is if Republicans ended their opposition to it. The law was, after all, passed over almost-unanimous Republican objections...Obamacare was unpopular with the public when it passed, and it has only become more so. Republicans generally think it will have bad effects on the economy and on health care. And it isn’t yet entrenched. Why wouldn’t they keep opposing it?" Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.

KLEIN: Senate Conservatives Fund comes out hard against the House GOP’s 'Plan D.' "The Senate Conservatives Fund, which is one of the outside groups allied with the Ted Cruz-wing of the Republican Party, is coming out hard against it. The e-mail they just sent out to their list is a useful window into the schisms in the Republican Party right now." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: Bruce Springsteen, "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," 1975. Ok, one more: Bill Nye does Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" in a robot suit.

Top opinion

GOTTLEIB AND ASTRUE: Obamacare's tech mess. "There are two key technological flaws in ObamaCare. First is the "hub"—the software to link servers at the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and state agencies to verify the income and health-insurance status of enrollees and ensure that they are eligible for subsidies. The other flaw is the "portal"—the federally run IT platform that is supposed to let consumers compare health plans and select one that best suits their needs." Scott Gottlieb and Michael Astrue in The Wall Street Journal.

LAZEAR: Look at the labor market. It's not time to taper. "A careful look at the labor market numbers suggests that if the Fed sticks to the chairman's words, there will be no significant tapering any time soon... employment rate simply cannot recover very quickly. But if the Fed concludes, as have many economists and analysts, that quantitative easing has run out of steam, it can point to other labor market indicators that provide a face-saving way to get back on a more historically consistent path." Edward P. Lazear in The Wall Street Journal.

SMITH: New economic trends overturning the old trends. "ld Trend: Expensive solar, surviving only on subsidies. New Trend: Cheap solar, disrupting old industries. Since the 1970s, it has become a cliché that solar power is an expensive boondoggle, kept alive only by government subsidies. But every cliché is right until the day it’s suddenly wrong. And for solar, that day is today...The technology that was a punch line for decades is about to launch an energy revolution, and most people aren’t even paying attention." Noah Smith in The Atlantic.

FLAVELLE: Who cares if the public doesn't support Obamacare? "If officials can't persuade the public that something is a good idea, even if it accomplishes a goal the public favors, should they still proceed? Is good government better than popular government? Supporters of President Barack Obama will note that the public's opposition to his policies is often the result of Republican disinformation. That still doesn't resolve the tension: There's no clause in the contract between government and citizens that says public opinion matters less when it's misinformed." Christopher Flavelle in Bloomberg.

ALPERT: Our rut. "We are in an age of global oversupply: an oversupply of global labor (hence high underemployment); an oversupply of global productive capacity (hence ultra-low inflation); and an oversupply of global capital (hence low interest rates). This explains why, around the middle of each of the past three years, activity petered out after predictions earlier in the year that the economy would finally achieve escape velocity." Daniel Alpert in The New York Times.

10.3 million interlude: 'Breaking Bad' breaks a record.

2) Obamacare, open for business. Well, kinda. Sorta. Not really.

As government shuts down, Obamacare moves forward. "The day has arrived when millions of uninsured Americans have their first chance to sign up for what the administration says will be high-quality, affordable health coverage. That achievement is something presidents of both parties sought unsuccessfully for more than 60 years. The coming months and years will show whether the new health-care law, commonly known as Obama­care, lives up to its aspirations. Those who sign up now, for instance, will not begin to receive benefits until January." Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Everything you need to know about life under Obamacare. Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Meet Gary M. Cohen. "The federal official in charge of health insurance shopping malls, which open Tuesday under President Obama’s health care law, has been challenging conventional wisdom since he came to Washington from California three and a half years ago. The official, Gary M. Cohen, is at the center of the furor over the health care law. As director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, he enforces the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that affect insurance companies. He supervises the new insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, including more than 30 that will be run by the federal government." Robert Pear in The New York Times.

Obamacare's launch will be totally anti-climactic. "We are not going to know, when Oct. 1 comes to an end how many people enrolled in Obamacare. And even if we did, that number would be unlikely to tell us anything about whether the law is a success or a failure. We just won't have that data on Oct. 2, and it will be months, some say even years, before we do. Here's what you can expect Tuesday. The marketplaces will open at 8 a.m. in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, some run by the federal government and others by the state." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

White House shows off Web site to buy health insurance under Obamacare. "The Obama administration on Monday showed off the federal Web site, Healthcare.gov, where millions of Americans starting Tuesday will be able to buy coverage under President Obama’s health-care law, promising it will be open for business despite congressional battling and widespread reports of computer problems. People seeking to buy health insurance on the federal marketplace will be able to enter personal information, including their incomes and Social Security numbers; learn how much government assistance they might qualify for, if any; search for plans by price and coverage level; and then purchase a plan directly from the insurance company." Sandhya Somashekhar and Lena H. Sun in The Washington Post.

Obamacare exchanges are fully ready in nine states. Here’s what to expect everywhere else. "California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island are on track to launch new exchanges with all the intended functions on Tuesday. As a result, in those nine states, individuals and business owners will be able compare coverage offered by various insurers and enroll in a plan online. They will also be able to see which tax breaks they are eligible for under Obamacare. Everywhere else, the exchanges are scheduled to open with some missing parts." J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.

Administration moves to limit, but not end, health insurance subsidy for Congress. "Members of Congress and their staff who will have to get their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act would continue to receive a government contribution toward premiums next year but only if they enroll in a specific ACA plan, under a revised Obama administration policy unveiled Monday...The administration’s policy would keep the subsidy in place only for members of Congress and affected staff who enroll in a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) plan to become available in the District of Columbia." Eric Yoder in The Washington Post.

Small firms rush to lock in lower rates before Obamacare comes. "Nearly one-third of small businesses surveyed by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International said they would renew their health coverage earlier than in prior years. The survey of 881 firms with less than $20 million in annual revenue was fielded online from Sept. Sept. 9 to 18...Small-business owners routinely renew their health plans once a year, often in January. Renewing early this year, by December, will allow businesses to delay by roughly one year the impact of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that kick in starting 2014 for those insurance plans that renew after Jan. 1." Ruth Simon in The Wall Street Journal.

Good advice interlude: Handy tips for the male academic.

3) The campaign to get Jamie Dimon to resign

Salon's Alex Pareene appeared on CNBC and called on JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon to resign. Watch the video first, then read the huge volume of follow-up. "I think that any time you’re looking at the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, it’s really worth asking should this guy stay in his job. In any other industry — I can’t think of another industry. If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say “Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.”"

The Jamie Dimon apologists of CNBC. "This view — that profits cleanse all sins, and that so long as you’re making money, nothing else matters — is not normally expressed quite as explicitly as it was here. After all, there are licit and illicit ways of making money, and surely if your profits fall into the latter category, you should not be able to remain comfortably ensconced as a celebrated captain of industry. Besides, banks shouldn’t be obscenely profitable: they’re intermediaries, and in an efficient economy their profits should be quite easily competed away. When bank profits are high, that’s a sign that the bank in question is extracting rents from the economy, rather than helping it to grow. The rest of the interview is a glorious exercise in watching CNBC anchors simply implode in disbelief when faced with the idea that JP Morgan in general, and Jamie Dimon in particular, might be anything other than a glorious icon of capitalist success." Felix Salmon in Reuters.

This CNBC clip shows everything wrong with how Wall Street thinks about banking. "An exchange between Alex Pareene and Maria Bartiromo on CNBC Friday encapsulates one of the most important debates in finance that too few people seem to be having. The dispute boils down to this: Bartiromo and other panelists argue that Jamie Dimon is a great CEO because JPMorgan, the bank he leads, has been perhaps the most successful financial services juggernaut of the past decade, sidestepping the worst effects of the 2008 crisis and growing nicely since then. Pareene argues: Yeah, but JPMorgan's actions have been terrible for society, so he should be canned." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

How Pareene says he 'botched it' on CNBC. "[F]or CNBC, and for Wall Street, billion dollar fines for violations of the law are just part of the price of doing business, along with litigation costs and “compliance.”...[M]y point, that Dimon should be fired because he has failed to prevent his firm from violating the law, was a non sequitur...Their question was, who would do a better job than Jamie Dimon of running JPMorgan in a way that delivers maximum value to shareholders? Who else could keep JPMorgan’s stock price so high amid all these tawdry scandals and this “witch hunt” from the regulators? I don’t have any good answer to that. Because I don’t think Jamie Dimon’s job, or his bank, should exist at all in their present states." Alex Pareene in Salon.

Freddie Mac and Wells Fargo settle on loans. "Wells Fargo said on Monday that it would pay $780 million in cash to Freddie Mac to resolve substantially all repurchase liabilities on home loans sold to Freddie before 2009...Freddie Mac and its larger rival Fannie Mae, which both received federal bailouts in 2008, have pushed banks to buy back mortgages that soured during the nation’s housing downturn. Banks can be required to buy back loans if the representations and warranties over how well the loans were underwritten, and whether borrowers could afford them, prove false." Reuters.

The market for apartments is super tight. "The average monthly rent in the third quarter was $1,073, up 1% from the prior quarter, the largest quarterly gain in a year, according to a report to be released Tuesday by Reis Inc., a real-estate research firm. Compared with the third quarter a year ago, average monthly rent was up 3%. None of the 79 markets tracked by Reis saw rents fall." Dawn Wotapka in The Wall Street Journal.

This land is your land interlude: A historic performance by Pete Seeger.

4) The solar revolution is upon us

Solar for the win. "Solar power capacity installed around the world this year will beat wind for the first time driven by stronger policy support in key markets, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Photovoltaic plants will add about 36.7 gigawatts globally in 2013 and wind farms 35.5 gigawatts, or almost 25 percent less than last year, the research company said today in a statement. Solar capacity will rise about 20 percent from 2012. “The dramatic cost reductions in photovoltaics, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are making possible further, strong growth in volumes,” said Jenny Chase, BNEF’s head of solar analysis." Marc Roca in Bloomberg.

We're just swimming in energy. "By displacing dirtier coal, cheap natural gas has helped reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions even as it has boosted U.S. manufacturers that rely on gas as a feedstock. Falling oil imports means that billions of dollars that once went abroad are now staying in the U.S., providing capital for other investments. But energy abundance comes with its own set of challenges. There’s already been an environmental backlash against the fevered exploitation of unconventional oil and gas. Nor is there any guarantee that the recent oil boom–which is dependent on high prices–will continue into the future." Bryan Walsh in Time Magazine.

IKEA now selling solar panels in UK as part of renewable energy push. "IKEA is now selling solar panels at its stores in Britain. The housewares retailer has already announced plans to switch over to solar and wind power by 2020, but now it wants to help customers incorporate renewable energy at home. "It's the right time to go for the consumers," said IKEA's sustainability director Steve Howard, speaking to the Associated Press. According to Howard, falling prices for solar panels led the company to bring them to retail. But you won't be buying these solar panels on a whim; a 3.36 kilowatt system is priced at £5,700 ($9,200), though that investment includes an in-store consultation, installation costs, and maintenance services. Despite the high ticket price, Howard says the panels will essentially have paid for themselves after about seven years of ownership. "If you are going to be in your house that long, your energy will be free after seven years."" Chris Welch in The Verge.

Woah man interlude: Third dimension videos.

5) Yes, they can...sink lower in the polls

CNN poll finds Congress at all-time low. "According to the survey, just 10% of Americans say they approve of the job Congress is doing, an all-time low in a CNN poll. And 87% say they disapprove of the job federal lawmakers are doing, higher than it's ever been in CNN polling. The 10% approval rating in the new CNN survey, which was conducted Friday through Sunday, is down 10 percentage points from CNN's previous survey at the beginning of the month. The 87% disapproval rating is a jump of nine points from the first week in September." Paul Steinhauser in CNN.

Who's angry at the government? "Anger is most palpable among conservative Republicans – 41% say they are angry at the federal government, the highest among any partisan group. The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 25-29 among 1,005 adults, finds that 26% overall say they are angry at the federal government, while 51% feel frustrated. Just 17% say they are basically content with the government." Pew Research Center.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Housing aid is maddeningly complex. It doesn’t have to beDylan Matthews.

The typical American household is richer than 93 percent of the worldDylan Matthews.

Fewer Harvard MBAs are going to work on Wall Street. That’s great newsLydia DePillis.

Everything you need to know about life under ObamacareEzra Klein.

Here’s the memo that just shut down the governmentEzra Klein.

Senate Conservatives Fund comes out hard against the House GOP’s “Plan D”Ezra Klein.

Remember when Republicans were worried about ‘economic uncertainty’? Lydia DePillis.

Our governing crisis, in one sentenceEzra Klein.

Don’t forget what the shutdown is really aboutEzra Klein.

Every government shutdown ever, in one chartBrad Plumer.

Obamacare’s launch will be totally anti-climaticSarah Kliff.

John Boehner’s ‘Plan C’ hurts Congress, hurts taxpayers, fixes nothingEzra Klein.

Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will workBrad Plumer.

This CNBC clip shows everything wrong with how Wall Street thinks about bankingNeil Irwin.

The FBI can’t investigate terrorists and fraudsters due to budget cutsNeil Irwin.

Et Cetera

North Carolina governor angry at Justice Department voting-rules lawsuitKim Severson in The New York Times.

Obama to nominate former Romney adviser Chen to federal boardPhilip Rucker in The Washington Post.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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