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For years, the Affordable Care Act's crises have lent themselves to binary outcomes. The law would pass, or it would fail. It would be upheld by the Supreme Court, or it would be struck down as unconstitutional. Barack Obama would win reelection, or Obamacare would be hollowed out by Mitt Romney. Over and over again, the choice was (or at least seemed) stark: Life or death.
That's because the law was, for most of the last three years, a political abstraction, and the fight was over whether it would survive long enough to be implemented. That ended on Oct. 1.
"The pundits’ tendency to view the long-term fate of the law as a 'success' or 'failure' is a symptom of short-term political thinking." writes Austin Frakt.
HealthCare.gov's troubles are real and severe. But for the law, the possible outcomes aren't life or death, or even success or failure. They're vastly broader than that.
The law could limp through its first six months of life but see enrollment surge as people face the choice of handing over 1 percent of their income or purchasing insurance. That's basically what happened in Massachusetts.
The law could succeed wildly in some states while failing in others. It's easy to imagine a world in which California's all-out effort on behalf of the law and Texas's all-out obstruction lead to California having a best-in-class, near-universal health-care system while Texas's health-care system collapses into even more of a mess than it already is.
The law could fail relative to expectations and prove a political disaster for Democrats, but still be delivering insurance to more than 10 million Americans come 2017. As a result, President Chris Christie could find himself with a mandate to make changes but no earthly way to pass full repeal. Obamacare thus becomes the platform for a far-reaching set of Republican health-care reforms.
The permutations are countless -- with two exceptions. The law won't work perfectly and record 100 percent approval ratings anytime in the next few years. And nor will it be repealed. Unanimously recognized success and actual failure are virtually the only two unthinkable outcomes.
Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 35. That's the number of world leaders the National Security Agency had been monitoring. And doing so without the knowledge of President Obama for five years. Whoops.
Wonkbook's Quotation of the Day: “It was kind of like when you go through your drawers and your pants pockets and you collect the dimes — you can’t do that again,” said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) about the second year of sequestration.
Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: America does not have equal opportunity, in one chart.
Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) HealthCare.gov's struggles; (2) 35 world leaders were under NSA surveillance; (3) whip up inflation now?; (4) the chances of a budget deal; and (5) meanwhile, in health-care costs....
1. Top story: How HealthCare.gov affects Obamacare
The feds have made 330,000 Obamacare subsidy calculations. "More than 330,000 people have managed to get deep enough into new government health insurance Web sites to learn how much financial assistance they will receive purchasing coverage, the Internal Revenue Service said Saturday. That figure is arguably the most robust measure released to date by the Obama administration of how many Americans are successfully applying for financial help in purchasing a private insurance plan." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.
Watch: Obamacare’s tech problems, explained in two minutes. Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.
HealthCare.gov is lost at sea without a captain. "As it becomes clear that no single leader oversaw implementation of the health law's signature online marketplace — a complex software project that would have been difficult under the best circumstances — the accounts of more than a dozen current and former officials show how a disjointed bureaucracy led to the site's disastrous Oct. 1 launch.... Divergent agency cultures, political directives that clashed with operational deadlines, a compressed timeline and dispersed geography led to the federal site's technical failures, those people said." Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in The Wall Street Journal.
The site's woes could dissuade the young and healthy. "The economists and policy wonks behind the Affordable Care Act worry that the technical problems bedeviling the federal portal could become much more than an inconvenience. If applicants like Mr. Jackson decide to put off or give up on buying coverage, rising prices and even a destabilized insurance market could result.... Economists call the process “adverse selection” and warn that in its worst iteration it could lead to a “death spiral” of falling enrollment and climbing prices. Economists and health analysts said the chances of such a spiral were slim in most states because Americans who go without insurance would face penalties, starting next year. But they said that the endemic problems with the Web site posed a serious question about the enrollment balance in many state plans." Annie Lowrey in The New York Times.
Data center outage hits HealthCare.gov. "The federal data hub relied on by all 14 state-run health care insurance exchanges and 36 exchanges run by the federal government was not working Sunday because the company hosting the hub lost its network connectivity, the Obama administration said. The outage means people trying to sign up online for health care insurance in all 50 states could not complete the process. Terremark, a unit of Verizon Enterprise Solutions that operates the data center that hosts the federal data hub as well as the HealthCare.gov site, couldn't immediately give the Department of Health and Human Services a timeline for fixing the problem." Louise Radnofksy in The Wall Street Journal.
@BuzzFeedAndrew: ObamaCare website Google auto results. "Down" and "crash" in the top 3.
States report surge in Medicaid enrollments. "Some states are signing up tens of thousands of new Medicaid enrollees in the initial weeks of the health law's rollout, while placing far fewer in private health insurance — a divergence that suggests Medicaid expansion may be a larger part of the law than expected.... [T]he predominance of Medicaid enrollees so far could also fuel criticism that the law will lead to a greater government grip on the health-care system, instead of leaving room for private health insurers to grow." Amy Schatz and Jennifer Corbett Dooren in The Wall Street Journal.
A bit of early comic relief: How SNL mocked HealthCare.Gov. Rebecca Shabad in The Hill.
HealthCare.gov doesn’t help Obama’s argument for greater government. "President Obama has faced a persistent challenge in office. The advocate of big, bold actions to address large and seemingly intractable problems, he has struggled to convince the public that government is equipped to carry out such transformational changes. The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has highlighted that challenge, and the administration’s response has no doubt set the president back.... The whole episode points to the broader debate that the president has yet to win about the role of government." Dan Balz in The Washington Post.
White House tries to rally congressional Democrats in support of Obamacare. "In a separate huddle that night, without the president, some of the former aides — including David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod from Obama’s original political brain trust — advanced a different argument to deal with what they saw as a looming threat. Comparing the situation at one point to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, they warned senior staffers that without a strategy shift — one that involved providing as much information as possible to both Capitol Hill and the news media — they would risk defections by crucial Democratic lawmakers facing reelection in 2014. Keeping the administration’s allies on board was critical to saving the broader program, so maintaining Democratic cohesion represented a key first step." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.
@KipPiper: Hearings this week are big opportunity for HHS, CMS to get in front of Obamacare issues, be transparent, be public administrators
Goodbye, HealthCare.gov lady. We barely knew you. "She is no longer, as of this weekend, the face of the health law's Web site. In her place are four bright logos, each representing a different way to apply for insurance coverage: Online, over the phone, with a paper application and in person." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.
KRUGMAN: The big kludge. "Why did this thing have to be so complicated in the first place?... Imagine, now, a much simpler system in which the government just pays your major medical expenses. In this hypothetical system you wouldn’t have to shop for insurance, nor would you have to provide lots of personal details. The government would be your insurer, and you’d be covered automatically by virtue of being an American. Of course, we don’t have to imagine such a system, because it already exists. It’s called Medicare, it covers all Americans 65 and older, and it’s enormously popular. So why didn’t we just extend that system to cover everyone?" Paul Krugman in The New York Times.
DOUTHAT: But what if Obamacare works? "[I]t’s still more likely that HealthCare.gov will be fixed by Thanksgiving and millions of Americans will (finally) be able to get a real look at what Obamacare is selling them. What will they find? One way to understand what is being offered is to think in terms of three “mores.” Insurance à la Obamacare will be more expensive, more subsidized and more comprehensive than what was previously available on the individual market." Ross Douthat in The New York Times.
@DouthatNYT: Maybe what Healthcare.gov needs is a David Ortiz pep talk.
FRAKT: A reply to Douthat. "[W]hat I expect is not a conversation about “success” or “failure” or — in time — about “repeal,” but about how to incrementally change the law to start to take better control of costs.... On the whole, this “success” vs “failure” idea is short-sighted, and soon will be out of date. Indeed, there’s a policy risk in continuing such rhetoric. So long as Republicans couch their reform ideas in the language of “repeal,” Democrats have no choice but to resist. They own the law and they’re not going to let the opposition steal it away. Ironically, many conservative reforms could easily fit within the framework of Obamacare, and likely would appeal to moderate Democrats." Austin Frakt in The Incidental Economist blog.
LEVIN: An insurance death spiral? "[T]he scenario most frequently talked about is the possibility of an “insurance death spiral” in the exchanges. And here I think two kinds of misunderstanding have been rampant — one that might cause us to understate the danger and another that might cause us to overstate it. Major adverse selection problems in the exchanges are, and always have been, likely, but a death spiral as it is usually understood is not.... [T]he sort of severe adverse selection the exchanges may experience would dramatically increase federal spending and would drive unsubsidized exchange participants (other than those in very poor health) and many insurers out of the exchanges." Yuval Levin in National Review Online.
DICKERSON: The case for a HealthCare.gov witchhunt. "[I]t provides rich material for a case study about the effectiveness of government.... Healthcare.gov is now a very good excuse for anyone who wants to oppose an activist federal government. All a lawmaker has to say is that they don't want the same government that ran healthcare.gov in charge of X, where X is anything you want to see stopped in its tracks." John Dickerson in Slate.
ROBINSON: Comparison shopping for knee surgery. "An example of reference pricing is the initiative by the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or Calpers, for orthopedic knee and hip replacement.... Calpers was upset after noticing it paid between $20,000 and $120,000 for the same procedure across the state, without commensurate differences in outcomes. In January 2010, the retirement organization established a $30,000 reference-price limit on what it would pay..The percentage of Calpers patients selecting low-price hospitals increased to 63% in the year after reference pricing was introduced, from 48% in the year before, and the trend continued into the second year after the introduction..Across all hospitals, prices charged to Calpers for joint-replacement surgery declined by 26% in the first year and by even more in the second." James C. Robinson in The Wall Street Journal.
Music recommendations interlude: Lou Reed, in memoriam.
CHAIT: Bipartisan budget love suddenly in the air. "Okay, don’t laugh, but with the two parties finally sitting down to negotiate, a bipartisan budget deal in Washington suddenly looks kind of plausible.... If you want to judge whether any agreement makes sense, the best guide is not whether Democrats win revenue, but whether they win permanent changes in policy.... If Obama gives Republicans permanent changes in return for temporary concessions, it will be clear Republicans out-negotiated him on sequestration. If Obama can get other permanent policy victories — different (and more regressive) forms of taxation, or funding for early childhood education — that is the sort of victory that could be traded for long-term entitlement cuts." Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.
KONCZAL: Making government simpler turns out to be complex. "There are two definitions of "simple" that have come to dominate liberal conversations about government. One is the idea that we should make use of "nudges" in regulation. The other is the idea that we should avoid "kludges." As it turns out, however, these two definitions conflict with each other — and the battle between them will dominate conversations about the state in the years ahead." Mike Konczal in The Washington Post.
DIONNE: First, admit the problem. "Here’s the mistake made by President Obama and the Democrats that nobody is talking about: They have been too fearful of confronting our country’s three-year obsession with the wrong problem. And here is the tea party’s greatest victory: It has made the wrong problem the center of policymaking. The wrong problem is the deficit. The right problem is sluggish growth and persistent unemployment." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.
SHILLER: Sharing the Nobel, and agreeing to disagree. "So many people have been asking me about this obvious incongruity that I thought I should address it directly here.... I do not completely oppose the efficient-markets theory. I have been calling it a half-truth. If the theory said nothing more than that it is unlikely that the average amateur investor can get rich quickly by trading in the markets based on publicly available information, the theory would be spot on...[I]t has been argued that regular movements in the markets reflect a wisdom that transcends the best understanding of even the top professionals, and that it is hopeless for an ordinary mortal, even with a lifetime of work and preparation, to question pricing." Robert J. Shiller in The New York Times.
POSNER: I did not recant on voter ID. "If you go back and read my opinion in Crawford, you’ll see that at least I was conscious of the fact that a voter ID law is two-edged. On the one hand, the more, and more-reliable, identification that it requires, the more it reduces the likelihood of voter fraud. On the other hand, the more such identification the law requires, the more it tends to disenfranchise eligible voters: for example voters who don’t drive, hence don’t have a driver’s license, and may find it difficult to obtain the required photo ID." Richard A. Posner in The New Republic.
DAALDER: Do the benefits of NSA spying really outweigh the costs? "As the US Ambassador to Nato for the past four years, I spent a good deal of time talking and listening to my colleagues trying to figure out the positions of, and divisions within, allied nations on many critical issues.... The question is not whether governments should or do collect information on each other; they do and they should. And they do and should gather it from countries that are friendly, as well as from countries that are not. The question is whether tapping the phones of leaders is the most effective means to that end -- and whether the cost of public revelation is worth the benefit of acquiring this information. Given the public furore of recent days, there is good reason to doubt the benefits would be worth the costs." Ivo Daalder in The Financial Times.
Helpful interlude: How to eat a pomegranate.
2. The NSA story begins to spiral out of control
Obama unaware that U.S. spied on world leaders. "The National Security Agency ended a program used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review started this summer revealed to the White House the existence of the operations, U.S. officials said. Officials said the internal review turned up NSA monitoring of some 35 world leaders, in the U.S. government's first public acknowledgment that it tapped the phones of world leaders...The White House cut off some monitoring programs after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel and some other world leaders, a senior U.S. official said. Other programs have been slated for termination but haven't been phased out completely yet, officials said. The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn't have been practical to brief him on all of them." Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous in The Wall Street Journal.
How long has this been going on? "The latest round of recriminations came after Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, published details from what it described as an entry from an N.S.A. database, apparently from the trove of documents downloaded by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who is now in temporary asylum in Moscow. The database entry, according to Der Spiegel and outside experts, seemed to indicate that the request to monitor her cellphone began in 2002. But the document refers to her as “chancellor,” a position she has held only since late 2005. That seems to suggest the database entry had been updated." Alison Smale, Melissa Eddy, and David E. Sanger in The New York Times.
Federal prosecutors, in policy shift, cite warrantless wiretaps as evidence. "The Justice Department for the first time has notified a criminal defendant that evidence being used against him came from a warrantless wiretap, a move that is expected to set up a Supreme Court test of whether such eavesdropping is constitutional. Prosecutors filed such a notice late Friday in the case of Jamshid Muhtorov, who was charged in Colorado in January 2012 with providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union, a designated terrorist organization based in Uzbekistan.... The government’s notice allows Mr. Muhtorov’s lawyer to ask a court to suppress the evidence by arguing that it derived from unconstitutional surveillance, setting in motion judicial review of the eavesdropping." Charlie Savage in The New York Times.
Europe wants to talk about our surveillance. "Early on Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France emerged from a meeting of European leaders to call for talks with the United States on new rules for their intelligence relationship. A statement from the European leaders said a “lack of trust” could undermine trans-Atlantic intelligence cooperation. Earlier in the week the European Parliament had acted to suspend an agreement with the United States that allows it to track the finances of terrorist groups, citing suspicions that the United States authorities were tapping European citizens’ personal financial data." Alison Smale in The New York Times.
Why 'everyone does it' just won't do. "American officials now concede that the uproar in Europe about the N.S.A.’s programs — both the popular outrage and a more calculated political response by Ms. Merkel and France’s president, François Hollande — may have a broader diplomatic and economic effect than they first imagined...There are now two groups looking at the N.S.A.’s activities: one inside the National Security Council, another with outside advisers. The president all but told Ms. Merkel that “we don’t have the balance right,” according to one official." David E. Sanger in The New York Times.
Mike Rogers is OK with the NSA. "The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Rogers, on Sunday offered one of the most vigorous defenses of American surveillance activities in Europe.... Reporters who had seen one security agency slide provided by Edward J. Snowden, a former agency contract employee, “misinterpreted some of the acronyms at the bottom of the slide and saw this 70 million phone call figure -- this was about a counterterrorism program that had nothing to do with French citizens,” Mr. Rogers asserted." Brian Knowlton in The New York Times.
Longreads interlude: What does artificial intelligence really mean?
3. Whip up inflation now?
Meet the economists who want more inflation. "Some economists say more inflation is just what the American economy needs to escape from a half-decade of sluggish growth and high unemployment.... Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly." Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.
Fed governor Jeremy Stein wants a rule for the Fed to end QE. "With the Fed unlikely to change the program at its policy meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, discussion is likely to focus on issues such as this. Some members of the Fed's policy-making committee want to clearly define when they will start scaling back the program — also known as quantitative easing, or QE — perhaps when the unemployment rate reaches a certain point...Fed Governor Jeremy Stein is among the officials pushing for a formal rule on a QE exit. In a recent speech, he proposed linking reductions in bond purchases to a labor-market indicator. Mr. Stein said, for instance, that the Fed could say it would cut monthly bond purchases by a set amount for each tenth-of-a-percentage-point decline in the jobless rate. He said while the unemployment rate isn't a perfect measure of the Fed's labor-market objectives, such a rule would help reduce investor uncertainty and market volatility." Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.
Explainer: Economic data coming your way this week. Amrita Jayakumar in The Washington Post.
Fed tightens security around data release. "The US Federal Reserve is tightening security for its monetary policy releases after signs that Chicago markets reacted too early to its September decision not to start cutting back on its monthly bond-buying programme. The Fed has clarified that, starting from its next meeting on October 30, media organisations cannot transmit any decision by the Federal Open Market Committee from a locked room until exactly 2pm. Also, they cannot use their own network connections, or bring mobile phones or other communications devices into the room." Robin Harding and Arash Massoudi in The Financial Times.
Fighting the high-frequency traders. "Enter IEX, a new market that says it is owned by some of the United States’ biggest institutional investors (the so-called “buy-side”), and is launching today. Run by a contingent of defectors from RBC Capital, Nasdaq, and various HFT firms — a group IEX chief executive Brad Katsuyama laughingly refers to as the “Navy SEALs” of the trading world — IEX is relying on the people managing your retirement to reshape the market system and clip the high-frequency traders’ wings." Simone Foxman in Quartz.
Rand Paul wants Fed reform with Yellen nomination. "Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said he would oppose President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Federal Reserve unless the Senate votes on a bill to increase congressional scrutiny of the central bank.... Mr. Paul could modestly slow Senate confirmation of Janet Yellen's nomination to become the Fed's first chairwoman, but he isn't likely to derail it...Mr. Paul's bill would open the Fed's monetary-policy decisions to review by the Government Accountability Office and Congress. An outside firm audits the Fed's financial operations and its findings are published in the central bank's annual report. The GAO also reviews the Fed's financial operations, but doesn't evaluate the policy decisions." Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.
Marty Sullivan figured out how the world’s biggest companies avoided billions in taxes. Here’s how he wants to stop them. "[A] 55-year-old economist named Marty Sullivan sat on a folding metal chair at a card table in the garage of his modest brick home and watched the hearing unfold on his laptop computer. Sullivan is one of those unheralded members of the permanent Washington establishment who make things work, at least when the politicians let them. And for two decades, from the same home office, Sullivan has been exposing the tax-dodging schemes of multinational corporations in the columns of Tax Notes, a must-read publication for tax lawyers, accountants and policy wonks." Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post.
Barack Obama mounts big push to bolster FDI in US. "President Barack Obama and his senior cabinet officials are mounting a big push to bolster foreign investment in the US -- amid evidence that America is falling behind other countries in the race for global capital. The move by Mr Obama to pitch America as open for business is more aggressive than usual from the White House, reflecting a growing realisation in Washington that the case for investing in the world’s biggest economy is no longer self-evident.... High quality global journalism requires investment...This year’s performance could be even weaker, since in the first six months of 2013, the US brought in $66bn in foreign investment, well behind the $84bn of the first half of 2012." James Politi in The Financial Times.
Animations interlude: Why study physics?
4. How far will the White House go for a budget deal?
After years of working around austerity, agencies run out of slack. "[W]hile the most dire predictions may not have materialized in 2013, the tricks that many agencies employed — deferring maintenance, using unspent money from earlier years, cutting staff by attrition — are likely to be exhausted by 2014, when federal departments must trim an additional $24 billion from already tight budgets.... “It was kind of like when you go through your drawers and your pants pockets and you collect the dimes — you can’t do that again,” said Representative Frank R. Wolf, a Virginia Republican who helped the Justice Department scrape together its spare change. “The second year will be much more difficult.”" Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.
What Sperling said about cutting a deal. "Sperling seemed to be laying out the contours of a bargain with Republicans that’s quite a bit different that what most Democrats seem prepared to accept. What stood out to me was how he kept winding back around to the importance of entitlement cuts as part of a deal, as if he were laying the groundwork to blunt liberal anger. Right now, the official Democratic position is that they’ll accept entitlement cuts only in exchange for new revenue — something most Republicans reject. If Sperling mentioned revenue at all, I missed it." Joshua Green in Bloomberg Businessweek.
Push for transportation spending gains steam. "The reliably fractious House handily approved a water infrastructure bill in a 417-3 vote. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) both spoke in favor of the first bill passed since 2007 authorizing new port, dam and flood-protection projects. The measure now must be meshed with the Senate's version., which now must be meshed with the Senate's version...In a Congress bitterly divided over budget and health policy, some lawmakers are optimistic that infrastructure funding could offer a small patch of common ground. Even lawmakers with clashing ideas over the appropriate size of the federal government have agreed recently that it has a role to play in building and maintaining the nation's roads, bridges and ports." Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.
The new conference committee's chances. "The committee faces two options: Failure, as happened with the previous supercommittee, which would leave the automatic cuts in place, or agreeing to a short-term — say, two-year — package of $200 billion in entitlement cuts and new revenue that would replace much of the sequestration. That’s achievable, though unlikely, without any violation of principles. Cracking down on indefensible tax breaks — special treatment of carried interest — and trimming a few write-offs would keep alive the chance for more radical tax overhauls later and wouldn’t much affect marginal rates." Albert R. Hunt in The New York Times.
That time when interlude: Someone eavesdropped on the head of the NSA's interview on the Amtrak.
5. Meanwhile, in health care costs...
More on health policy: Spinal fusions serve as case study for debate over when certain surgeries are necessary. "More than 465,000 spinal fusions were performed in the United States in 2011, according to government data, and some experts think that a portion of them — perhaps as many as half — were performed without good reason. The rate of spinal fusion surgery has risen sixfold in the United States over the past 20 years, according to federal figures, and the expensive procedure, which involves the joining of two or more vertebrae, has become even more common than hip replacement." Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating in The Washington Post.
The cost of living. "In August 3, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new cancer drug called Zaltrap as a safe and effective treatment for patients with advanced colon cancer. The approval was based on a large-scale clinical trial that showed that Zaltrap, given in combination with three previously approved drugs to patients who had failed initial therapy, extended median overall survival by 42 days...If you extended the 42 days survival to a year, “what is the cost of Avastin for one year of human life saved?” The answer was astounding, even to doctors who have grown inured to the zero-gravity economics of cancer pharmaceuticals. As Saltz worked his way through slide 73 of 78, he arrived at the bottom line: $303,000." Stephen S. Hall in New York Magazine.
Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.
Can Agile development work for government, anyway? Lydia DePillis.
Goodbye, HealthCare.gov lady. We barely knew you. Sarah Kliff.
Steve Cohen (probably) isn’t selling Warhols to pay his legal bills. Katharine Boyle.
Making government simpler is complicated. Mike Konczal.
Inside the hidden world of thefts, scams and phantom purchases at the nation’s nonprofits. Joe Stephens and Mary Pat Flaherty in the Washington Post.
Important interview: National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on the Obama administration's Middle East strategy. Mark Landler in The New York Times.
How conservatives seized power in Congress. Burgess Everett in Politico.
At Supreme Court, tradition trumps technology, and transparency. Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.
Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.