Wonkbook: The danger in the GOP’s latest anti-Obamacare argument

November 5, 2013

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(Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)
(Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)

Let's separate two different critiques of Obamacare.

1) President Obama promised that "if you like your plan, you can keep it." This is true for the vast majority of Americans, but the small fraction for whom it isn't true still represent millions of people. Obama broke his promise to them. Worse, he made the promise cynically, knowing it would never be kept. He should've said "almost all Americans who like their plans can keep them." But he knew that wouldn't poll as well.

2) Obamacare is canceling, altering, and otherwise changing some health-care plans in ways that make people (mostly, but not solely, younger, healthier, wealthier people) worse off. Health-care reform shouldn't make anyone worse off. This is simply proof that Obama's health-care reforms are terribly designed.

Republicans making the first argument are on very firm ground. There's really nothing the Obama administration can say in response. But Republicans making the second argument -- and many of them are -- are endorsing a terribly dysfunctional status quo.

Put very simply, you can't reform the health-care system without disrupting the insurance some -- or many -- people currently get. That's true for single payer. It's true for Obamacare. And it's true for every Republican plan, too.

As Philip Klein writes at the conservative Washington Examiner, "Even if free market health care reformers were able to pass the plan of their dreams — which would involve tweaking the tax code to end the bias in favor of employer-sponsored insurance — it would likely mean a lot of people would get dropped from their current plans."

An irony of this argument for health wonks is that one of the main critiques of Obamacare at the time of its passage was that the law did far too much to skirt around existing health-insurance arrangements. The cost of letting the vast majority of people keep what they had was making it impossible for most Americans to change what they had.

The insurance exchanges, for instance, are closed to large employers, at least for now. The (now-delayed) employer mandate is built to encourage employers to keep offering coverage rather than transition them to a new system. Those decisions were made because the Obama administration didn't want employers moving to exchanges and changing the insurance people had. But that also means more time stuck in a costly, dysfunctional, employer-based system.

The only market that Obamacare really upends is the individual market -- which is, not coincidentally, the only market where people aren't overwhelmingly happy with their insurance plans.

Reform means changes. The more ambitious the reforms are, the more far-reaching the changes are. It wasn't true that everyone who likes their health insurance plan will be able to keep it in 2014. But it would've been truthful for Obama to say that 95 percent of people will be able to keep their insurance plan in 2014. And that's because Obamacare is a very modest approach to health-care reform. The need to improve the system was balanced with the political imperative to let people keep what they had -- which meant, in some cases, forcing them to keep what they had.

John McCain's 2008 plan would've been far more disruptive, as it would've upended the employer-based market. Single payer would be much more disruptive. Bill Clinton's plan would've been much more disruptive. There's no plan out there that actually fixes major problems in the system but doesn't lead to some percentage of Americans waking up one day and finding their insurance arrangements altered, sometimes for the worse. (And note that some of the people who think it's for the worse might soon believe it's for the best.)

Republicans have made a strategic choice in recent years to resist calls to release a health-care plan of their own. Any such plan, they figure, would have its own flaws and unpopular tradeoffs, and as such, it would be a distraction from making the case against Obamacare. But one practical effect of that strategy is their attacks aren't curbed by the need to protect any larger vision for health-care reform. And so Republicans have ended up launching attacks that will make it very, very difficult for them to ever pursue a plan of their own.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 4. That's how many bids there were to build Healthcare.gov, which went through an expedited bidding process with less competition. Only 16 firms were even eligible to bid. 

Wonkbook's Table of the Day: State-by-State Estimates of the Number of People Eligible for Premium Tax Credits Under the Affordable Care Act.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) the travails of insurance management; 2) NSA says it needs to be the hungry-hungry-hippo; 3) two women, two big promotions in monetary policy; 4) the House's dead ENDA; and 5) the odds of a fiscal minideal.

1) Top story: Why grandpa can't be the only one signing up for Obamacare

Obamacare buyers are older than expected. Uh oh. "Insurers say the early buyers of health coverage on the nation's troubled new websites are older than expected so far, raising early concerns about the economics of the insurance marketplaces. If the trend continues, an older, more expensive set of customers could drive up prices for everyone...The average enrollee age at Priority Health, a Michigan insurer, has ticked up to age 51 for newcomers, from about 41 years old for plans offered for the current year, said Joan Budden, chief marketing officer. Arise Health Plan, Wisconsin's largest nonprofit insurer, said more than half its 150 signees are over 50, a higher proportion than expected, while declining to be specific on its target age." Christopher Weaver and Timothy W. Martin in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: 5 other things we know about Obamacare shoppersSarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

New memos show limits of paper applications under new health-care law. "The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released several internal Obama administration memos Monday suggesting the paper applications consumers have been using to enroll under the new health-care law has given them a false illusion of progress. The notes, written as part of a Health and Human Services Department "War Room" effort to address the problems plaguing HealthCare.gov, notes that even as officials urged Americans to enroll through paper applications this route faced the same obstacle as the troubled Web site." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Up to 17 million Americans eligible for Obamacare tax credits. "As many as 17 million low- to moderate-income Americans should be eligible for tax credits to buy private health insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law in 2014, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation...It is based on an analysis of 2012 and 2013 population and economic data from U.S. Census Bureau." Reuters.

Data: State-by-State Estimates of the Number of People Eligible for Premium Tax Credits Under the Affordable Care ActKaiser Family Foundation.

Tavenner to tell Senate panel that Healthcare.gov is improving. "CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in prepared testimony for the Senate HELP committee says the troubled HealthCare.gov website is slowly improving. “We are seeing improvements each week and by the end of November the experience on the site will be smooth for the vast majority of users,” her statement prepared for Tuesday’s hearing said. She also said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has added capacity by doubling the number of servers." Joanne Kenen in Politico.

Watch: Economist Jonathan Gruber talking about Obamacare and RomneycareBloomberg.

Insurers are sending their customers misleading letters. "[I]nsurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplace...[M]entions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote...The extreme lengths to which some insurance companies are going to hold on to existing customers at higher price, as the Affordable Care Act fundamentally re-orders the individual insurance market, has caught the attention of state insurance regulators." Dylan Scott in Talking Points Memo.

Healthcare.gov went through an expedited bidding process that limited competition. "The race to construct an online insurance exchange by Oct. 1 spurred the Obama administration to use an expedited bidding system that limited its choice of a builder to just four companies, including CGI Group Inc...CGI’s choice for the job came as the result of a bidding shortcut that may have cut as much as nine months from the time usually required, said Rod Benson, a former procurement director for CMS...The decision, however, limited the companies that could bid to build the website to a pre-approved list of 16 vendors selected in 2007 for an umbrella contract to work on unspecified systems for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Only four of the 16 companies bid for the work, including CGI. The other bidders haven’t been publicly identified." Alex Wayne and Kathleen Miller in Bloomberg.

Oregon's health insurance exchange is just a total mess. "Oregon has yet to enroll one single person, and it's been reduced to pawing through paper applications to figure out eligibility...The paper application is 20 pages long and asks for everything from names and the number of people in your household, to pension contributions and alimony payments...That means Cover Oregon staff comb through documents that show at what income level someone becomes eligible for individual insurance with a tax break or for Medicaid." Kristian Foden-Vencil in Kaiser Health News and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

@morningmoneyben: Obamacare words of the day: RESCHEDULED TBD

For uninsured, clearing a way to enrollment. "The woman, a thin 61-year-old who refused to give her name, citing privacy concerns, had come to the public library here to sign up for health insurance through Kentucky’s new online exchange. She had a painful lump on the back of her hand and other health problems that worried her deeply, she said, but had been unable to afford insurance as a home health care worker who earns $9 an hour. Within a minute, the system checked her information and flashed its conclusion on Ms. Cauley’s laptop: eligible for Medicaid. The woman began to weep with relief. Without insurance, she said as she left, “it’s cheaper to die.”" Abby Goodnough in The New York Times.

Census numbers count 29.5 hours a week as 30, potentially skewing numbers to measure Obamacare's impact. "The White House sees no sign that ObamaCare is affecting Americans' work hours. But its data have a problem: Government economists count workers limited to 29.5 hours as 30-hour-per-week workers. That's no small rounding error in this case...Anecdotes abound about employers cutting workers' hours to 29.5 or even 29.75 — just below the 30-hour workweek at which ObamaCare penalties kick in for employers who don't offer health care coverage." Jed Graham in Investors' Business Daily.

Obama's healthcare message changes again. "“Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed,” he said. The extra clause represents a slight change — and a slightly tougher sell — from the “if you like your plan, you can keep it” refrain of the 2012 campaign and most of 2013. But Obama said it is necessary because people on individual market often “don’t know how vulnerable they are.”" Reid J. Epstein in Politico.

@philipaklein: How long would a marriage last if a husband "misspoke" as much as Obama has on Obamacare?

Obama's last campaign. ""It's not new that we have a bunch of folks spreading fear, misinformation and cynicism about this law. We've been facing that for four years. We're used to that," Obama said. "I've run my last political campaign, but I've got one more campaign in me: The campaign to make sure that this law works for every single American."" David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

Obama administration: No, we won't shut down Healthcare.gov. "The Obama administration said Sunday it had rejected a call from a senior Democratic senator to shut down HealthCare.gov until it is fully fixed, saying that wouldn't help the government team racing to have the website up to scratch by the end of the month...Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), speaking on CBS, said she urged the administration to disable the site for now." Louise Radnofsky and Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.

@jimgeraghty: Administration to media: Look, the Obamacare rollout isn't news anymore. Move on. Let's go. Hey, look, squirrel!

...And no, we won't delay the whole law. "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus says Congress would need to consider delaying Obamacare’s penalties if the website is not repaired, but he said such conversations are “premature” at this point. “If it looks like Humpty Dumpty isn’t getting good, back together, maybe we should start thinking about delaying the penalties,” Baucus (D-Mont.) told News Talk 730 radio in Billings, Mont." Jennifer Haberkorn in Politico.

KLEIN: The memo that could have saved Obamacare. "Cutler's argument was that the White House was putting policy experts and political hands in charge of a project that was more akin to launching a start-up than passing a law. It was, he argued, the wrong leadership -- and they were sitting atop a weakened bureaucracy...[T]he memo was prophetic. It was the CMS IT department that oversaw the contractors developing the digital infrastructure of Obamacare. As we now know, they botched it completely." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

COHN: A mixed blessing from Obamacare. "Fact one: Thanks to Obamacare’ subsidies, several million people now have the opportunity to get private insurance at essentially no cost. Fact two: Those ultra-cheap policies are pretty threadbare. They might keep people out of bankruptcy, but they still would leave many responsible for thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses a year...[S]ome advocates and experts believe it’s important to insulate people even from more modest medical costs...Other advocates and experts believe that insurance should exist primarily for protecting people from catastrophic expenses—and that leaving people directly responsible for other costs will encourage them to be smarter consumers of medical care." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

KLEIN: The trouble with Obamacare’s most popular promise. "There are no easy solutions to the health-care trilemma. Someone always loses. The political difficulty of this period, however, is being magnified for the Obama administration because Obamacare's Web site remains such a mess. The White House expected that these cancellations would come at a time when millions of Americans were signing up for low-cost health insurance that they couldn't afford or weren't being allowed to buy before. For every loser, there would be many winners. But the losers are learning they lost at a time when the winners still don't know that they won." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

YORK: Obamacare will reward some and punish others. Obama hasn't acknowledged that. "[N]ext year, as Obamacare truly becomes a fact of American life, the president may have an even bigger problem: reconciling his pledge to make the health care system "better for everybody" on the one hand, with the redistributive nature of Obamacare on the other...Individuals and families at or near the poverty line will receive substantial subsidies under Obamacare. But those whose income is around the median for their family size will receive far less, perhaps not enough to make up for higher costs of new coverage. And those whose income is a bit above the median could receive no subsidy at all." Byron York in The Washington Examiner.

FRUM: The Obamacare death spiral. "The trouble is the particular way in which Obamacare raises costs to the healthy likely will mean that the sick don't get covered at all...What's that person going to do? One possible answer: he's going to drop out of the insurance market altogether. True, he'll face a theoretical penalty of up to $300. But evading that penalty is easy: the IRS has no power to force payment; it can only withhold that penalty from any income tax refund our scofflaw may be due. By underpaying tax during the year, this young man can drop out of the insurance market altogether." David Frum in The Daily Beast.

PHILLIP KLEIN: 'If you like your plan, you shouldn't.' "By definition, people who like their insurance coverage are people who have insurance and like it. The problem with telling this group of people that only crappy health care plans are being cancelled is that the people who are most angered by the wave of cancellations are people who liked their health care plans the most. Thus, they presumably didn't think they were lousy policies. All Obama and his allies are doing by making this argument is insulting individuals who took time and effort to research their health insurance plans." Philip A. Klein in The Washington Examiner.

BEUTLER: GOP’s humiliating new predicament: Why it may have to fund the law it hates! "It’s unlikely that Republican leaders will allow rank-and-file conservatives to resuscitate the defund-or-shutdown strategy, per se. But the temptation will be enormous. The GOP’s dilemma will present Democrats an advantage above and beyond simply hoping that Republicans self-destruct again. They can use GOP leaders’ aversion to shutting down the government again to ease the strain Republican intransigence has put on the part of the budget that facilitates Obamacare at the margin." Brian Beutler in Salon.

CARNEY: How Obamacare protects insurers from competition. "Insurers, who don't like the price controls and many of the regulations of Obamacare, at least get protection from competition. That's what Scott Gottlieb at AEI (where I am a visiting fellow) argued at an event today. AEI's Natalie Scholl put it this way in a memo on the event: By capping the medical loss ratio, you guarantee that only the incumbent players are in the marketplace. New insurers can’t launch without losing a lot of money in the initial years." Timothy P. Carney in The Washington Examiner.

Music recommendations interlude: Mark Knopfler, "Postcards from Paraguay."

Top opinion

PONNURU: Christie is showing conservatives how to win. "Socially conservative positions on hot-button issues don’t seem to be a deal-breaker even for the much more liberal voters of New Jersey...He does not, however, seem obsessed by social issues: Democrats haven’t gotten much mileage out of ads saying that his priorities are different from those of voters, as they have against Cuccinelli. Christie has also avoided taking unpopular socially conservative stands on issues that aren’t live debates, and taken the occasional opportunity to soften his profile." Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.

ROGOFF: Why wealth taxes aren't enough. "Should advanced countries implement wealth taxes as a means of stabilizing and reducing public debt over the medium term? The normally conservative International Monetary Fund has given the idea surprisingly emphatic support. The IMF calculates that a one-time 10% wealth levy, if introduced quickly and unexpectedly, could return many European countries to pre-crisis public debt/GDP ratios...The distortionary effects of a wealth levy would also be exacerbated by concerns that the “temporary” levy would not be a one-off tax. After all, most temporary taxes come for lunch and stay for dinner. Fears of future wealth taxes could discourage entrepreneurship and lower the saving rate." Kenneth Rogoff in Project Syndicate.

PETHOKOUKIS: Pro-family tax reform. "Among the problems a smart tax-reform plan must consider: a) stagnant GDP and stagnant jobs, b) family incomes 10 percent lower today than before the Great Recession, c) high-end tax rates higher than during the Clinton years, and d) the approaching reversal of falling budget deficits thanks to higher social-insurance spending. Pro tip for all potential 2016 candidates looking for a tax cut that helps parents, boosts growth, and doesn’t blow up the budget: Give a call to Senator Mike Lee." James Pethokoukis in National Review Online.

CRUZ: The Supreme Court can use a soap-opera case to stop federal overreach. "When the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument Tuesday in Bond v. United States, the fundamental issues will be U.S. sovereignty and the Constitution’s structural limits on federal power. The questions raised by this case go to the heart of our constitutional system: Does the federal government, through the treaty power, have authority to trump our system of federalism and separation of powers? Does the president’s power to make treaties and Congress’s power to implement treaties have unlimited reach? The answer to both should be an emphatic no." Ted Cruz in The Washington Post.

SHULTZ AND SMITH: Making the most of our energy boom. "Fully maximizing the opportunities presented by the American energy revolution will require a concerted national effort that prioritizes investment in the development of advanced energy technologies—such as low-cost advanced batteries for electric vehicles and more-efficient home refueling units for natural gas vehicles—along with continued growth in domestic energy production." George P. Shultz and Frederick W. Smith in The Wall Street Journal.

History interlude: A stabilized version of the famous Zapruder film.

2) The surveillance will continue until our morals improve

We need indiscriminate data collection, NSA says. "The Obama administration has told allies and lawmakers it is considering reining in a variety of National Security Agency practices overseas, including holding White House reviews of the world leaders the agency is monitoring, forging a new accord with Germany for a closer intelligence relationship and minimizing collection on some foreigners. But for now, President Obama and his top advisers have concluded that there is no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of “metadata,” including records of all telephone calls made inside the United States. Instead, the administration has hinted it may hold that information for only three years instead of five while it seeks new technologies that would permit it to search the records of telephone and Internet companies, rather than collect the data in bulk in government computers. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., has told industry officials that developing the new technology would take at least three years." David E. Sanger in The New York Times.

How we know the NSA had access to internal Google and Yahoo cloud data. "We do not know exactly how the NSA and GCHQ intercept the data, other than it happens on British territory. But we do know they are intercepting it from inside the Yahoo and Google private clouds, because some of what NSA and GCHQ collect is found nowhere else. The two companies do not entrust their data center communications to the “public internet,” which is comparable to an international highway system that anyone can use. Instead, they link their data centers with thousands of miles of privately owned or privately leased fiber optic cable – in effect, a system of private highways. When Google and Yahoo have to share a stretch of road with the public internet, they take other precautions to keep their traffic secure." Barton Gellman, Ashkan Soltani, and Andrea Peterson in The Washington Post.

Intelligence lawyers don't like the NSA reform bill. "Some of the Obama administration's top intelligence lawyers Monday reacted coolly to bipartisan legislation aimed at restricting U.S. surveillance programs, saying the proposal went a step too far. At a hearing before a board created to protect civil liberties, the lawyers said the legislation likely would prevent the government from collecting crucial telephone information and limit its ability to investigate individuals. The hearing included testimony from lawyers at the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence." Jared A. Favole in The Wall Street Journal.

Data protection ruled out of EU-US trade talks. "Brussels has ruled out a German push to include data protection rules in a proposed EU-US free trade pact, arguing that it could derail the talks and ultimately weaken Europeans’ rights to privacy. Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission and the EU’s top justice official, said that data protection was outside of the scope of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiation." James Fontanella-Khan in The Financial Times.

56 percent of Americans oppose spying on allied leaders. "A clear majority of Americans say it's "unacceptable" for the United States to monitor the phones of leaders of countries that are allied with the United States, according to a new poll. The Pew Research Center poll shows 56 percent say it's unacceptable, while 36 percent say it's acceptable. Opposition is at least 53 percent among Republicans, Democrats and independents -- suggesting universal condemnation of the practice." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Yes, there actually is a huge difference between government and corporate surveillance. "Putting aside the government's power to capture or kill, your inability to refuse the government is what distinguishes the NSA from even the nosiest companies on Earth...By contrast, it's nearly impossible to simply pick up your belongings and quit the United States." Brian Fung in The Washington Post.

And you thought you had seen it all interlude: A writer automaton.

3) Two women line up for big monetary policy jobs

Will Republicans try to block Janet Yellen? "An effort by some Republicans to hold back the confirmation of Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve is flagging, and one of its chief architects on Sunday said he was relying on GOP unity to make his strategy work. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) has said he would try to block final votes on major White House nominees, including Ms. Yellen, until he is provided access to survivors of the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya." Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.

Lael Brainard is set to step down from Treasury for Fed appointment. "Lael Brainard, the U.S. Treasury Department’s top international official, is stepping down on Nov. 8, according to a Treasury aide who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters. Brainard is likely to be nominated to the Federal Reserve Board along with the renomination of Fed Governor Jerome Powell, according to a person familiar with the decision who requested anonymity. President Barack Obama has three governor vacancies to fill on the Fed board." Ian Katz in Bloomberg.

Explainer: Meet Preet Bharara, who just won the biggest insider trading case everLydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

We want to hear from you: What is America’s most pressing economic problem? And how would you solve itThe Washington Post.

US public investment falls to lowest level since war. "Public investment in the US has hit its lowest level since demobilisation after the second world war because of Republican success in stymieing President Barack Obama’s push for more spending on infrastructure, science and education. Gross capital investment by the public sector has dropped to just 3.6 per cent of US output compared with a postwar average of 5 per cent, according to figures compiled by the Financial Times, as austerity bites in the world’s largest economy. The figures underline how across-the-board budget cuts are threatening future growth, as the axe falls heavily on federal investments that boost output, rather than transfers such as pensions and healthcare for the elderly." Robin Harding, Richard McGregor and Gabriel Muller in The Financial Times.

The risk of 'bail-ins' will increase banks' cost of credit. "EU finance ministers have already raised concern among senior bondholders, agreeing in June rules to force losses on creditors in failed banks, a move Moody’s described as “clearly credit negative” for unsecured investors. So far the impact on banks’ cost of funding has been muted...But, as the prospects of bail-in grow nearer that is going to change, warn analysts. As it becomes clearer exactly how bondholders will be required to share the burden in future bank rescues – or even as a result of the forthcoming bank stress tests – the effect on funding costs could be significant." Christopher Thompson and Michael Steen in The Financial Times.

Women outearn men in part-time jobs. "Among workers who usually work part time (that is, under 35 hours), the median usual weekly earnings of women were 110 percent of that for men in 2012. For full-timers (35 hours and up), the median female worker made about 81 percent of what the median male worker made." Catherine Rampell in The New York Times.

High-speed cheating interlude: This robot can beat you every single time in rock-paper-scissors.

4) The House's dead ENDA

Senate close to passing bill to ban discrimination against gay workers. "The Senate moved closer to passing a historic piece of legislation Monday that would ban discrimination against gay workers, signaling a dramatic shift in political attitudes on the issue. Seven Republicans joined 54 members of the Democratic caucus in voting to formally begin considering the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The 61 to 30 margin virtually guarantees its passage this week." Paul Kane in The Washington Post.

How a trio of Republicans were swayed. "Ayotte, Portman and Toomey – the focus of an intense lobbying effort by gay rights groups in recent days -- headed to the Republican Cloak Room just off the Senate floor...Aides familiar with the conversation said that Reid, Schumer and Merkley agreed to hold votes on two amendments authored by the three senators. The first by Ayotte and Portman would prevent state and local governments from taking legal action against religious groups that take advantage of the bill's religious exemption clause. The second amendment by Toomey would broaden the types of groups that are covered under the religious exemption clause." Paul Kane and Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Heller signs on. "Heller said in a statement Monday that backing the proposal "is the right thing to do" and that his decision came after consultations with a wide range of Nevadans. "This legislation raises the federal standards to match what we have come to expect in Nevada," Heller said. Nevada is one of roughly 20 states that have bans on workplace discrimination based on either sexual orientation or gender identity." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Extraterrestrial interlude: 20 billion Earthlike planets. Will at least one of them will have intelligent life?

5) Fiscal minideal watch continues

Jason Furman stakes out a budget position. "The president's top economic adviser said the White House wouldn't try to dictate the shape of a possible deal to avert a set of looming across-the-board spending cuts, but he advised against taking steps that cut the deficit too quickly and could imperil the recovery. Jason Furman, chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, said the Obama administration would like to see the cuts known as the "sequester" replaced by eliminating tax loopholes along with other spending reductions." Peter Nicholas and Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Here’s why Central Appalachia’s coal industry is dyingBrad Plumer.

Washington could be the first state to require labels on GMOs. Here are the stakesBrad Plumer.

Twitter could end up being really profitable. But it’s a super risky stockNeil Irwin.

Meet Preet Bharara, who just won the biggest insider trading case ever. Lydia DePillis.

The memo that could have saved ObamacareEzra Klein.

Five things we know about Obamacare’s shoppersSarah Kliff.

The trouble with Obamacare’s most popular promiseEzra Klein.

What is America’s most pressing economic problem? And how would you solve it? Wonkblog.

Et Cetera

Justices decline to hear an appeal from a decision that struck down an Oklahoma abortion lawAdam Liptak in The New York Times.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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Brad Plumer · November 4, 2013