Wonkbook: The policies in tonight’s State of the Union

January 28

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Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 20. That's how many children and teens are hospitalized on an average day as a result of gun injuries. It's the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 19, after motor-vehicle accidents.

Wonkbook's Chart of the Day: What voters actually care about, in one chart

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) policy ideas for President Obama; (2) when the monetary facts change; (3) NSA revelations make politicians into Angry Birds; (4) the Republican "replace"; and (5) the toll of gun violence.

1. Top story: The policies in tonight's State of the Union

Obama tries new tack for long-term jobless. "President Barack Obama is trying to accomplish through voluntary pledges what many lawmakers have tried to do for years with little success: banning companies from refusing to hire people just because they have been out of work for a while...Mr. Obama will try a different approach Tuesday in his State of the Union address, when he is expected to announce the White House has secured pledges from a number of major U.S. employers to adopt hiring policies that discourage discrimination against the long-term unemployed. They include Procter & Gamble Co., U.S. Bancorp and Xerox Corp." Ben Leubsdorf in The Wall Street Journal.

@OKnox: I know what you're asking, & no, I don't have a precise number on the people who will marry, live, at the State of the Union.

Democrats hope Obama’s State of Union speech will be start of populist agenda. "Party officials say they hope Obama’s speech will set the stage for Senate and House candidates to confront Republicans on issues such as the minimum wage, unemployment benefits and access to college education. Their minimum goal is to preserve Democratic control of the Senate, because not doing so could cripple what remains of the president’s legislative agenda...In recent weeks, some Democratic lawmakers and strategists have urged the White House to focus less on academic-sounding discussions of income inequality and to simplify Obama’s message to reflect the everyday concerns of Americans. White House officials say they have long planned to emphasize such issues." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Explainer: 17 charts on inequalityNoah Chestnut in The New Republic.

Expect to hear this phrasing a lot: 2014 is to be a "year of action." "Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are cautiously optimistic that 2014 will be a productive year in the nation's capital. The Hill interviewed both members on what they expect from President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night. Obama has repeatedly said 2014 must be a "year of action."" Bob Cusack in The Hill.

@morningmoneyben: Already getting emails from Republicans, who apparently reside in the future, slamming Obama's State of the Union.

Obama to embark on four-city tour after State of the Union. "After delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama will devote the next two days visiting Glenarden, Md., Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Nashville to reinforce his speech's central economic message." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Explainer: What voters actually care about, in one chartBrad Plumer in The Washington Post.

The search for a non-awkward Obamacare shoutout. "Obama will have to find an uplifting message about the law that doesn’t imply that everything’s suddenly back on track. The most he can say, based on the latest developments, is that “it’s moving back toward the track,” said Len Nichols, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University...There’s actually a fairly easy formula, according to the strategists and health care analysts, and it doesn’t require a radical departure from what Obama has already said about the law. He needs to say that millions of people have already signed up for coverage — though he shouldn’t overstate how many. He should say that millions more who already have health coverage have gotten new benefits, like preventive care with no copayments." David Nather in Politico.

Obama's puzzle: The economy is improving, but his poll numbers aren't. "[T]aking credit is complicated, given the clear evidence in national polls that most Americans are not in a mood to give him any. Mr. Obama’s ratings for his handling of the economy, never high since his first months in office, slipped throughout 2013 in national polls. As he began this year, nearly six in 10 Americans disapproved, nearly matching his lowest marks in 2011, a year of repeated and damaging fiscal fights." Jackie Calmes in The New York Times.

KONCZAL: Obama's two magic words are "full employment." "The concept of full employment, once so essential to the liberal project, remains missing from the agenda. Indeed you can see the collapse of the liberal economic project by walking through the use of the term in State of the Union speeches. If President Barack Obama wants to save his failure to end high unemployment in his first, while also orienting the Democratic party to the future, he should use the State of the Union to resurrect these two words." Mike Konczal in The New Republic.

@resnikoff: Odds that tomorrow's State of the Union will address hunger in the United States: Exceedingly low.

POLLACK, BAKER, JOHNSTON, SUNKARA, ET AL.: The real state of the union. "[Baker:] Americans have already heard the Washington storybook tale of inequality many times. According to this popular yarn, government is an innocent bystander. However the real story is that the government has instituted a number of policies over the last three decades that actively promote inequality. At the top of this list is trade. We have explicitly pursued trade policies designed to put our manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world while largely leaving in place protections for highly paid workers such as doctors and lawyers." Harold Pollack, Dean Baker, David Cay Johnston, Bhaskar Sunkara, and more in Al Jazeera America.

SEIB: In praise of small ball. "Small ball is a type of play in which a team doesn't wait for the big inning or a mammoth three-run homer, but rather scratches out a run here and there, one step at a time, with a single, a bunt, a stolen base, a sacrifice fly...Mr. Obama will use his executive powers to make some policy moves on his own, such as persuading companies to pledge not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed. For their part, House Republicans plan this year to push out some legislative ideas to extend America's energy boom by, among other things, clearing away regulatory hurdles for drilling and pipeline construction." Gerald F. Seib in The Wall Street Journal.

@pourmecoffee: The State of the Union address was not always delivered in person. Washington wrote a letter and Jefferson did a WordPress post.

FOURNIER: A pen, a phone, and a flailing president. "For months, the White House and its allies mocked critics of Barack Obama's leadership, arguing that no president has "Green Lantern" superhero powers. Now these same people are predicting that Obama can salvage his agenda by waving a magical "pen and phone." The contradiction illustrates how far partisans will go to defend a flailing presidency, grasping at slogans and insults as a growing majority of Americans tune out. We witnessed a similar drama under President Bush, who set a low bar for public approval that Obama is close to matching. More than that, Obama's plan to exert executive branch authority, starting with his State of the Union address, further illustrates his unfamiliarity with the levers of political power, the limits of his leadership style, and the vast amount of time and potential squandered by the president so far." Ron Fournier in NationalJournal.

Music recommendations interlude: 70 songs about American presidents.

Top opinion

BURR, COBURN AND HATCH: Our plan to replace Obamacare. "[W]e adopt policies that will make the market more transparent, competitive, and responsive to consumer demands. We expand health care savings tools like health savings accounts, which allow consumers to keep more of their dollars for their health care needs. We also put the brakes on another driver of health care costs -- the practice of defensive medicine -- by suggesting medical liability reforms." Richard Burr, Tom Coburn and Orrin Hatch in Fox News.

KLEIN: The first Republican health care plan in an Obamacare world. "On the one hand, they wanted to provide some sort of assistance to many of those who are benefiting now that Obamacare is in place. But, on the other hand, considering the backlash against the sweeping nature of Obamacare in general and Obama's specific broken promise that Americans could keep their health plans if they liked them, the proposal isn't as bold and disruptive (in a free market direction) as it may have been in a pre-Obamacare world." Philip Klein in The Washington Examiner.

LEVIN: The intellectual frame for the Republican alternative. "It would repeal Obamacare and instead address the key particular deficiencies of our health-care system in a way that enables more Americans to be genuine consumers and that employs actual competition among insurers and providers (giving them real freedom to shape products and business models) to restrain costs while expanding coverage. " Yuval Levin in National Review Online. 

Interview: Cities don’t need Congress to move forward: A conversation with the mayor of BaltimoreLydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

COHN: Here we go again. "Republicans and their allies are still insisting that a key Obamacare provision amounts to a taxpayer-funded “bailout” of the insurance industry. And now they may demand its repeal in exchange for giving the U.S. Treasury authority to borrow money and pay the government’s bills...The higher risk corridor payments and lower subsidies are products of the same root cause. Will any of this matter when Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats repeal the risk corridors? Or when 30-second ads about "insurer bailouts" flood the airwaves this fall? Maybe not. But the risk corridors make perfect sense as policy—and conservatives should know this as well as anybody." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

BERNSTEIN: What economics has to say about rising profits and falling wages. "Stagnant wage growth is an extremely deep problem. It is a primary root of the inequality problem and it strikes at the heart of what has historically defined the American social contract: study, work hard, play by the rules and you’ll have the opportunity to get ahead. If we’re ever going to do anything about it, we must see beyond the marginal product theory, which leads policy makers to exclusively promote more education (again, that’s a crucial part of the solution). Fortunately, there’s much better economic theorizing about wage formation that introduces the crucial concept of bargaining power." Jared Bernstein in The New York Times.

SACHS: How to decarbonize. "There are three parts to this transition. The first is improved energy efficiency, meaning that we should use much less energy to achieve the same level of well-being...Second, we need to shift to solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, and other forms of energy that are not based on fossil fuels...Finally, to the extent that we continue to rely on fossil fuels, we must capture the resulting CO2 emissions at power plants before they escape into the atmosphere." Jeffrey D. Sachs in Project Syndicate.

This is amazing interlude: There is a special branch of the Italian police dedicated to olive oil.

2. "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Meet the Fed official who changed his mind and adopted monetary stimulus. "Narayana R. Kocherlakota, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, was once a leading opponent of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to stimulate the economy. Today, he has emerged as the only senior official arguing publicly that the Fed should do even more...It also represents a sharp break from the Minneapolis Fed’s longstanding association with economists who contend that monetary policy lacks the power to reduce unemployment." Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.

Interviews: Richard Fisher, a monetary hawk; Narayana Kocherlakota, a monetary doveBinyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.

What is "assortative matching," and why you should care. "You can tax the rich, you can educate the poor, but there is another way to reduce the nation’s growing income inequality: Marry your scullery maid...[A] new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research says that Americans increasingly engage in what economists call “positive assortative mating” — meaning they marry someone who is about the same as they are. Princes do not tend to go after Cinderellas. The paper’s authors, led by Jeremy Greenwood at the University of Pennsylvania, mined census data from 1960 to 2005 and found that people’s tendency to marry someone of the same education level as their own increased steeply. After taking into account the increases in the education levels for men and women that have occurred between 1960 and 2005, the odds of a college-educated male marrying a college-educated female rose by 12 percentage points." Shaila Dewan in The New York Times.

Job aid zones face a new test in coal country. "Drawing industry to this corner of Kentucky is once again a federal priority. This month, President Obama named the region a “promise zone,” which means it will garner renewed attention from Washington, which vowed to provide it top priority for grants and, if Congress goes along, new tax dollars as well...[E]xperts are broadly skeptical that any federal initiative would be enough to combat either the immediate economic upheaval caused by the loss of coal jobs or the long-term economic torpor that is a product of remoteness, poor infrastructure and an undereducated work force." Annie Lowrey in The New York Times.

Restaurants resist plans to raise tip wages. "Nearly 50 years ago, federal law created a lower minimum wage for workers who receive tips. Congress decreed that it could not be less than 50 percent of the federal minimum wage. But when the minimum wage inched up — raised to $5.25 in 1996 under President Clinton — Congress agreed, in a concession to the restaurant industry, to let the 50 percent rule on tip wages lapse...Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, argues that it is unfair that restaurant owners pay so little toward wages...Taking inflation into account, the $2.13 enacted back then is worth $1.24 today." Steven Greenhouse in The New York Times.

The job-interview process is getting longer and longer. "I asked Glassdoor, a site that collects user-submitted information on hiring at different companies, to check for any discernible trends in the duration of the job application gantlet. The numbers are, again, user-submitted and not from a randomized, scientific survey, so take them with a grain of salt. But Glassdoor generally found that within the universe of their users, the average interview process has risen from 13 days in 2009 in 23 days in 2013." Catherine Rampell in The New York Times.

New home sales fall in December. "Sales of newly built homes fell 7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 414,000 in December from 445,000 in November, the Commerce Department said Monday. November's figure was revised down by 19,000. December sales came in below the 455,000 annual pace forecast by economists and were at their lowest level since the summer, when rising mortgage rates undermined demand." Jonathan House in The Wall Street Journal.

Will the oil boom shrink the U.S. trade deficit? Maybe not. "In recent years, the United States has been producing more of its own oil, thanks to new drilling in states like North Dakota and Texas. More domestic oil has meant fewer imports. Fewer imports has meant a nice little jolt for the U.S. economy — or at least it did in 2013. But we shouldn't expect that dynamic to last, says Robert Lawrence, an economist at Harvard's Kennedy School. In a short new paper, he argues that the oil boom likely won't reduce the U.S. trade deficit all that much over the long run." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Memes interlude: Now even your weather can be doge-themed.

3. NSA revelations make politicians into Angry Birds

U.S. to allow companies to disclose more details on government requests for data. "The Justice Department has agreed to relax its long-standing gag order on certain types of data requests made to companies, allowing them for the first time to publicize — in broad terms — how much customer information they must turn over to the government, U.S. officials announced Monday. The move amounts to a modest victory for Google, Microsoft and other technology companies." Craig Timberg and Adam Goldman in The Washington Post.

Why you should delete your "Angry Birds" app right now. "The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of "leaky" smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users' private information across the internet, according to top secret documents. The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users' most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger." James Ball in The Guardian.

Primary source: The revelatory documents.

Introducing the anti-NSA candidate. "Take Shenna Bellows in Maine. The Democratic candidate didn’t think much about running for Senate against the popular GOP Sen. Susan Collins — until the aftermath of the Snowden revelations prompted tougher restrictions on warrantless surveillance on the state level that she now wants to replicate in Washington. Bellows wants an end to the NSA’s bulk data collection program, along with the PATRIOT Act. She argues the country needs stronger whistleblower protections. She even believes Snowden deserves clemency." Manu Raju in Politico.

Wonkbook once worked in a restaurant interlude: Why you shouldn't take lemon wedges on your water.

4. The Republican "replace" arrives

Republicans have an Obamacare replacement. Economists will love it, real people won’t. "Republican Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released Thursday what is arguably the most complete Obamacare replacement plan offered by their party to date. It is a piece of legislation that, like the Affordable Care Act, aims to increase access to health care and drive down costs...It would end pre-existing conditions limitations for those who remain continuously insured...If Americans let their health coverage lapse -- decide, for example, that they're pretty healthy and want to make a go of being uninsured -- they could be charged for their pre-existing conditions when they come back into the individual market to buy coverage...Republican replacement plan would let Americans use tax credits to purchase insurance coverage if they earned less than 300 percent of the poverty line." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Here’s the deal with the Obamacare ‘bailout’Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

More details on the Coburn-Burr-Hatch plan. "[T]he plan would reform Medicaid using an approach first proposed by Bill Clinton, and endorsed by former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle: per-capita caps. Under the per-capita cap approach, the federal government would give states a fixed amount of money per person enrolled in Medicaid. It would be up to the states to use that money in the most cost-efficient way possible." Avik Roy in Forbes.

Negative impressions of Obamacare's launch are fading, poll finds. "Sixty-six percent of people said the healthcare markets still aren’t going well, according to an Associated Press-GFK poll released Monday. That’s 10 percentage points down, however, from the 76 percent who said the same in December. More people, 40 percent, now report they’ve had success signing up for insurance, compared to only 24 percent who said they had success last month." Rebecca Shabad in The Hill.

Stereotypes interlude: The biggest one of every U.S. state.

5. The toll of gun violence

20 young people a day hospitalized for gun injuries. "Almost one child or teen an hour is injured by a firearm seriously enough to require hospitalization, a new analysis finds. Six percent of the 7,391 hospitalizations analyzed in 2009 resulted in a death, says the study in February's Pediatrics, released Monday...Despite declining rates over the past decade, firearm injuries remain the second leading cause of death, behind motor vehicle crashes, for teens ages 15 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." Michelle Healy in USA Today.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Republicans have an Obamacare replacement. Economists will love it, real people won’t. Sarah Kliff.

What voters actually care about, in one chartBrad Plumer.

Cities don’t need Congress to move forward: A conversation with the mayor of BaltimoreLydia DePillis.

Here’s the deal with the Obamacare ‘bailout.’ Lydia DePillis.

Will the oil boom shrink the U.S. trade deficit? Maybe notBrad Plumer.

Et Cetera

Republicans are having their internal debate over immigration reform right nowJonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker in The New York Times.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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