Wonkbook: What you need to know about the policy fallout from the Fort Hood shooting

April 4

Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here.


(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 5.4 million. That's a new estimate of the number of Obamacare enrollees who were previously uninsured.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: These charts show how the seasonal adjustment process affects monthly jobs reports.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) The Fort Hood shooting's policy fallout; (2) what is mental health's role in shootings?; (3) new figures on whom Obamacare is helping; (4) jobs report preview; and (5) what comes next for the Senate's CIA report.

1. Top story: The policy fallout of the Fort Hood shooting

Echoes of 2009 rampage in soldier's attack; security questions raised. "On Wednesday, when a troubled Iraq war veteran -- Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez, 34 -- killed three people and wounded 16 others at Fort Hood before taking his own life, he did so in Army uniform after sneaking a high-powered handgun onto the base, just as the 2009 gunman had done. Specialist Lopez bought his gun at the same shop near the base where the 2009 gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, bought his weapon. Each shooting started in a medical support area for troops, and each ended when the gunman confronted a female police officer rushing to the scene. There was also a fundamental difference: Officials say there is no indication that Specialist Lopez was inspired by Islamic extremism as Major Hasan was. But the replay of a mass shooting at Fort Hood, particularly coming on the heels of the shooting spree in September that left 12 people dead at the Washington Navy Yard, raised questions about what lessons Army officials had learned from the 2009 rampage; how effectively military installations can keep out unauthorized guns; and how prepared they are to deal with threats from within, including from soldiers or contractors intent on doing harm to others on the base." Manny Fernandez, Serge F. Kovaleski and Eric Schmitt in The New York Times.

Armed Services Committee member Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) tells PostTV why military posts are vulnerible and notes the improvements made at Fort Hood since 2009. (Jackie Kucinich and Jeff Simon/Associated Press)

 

Pentagon grapples to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred. "Wednesday’s mass shooting by an Army specialist in Fort Hood, Tex., put the Pentagon on a dreaded, if increasingly familiar, footing as officials grappled to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred. It unfolded just two weeks after the Defense Department unveiled the findings of three investigations into last year’s fatal shooting at a Navy Yard building in Washington, D.C., by a contractor and four years after a similarly extensive inquiry into a massacre at Fort Hood by an Army psychiatrist led to vows of sweeping reforms." Ernesto Londoño in The Washington Post.

Pentagon will look for 'lessons learned' from latest shooting, Hagel says. Ernesto Londoño in The Washington Post.

Another tragedy for a town all too familiar with gun violence. "Flags are fluttering at half-staff across Killeen, Texas, after yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood. This is a city that's all too familiar with spasms of extreme gun violence: a shooting rampage at Luby's Cafeteria in 1991 that left 23 dead. The 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, when former Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan killed 13 people. And now, this mass shooting." Melissa Block in NPR.

Explainers:

Before Fort Hood: A history of shootings at U.S. military facilities. The Washington Post.

Graphic: Latest attack has similarities to 2009 Fort Hood Massacre. The Washington Post.

Mental health issues in focus. "Preventing violence like the latest shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, is one of the Pentagon’s toughest challenges because it requires achieving two seemingly contradictory goals. On the one hand, defense officials want to 'de-stigmatize' mental health issues inside the military services, to make it clear to troops that it’s OK for them to come forward after deployments, or in times of stress, to seek help. On the other hand, commanders want everyone to be on the lookout for erratic or unusual behavior and report it early, in an attempt to stop shootings like the ones at Fort Hood or last year at the Washington Navy Yard. If people had spoken up beforehand, investigators have said, the chains of events might have been interrupted. In short, the Defense Department wants troops to be open about problems that it also fears could lead to violence. Pentagon leaders acknowledge the dichotomy -- but they also say preserving the status quo isn’t an option." Philip Ewing in Politico.

Harry Reid calls for expanded background checks. "When asked whether he would like to bring up a bill to expand the background check program in response to the shooting, Reid said, 'I would like to be able to bring it back up, I need some more votes.' Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pistol used by Lopez in Wednesday’s shootings was purchased legally last month at the same store, Guns Galore, where Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan bought the weapon he used in a 2009 rampage at the base." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Should soldiers be armed at military posts? "With the third mass shooting at a military facility in five years, some members of Congress want to re-examine the policies that leave soldiers unarmed on base....But it's not necessarily an idea that is going to catch on quickly in Congress. A bill along these lines was introduced last fall, after the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard that left a dozen people dead. But it has seen no action....It wasn't always the case that soldiers had to disarm while on post. Prior to the first Bush administration, base commanders determined what the rules were at their facilities. But regulations formalized in 1993 block personnel who are not on security duty from carrying firearms.Further restrictions have followed. In the wake of the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, which left 13 people dead, the installation requires soldiers to register their weapons with commanders....Usually, it's the gun control advocates who are frustrated by their lack of success changing policies after a horrific incident. This time, it may be supporters of gun owners' rights who fail to achieve the changes they want." Alan Greenblatt in NPR.

More on the shooter: Described as introverted, musical. "Investigators said there were reports that Lopez had argued with another soldier before the shooting. Still, one day into the investigation, Lopez seems different from the gunmen involved in two other shootings on military posts. Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, had communicated with al-Qaeda leaders overseas. Aaron Alexis, the civilian contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year, was a loner with a history of bizarre outbursts. Lopez had no apparent connections to terrorism, officials said. And -- at least on the surface -- he was not a man apart....To friends, Lopez seemed deeply affected by his mother’s death, and he reportedly said the Army had granted him too little leave time. By this year, Lopez was under a doctor’s care, having been prescribed medication....Lopez also was being examined for post-traumatic stress disorder. In March, he had the evaluation that determined he was not contemplating violence. That same month, his family moved in with him near Fort Hood. On March 1, Lopez walked into a gun store near the base and bought the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol he used in the rampage." David A. Fahrenthold, Carol D. Leonnig and Matea Gold in The Washington Post.

Explainers:

The shooter's service record. Mark Berman in The Washington Post.

What we know about the gunman so far. Mark Berman in The Washington Post.

Other defense reads:

Budget cuts force Navy to stop buying Tomahawk missiles. Christopher Harress in International Business Times.

Lawmaker looks to defense authorization bill for immigration legalization measure. Emma Dumain in Roll Call.

WHITEFIELD: Gun-crazy country enabled shooter. "Thursday’s stories were filled with details about Lopez and his rampage: He was being treated for depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances; he had seen a psychiatrist recently and had been prescribed Ambien; he was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder; he served in Iraq but not in combat; he bought his weapon from the same gun store as fellow Ft. Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. So once again we find ourselves sifting through the wreckage of a life, trying to understand why someone decided to destroy others’ lives. But for what? Does anyone really believe that unraveling the mystery of why Lopez snapped will help us prevent the next crazy gunman from snapping?" Paul Whitefield in the Los Angeles Times.

CAPLAN-BRICKER: Are guns a public-health issue? Let's count the ways. "Is calling guns a public health issue a political statement? That’s become the underlying issue in the nomination of the White House’s pick for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy. In 2012, Murthy sent out a tweet: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they're scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue.” The NRA got Senators to hurl the words back at him during a confirmation hearing, and seems to have convinced not just Republicans but some Democrats to vote against him. Now nobody is talking about bringing his nomination to the floor. Let’s leave aside the issue of whether a Tweet should be the grounds for an opposition campaign, and of whether Murthy, best known for running an advocacy organization to support Obamacare’s launch, is the most qualified person for the job. If the question at hand is whether it’s partisan to believe that gun violence should be under the purview of the nation’s top doctor, it seems the answer is no." Nora Caplan-Bricker in The New Republic.

SMITH: Don't be so quick to blame PTSD. "The rush to erroneously blame PTSD for violent veterans has been noted. But available research and increased awareness hasn’t stopped the speculation....None of this is to say that there isn’t reason to be concerned for the mental health of veterans. Lopez was reportedly suffering from anxiety and depression and undergoing treatment for mental illness. As the RAND study shows, my community is certainly at an increased risk for mental illness. Every day, 22 Americans who served in uniform take their own lives. Veterans with PTSD are more prone to alcoholism. Drug abuse is also more common in our community. While errant reports portray veterans as volatile community risks, my comrades are far more likely to hurt ourselves than anyone else." Richard Allen Smith in Time Magazine.

ROBBERSON: The deadly mixture of mental illness and guns. "While the nation’s debate over gun laws will no doubt be renewed, sensible people on all sides of this issue can agree that better mechanisms must be in place to prevent mentally ill people from gaining access to guns. In the days to come, questions will be asked: How did Lopez get ahold of his semiautomatic pistol? Much as this might seem like a military-related issue, it’s really not. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Afghanistan or Iraq, Muslims or Christians, waterboarding or military injustices around the world. It’s not even really about soldiers versus civilians. It’s simply about the rules that govern firearms and who has access to them. If we continue to sell guns in a reckless way that allows them to fall into the hands of people who, we all can agree, shouldn’t have access to them, then we will be revisiting these tragedies again and again in the future." Tod Robberson in the Dallas Morning News.

HEROUX: Mental illness and guns aren't the enemy -- ignorance is. "The focus of many of the news and media stories surrounding this shooting has been to highlight that the shooter, identified as Ivan Lopez by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has been said to have had struggles with mental illness. An Iraq War veteran, it is reported that Lopez sought mental health treatment. It is also reported that Lopez saw no combat. It may never be known what role mental illness did or didn't play in this shooting, but it is important to remember that mental disorders are neither necessary, nor sufficient causes of violence....The issue with access to guns should not be if the person has a mental illness or not. The issue should be if the person is a danger to oneself and/or a danger to others." Paul Heroux in The Huffington Post.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Mass murder returns. "Whether the descent into extreme violence occurs on a military base or at a civilian workplace, school or shopping center is a subordinate concern to the reality of mentally ill individuals going on killing sprees. We don't have a complete picture of Lopez's mental state before the shooting. But we do know enough about the others killers -- in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and Virginia Tech -- to recognize that society deserves more protection from severe and out-of-control mental illness....We live in a time when attention is paid to and public money spent on all manner of personal grievance and injury. Severe mental illness is not one of them. It should be." Editorial Board.

Top opinion

BLOOMBERG VIEW: Yes, Republicans can help improve Obamacare. "Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal proposed an alternative to Obamacare this week....In the weeks ahead, more such Republican proposals are expected to emerge. Why, four years after the Affordable Care Act was passed, are Republicans now offering alternatives? It may be thanks to enrollment on the new state and federal insurance exchanges, which has rooted the law more firmly into the U.S. health-care system: Now it's suddenly harder for opponents to denigrate it without suggesting what would be better. Whatever the reason, more proposals from conservatives are to be welcomed. This is not because they could be used to upend the law -- it makes no sense to start over from scratch -- but because they may contain strategies to improve on the ACA. Jindal's plan, for example, includes two excellent ideas." The Editors.

IGNATIUS: The U.S. is still indispensable when it comes to free trade. "Name a foreign policy issue on which China and most of the rest of the world’s nations are struggling to keep up with a U.S. initiative. If you guessed 'free trade,' you’re correct. In a season that has mostly brought reversals for Obama administration efforts abroad, the free-trade agenda keeps on chugging. The massive weight of the U.S. economy creates incentives for cooperation with the United States rather than resentment....Free trade is one of those subjects that often make people’s eyes glaze over. But it’s an area where the United States remains an indisputable superpower -- and where its trade partners increasingly seem ready to work by common rules." David Ignatius in The Washington Post.

HILL: McCutcheon's silver lining: How it could undermine super PACs. "The bottom line is this: Three decades of campaign-finance reform have been overturned. If these were gun-control laws, it would be a bit like the Supreme Court saying, 'Everyone who can afford it can now can have their own nuclear arsenal. Good luck.' That said, there's a quirky silver lining here....Even as McCutcheon tips the playing field in favor of wealthy donors over ordinary citizens, it also in a perverse way levels the playing field for politicians, by allowing candidates and political parties to receive larger donations and thus giving them the chance to spend sums closer to what the super PACs do. Yes, it’s a corroded silver lining -- kind of like allowing one gang of thugs to better compete against another gang of thugs: Each is partly in check, but the net result is more thuggery." Steven Hill in The Atlantic.

SHERMAN: Roberts didn't eviscerate campaign-finance law, but he should have. "We are doomed. At least according to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, whose blistering dissent in McCutcheon v. FEC claims that the Court’s ruling in that case 'eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws” and leaves America “incapable of dealing with . . . grave problems of democratic legitimacy.' But like the apocalyptic claims that followed the Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, these claims have little basis in reality. Here’s the truth about the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon: It didn’t actually do all that much, and that’s the real problem." Paul Sherman in Forbes.

FRIEDERSDORF: The importance of releasing the CIA report. "After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration empowered the CIA to torture human prisoners. This was done in secret, without any due process....This subterfuge is cowardly and indefensible. Some Americans believe that it isn't torture to blindfold a prisoner, strap him to a board, gag him, and force water into his nasal cavity until his lungs fill with water, inducing the experience of drowning. Even they should recognize the public's interest in determining the efficacy of whatever interrogation methods were used to prevent terrorist attacks. That's why the Senate Intelligence Committee spent millions of dollars and countless hours of its staffers' time producing a 6,300-page report on CIA torture -- and why a majority of the committee, composed of its Democratic members plus two senators from Maine, want a portion of the report to be declassified." Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.

CROOK: Scare tactics fail climate scientists and everyone else. "Why aren't climate scientists winning the argument on climate policy? It sure isn't for lack of effort....Climate-change activists are exasperated beyond endurance by the gullibility of the people, the willful stupidity of climate-change 'deniers,' the cynicism of energy producers and other corporate interests, and the dithering incapacity of our democratic institutions. Doubtless there's some truth in those complaints, but I'd give more weight to another theory. The main reason for the disconnect between the science and the public is the gross tactical incompetence of the climate-science community, as it's called, and its political champions." Clive Crook in Bloomberg View.

Scenery interlude: Beautiful footage.

2. What role does mental health play in shootings like this?

Shooter showed unstable 'psychiatric or psychological condition,' but not linked to deployment, military says. "The soldier accused of Wednesday's deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas was undergoing treatment for a combination of depression, anxiety and insomnia, but no evidence has emerged linking his mental condition to his deployments overseas, military officials said Thursday. Army Spc. Ivan A. Lopez...saw no combat during a short stint as a truck driver in Iraq or in a 13-month tour as an observer in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, according to military records and officials. The revelations suggest that the soldier's alleged violent outburst on home soil wasn't rooted in psychological or physical trauma induced by combat abroad. Instead, investigators are left with the possibility that the motive for Spc. Lopez's alleged murder spree was no more intelligible than the reasons behind school shootings or workplace killings....Nelson Bigas, command sergeant major of the Puerto Rico National Guard, said the Sinai mission was peaceful and that nothing happened to Spc. Lopez that the sergeant major thought could have induced post-traumatic stress or a traumatic brain injury." Devlin Barrett, Julian E. Barnes and Nathan Koppel in The Wall Street Journal.

Boehner says there's 'no question' mentally ill shouldn't have guns. "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said there’s 'no question' that mentally ill people should be prevented from buying guns, a day after a soldier with a history of mental illness killed three people at Fort Hood in Texas. 'There’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons,' Boehner said at a Capitol event." Russell Berman in The Hill.

Lopez was undergoing evaluation to see if he had PTSD. "Army leaders said there was no record that Lopez had been wounded or injured in Iraq. But they said he had 'self-reported' a possible traumatic brain injury from his wartime service. He had recently been undergoing an evaluation to determine whether he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, Army officials said." Craig Whitlock and Carol D. Leonnig in The Washington Post.

You don't have to be a combat veteran to get PTSD. "There are many details remaining about the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing four, including himself, and injuring 16 more. But here are some key facts about Spc. Ivan Lopez: He served four months in Iraq, he was being treated for undiagnosed posttraumatic-stress disorder, and he was not in combat during his deployment. In this type of situation, it might be easy to overlook someone who suffered mental anguish without actually seeing combat. But there are elements of war that are disturbing beyond shooting a weapon and being shot at. So can a soldier get PTSD without actually seeing combat? 'Yes, you can,' says Craig Bryan, the executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies. 'It's actually an issue the science in the last several years has been catching up with.'" Matt Vasilogambros in National Journal.

Why the Iraq war has produced more PTSD cases than the Afghan war. "Combat in Iraq, however, is not entirely like combat in Afghanistan. And research consistently concludes that veterans are returning from Iraq, where the troubled shooter in Wednesday's Fort Hood tragedy served, with what appears to be greater exposure to stressors and higher levels of PTSD. The Fort Hood shooter, an Army truck driver named Ivan Lopez, was reportedly undergoing evaluation for PTSD. Some numbers from the Department of Veterans Affairs estimate that PTSD affects about 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan, but 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq. There's little data explaining the differences between the two groups partly because of the difficulty of diagnosing PTSD (and identifying veterans who may not know they suffer from it), as well as the fact that the VA itself often combines veterans of the two conflicts together. Over the length of these two wars, though, service members in Iraq have been exposed to more combat, with the kinds of traumas associated with it." Emily Badger in The Washington Post.

But vets, docs worry that the shootings will deepen PTSD stigma. "The word 'PTSD' had barely left the mouth of Fort Hood’s commander late Wednesday when, across the nation, many veterans with those symptoms and doctors who treat the malady understood they faced a renewed battle: a resurgence of the stigma that comes with that diagnosis. The Fort Hood tragedy -- 16 wounded and four killed, including identified shooter Ivan Lopez, a soldier being evaluated for PTSD -- is precisely the type of event that makes combat veterans cringe. Many worry they’ll be further mislabeled as dangerous time bombs, as the next to snap, and that post-traumatic stress will again be misrepresented and misunderstood as a condition that sparks public, violent outbursts." Bill Briggs in NBC News.

How much do we really know about link between military trauma and homicide? Not that much. "Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, who was struggling with depression, anxiety and insomnia, killed three people and injured 16 others before taking his own life. There is no scientific evidence proving that such mental health issues increase likeliness to commit mass homicide, and military officials said Thursday the investigation is continuing as they struggle to understand what ignited Wednesday's violence. Certainly today's 1.4 million active-duty military members, including the 152,986 active-duty personnel diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder since 2001, have weapons training and access to firearms, and yet homicide inside the military community is so rare that there is no detailed research on the link between war trauma and murder." David Wood in The Huffington Post.

Animals interlude: Dogs go crazy when they see runaway FedEx van.

3. More clarity on how many uninsured are getting covered through Obamacare

A look at how many Obamacare enrollees were uninsured: 5.4 million. "As we observed earlier this week, one of the obsessions of opponents of the Affordable Care Act is the question of how many enrollees in Obamacare health plans already had insurance. The goal is to knock down the latest enrollment numbers by suggesting that most of the 7.1 million people enrolled through the individual insurance exchanges just moved from one insurance plan to another in a waste of time and effort. The real figure probably won't be known for weeks, even months. But researchers at the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center have weighed in with their own estimate. They're figuring that the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 5.4 million from the first quarter of 2013 through early March this year." Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.

Breaking down the numbers. "These figures are not precise. They represent survey results, adjusted to represent a national sample, and they have a margin of error. But the results point in the same general direction as data collected by the Gallup organization and the Rand Corporation....Would saving approximately 5 million people from uninsurance be a big deal? On the one hand, it's far less than the 13 million people the Congressional Budget Office has said it expects to gain insurance because of the law in its first year. On the other hand, the figure does not include young adults who got coverage by signing onto their parents’ plans and those in states that expanded their Medicaid plans early....Also, the survey data ends with early March, which means it doesn’t include the final surge of signups before the end of open enrollment. And more people will continue to get coverage throughout the year, particularly those living in states that are expanding eligibility for their Medicaid programs as the law's architects originally envisioned." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

Poll: Obamacare popularity rising, on par with popularity of namesake. NPR.

April 15 deadline mixes taxes, Obamacare deadlines. "April 15 will be the last day for most people to enroll in Obamacare exchanges for health coverage during 2014. Although the official deadline was midnight Monday, the Obama administration had offered anyone who started an application by then the chance to continue enrolling -- but not until Thursday did it give a hard deadline for this grace period....Brian Haile, a health care expert with Jackson Hewitt Tax Services, applauded the decision for aligning the end of the enrollment period with the end of tax season, a decision he said would maximize enrollment." Kyle Cheney in Politico.

Who would sign up for Obamacare but not pay the premium? "By now, you’ve probably heard that 7.1 million people have signed up for coverage in Obamacare’s health insurance marketplaces. That doesn’t tell us the actual enrollment number, though, because people need to pay their premium to officially get coverage....As I wrote the other day, the total enrollment number doesn’t hold that much meaning for the future success of the Obamacare exchanges....But the question remains: Why go through all the trouble of signing up for Obamacare coverage, only to decide otherwise? Kaiser Family Foundation insurance expert Larry Levitt offered some ideas." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Levitt's Twitter rant: But how many have paid? Jeffrey Young in The Huffington Post.

Obama's victory lap obscures signs of rising health spending. "But lost in all the focus surrounding the end of the March 31 open enrollment deadline was the release of new economic data signaling that the multiyear period of slowing health care costs -- which Obama has inappropriately claimed credit for -- may be coming to a close. If that’s turns out to be the case, then the current design of Obama’s health care law won’t be sustainable, regardless of what this year’s final open enrollment numbers say....As always, it’s important to not jump to premature conclusions based on limited economic data, which is subject to revision and does not represent a trend. But if health care spending growth does accelerate again, defenders of Obamacare will have more to worry about than fixing a broken website." Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner.

Victory lap? Less so among Democrats in Congress. Mike Lillis in The Hill.

Explainer: Large employers are getting their premiums under control, but you’re probably paying more. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Other health care reads:

Same-sex spouses can qualify for Medicare special enrollment. Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Explainer: The states with the most expensive health insurance. Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.

States with faulty insurance exchanges under fire at hearing. Robert Pear in The New York Times.

House votes to change definition of work week as it relates to health-care law. Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Quitting smoking costs more if you're poor. Clara Ritger in The Atlantic.

This is why the FDA just approved a device to fight opioid overdoses. Mark Berman in The Washington Post.

Skydiving interlude: Skydiver almost hit by tiny meteorite.

4. How to read the jobs report

Jobs preview: Pay less attention to the sausage, and more to how it's made. "The BLS's monthly employment numbers come out tomorrow, and economists expect a strong showing, in the neighborhood of 195,000 jobs. The top-line numbers in those BLS surveys are always seasonally adjusted -- that is, they're corrected to 'remove the influences of predictable seasonable patterns,' like weather changes, holidays and school schedules. Seasonal adjustment is incredibly important -- it's how economists sort the noise from the signal in the monthly jobs numbers, and it ultimately affects how well policymakers are able to respond to shifts in the economy. But there's an awful lot of noise in those numbers, and some economists think we should pay more attention to that filtering process with an eye toward improving it." Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post.

Jobless claims rise more than forecast with March jobs report due. "The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose more than forecast last week after reaching a six-month low, a sign that progress in the labor market remains fitful. Jobless claims increased 16,000 in the period ended March 29 to a five-week high of 326,000, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. A revised 310,000 applications were filed in the previous week, the fewest since Sept. 7. The median forecast of 52 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 319,000 claims. A slowdown in layoffs from earlier this year may set the stage for additional hiring as demand rebounds from a weather-induced soft patch. Figures tomorrow are projected to show companies took on more workers in March than at any time in the last four months....The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, was little changed at 319,500 from 319,250 the week before.The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 22,000 to 2.84 million in the week ended March 22." Lorraine Woellert in Bloomberg.

Senate is expected to pass jobless-benefits bill, but difficult path awaits in House. "The Senate is expected to vote Monday to pass a bipartisan bill that would restore long-term unemployment benefits that were allowed to expire in December. So all the attention now turns to the House, where early indicators say the deal may be dead on arrival. The Senate voted Thursday to move forward with a bill that would restart federal unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, allowing for retroactive payments to go to more than 2 million Americans whose benefits expired in late December. The bill is expected to be passed by a simple majority Monday." Wesley Lowery in The Washington Post.

Other economic/financial data:

Trade deficit widens as exports fall. Reuters.

Services sector rebounds as employment swells. Kathleen Madigan in The Wall Street Journal.

Other economic-policy reads:

Fed's Stein to return to Harvard to teach. Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in The Wall Street Journal.

In minimum wage debate, tipped workers have place at the table. Melanie Trottman in The Wall Street Journal.

One last April Fool's interlude: The new Rick Roll.

5. Senate panel votes to declassify CIA report on interrogation tactics. What's next?

Senate panel votes to release CIA interrogation report. "The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to make public a long-awaited report that concludes that the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation measures did not produce valuable intelligence and that the agency repeatedly misled government officials about the severity and success of the program. The decision, opposed by three Republicans on the panel, means that the findings will be sent to the White House and the CIA, putting the agency in the awkward position of having to declassify a document that delivers a scathing verdict on one of the most controversial periods in its history. U.S. officials said it could be months before the executive summary of the panel’s inquiry is released to the public. But Thursday’s vote marked the formal end of a four-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh tactics against terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. President Obama has signaled his support for the public release of the findings and an executive summary, a 481-page section at the front of a classified report." Greg Miller and Adam Goldman in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Who's who in the CIA-Senate showdown. Liz Halloran in NPR.

Here's how they voted. "The committee split, 11-3, on the declassification request -- which came amid an extraordinary public fight between the panel and the CIA. The feud centered on actions related to the years of research Senate staffers conducted to prepare the report....Panel staffers said they were not authorized to release a breakdown of the vote on seeking declassification, though POLITICO confirmed that GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Jim Risch of Idaho and Dan Coats of Indiana voted against declassification. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) voted present." Burgess Everett and Josh Gerstein in Politico.

But what will the public actually see? "Members of the intelligence community raised concerns that the committee failed to interview top spy agency officials who had authorized or supervised the brutal interrogations. They questioned how the review could be fair or complete. Once the 15-member panel votes as expected to declassify a 400-page summary and the key findings of its report, the CIA will start scanning the report's contents for any passages that compromise national security. That has led to fears that the CIA, already accused of illegally monitoring the Senate's investigation and deleting files, could sanitize key elements of what Senate investigators aim to be the fullest public reckoning of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on al-Qaida suspects in CIA-run prisons abroad. The committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has urged the White House to get involved." The Associated Press.

Poll: Plurality of Americans say unacceptable for CIA to secretly access congressional computers. The Huffington Post/YouGov.

Magic interlude: Who doesn't love magic?

Wonkblog roundup

Here is why the World Bank withheld aid to Uganda. Danielle Douglas.

Why would a person sign up for Obamacare but not pay the premium? Jason Millman.

Fed Gov. Jeremy Stein is resigning. Here are his greatest hits. Ylan Q. Mui.

Why the Iraq War has produced more PTSD than the conflict in Afghanistan. Emily Badger.

Jobs preview: Pay less attention to the sausage, and more to how it’s made. Christopher Ingraham.

The rise and fall and reinvention of Restaurant Week. Emily Badger.

Large employers are getting their premiums under control, but you’re probably paying more. Jason Millman.

Et Cetera

With Israeli-Palestinian peace talks faltering, Kerry must decide how to proceed. Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan in The Washington Post.

GM hearings revive debate on corporate fraud penalties. Jeff Plungis in Bloomberg.

Obama's NSA overhaul may require phone carriers to store more data. Mark Hosenball and Alina Selyukh in Reuters.

What House lawmakers still don't get about control of the Internet. Brian Fung in The Washington Post.

U.S. secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest. Desmond Butler, Jack Gillum and Alberto Arce in the Associated Press.

Lawmakers pass pediatric research bill undoing a bit of the damage they did to NIH. Sam Stein in The Huffington Post.

The White House's faulty math on gas exports. Keith Johnson in Foreign Policy.

Got tips, additions, or commentsE-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business
Next Story
Danielle Douglas-Gabriel · April 3