Wonkbook: Digging beyond the main findings of the Goldilocks jobs report

April 7

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 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 74. That's the number of months it took for the economy's number of private-sector jobs to reach its pre-recession peak in January 2008.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: Private-sector payrolls have now topped their pre-recession peak.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Digesting the jobs numbers; (2) how Obamacare has dropped uninsured rate; (3) Affordable Care Act's new challenges include friendly fire; (4) climate communications breakdown; and (5) more on the Fort Hood fallout.

1. Top story: What you need to know about the March jobs report

A Goldilocks jobs report — at least with the top-line numbers. "Employers hired 192,000 people in March, and the unemployment rate stayed pat at 6.7 percent, according to the government’s latest jobs report. That’s pretty much exactly in line with expectations, though not quite the early spring bounce that many were hoping for after a bleak winter.... This is what some economists see as a Goldilocks jobs report: not so strong that the Fed will speed the tapering of its monthly bond purchases, not so weak that the Fed will suspend the tapering. In the markets, that means just enough to keep the rally in the stock market going, but not so many to trigger a sell-off in bonds." Matthew Philips in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Beyond the top-line numbers. "The report also included another piece of good news: The average workweek edged up by 0.2 hours to 34.5 hours in March. The increase helped offset declines over the past three months that some economists feared signaled fundamental weakness in the labor market. However, average hourly earnings slipped 1 cent to $24.30 in March after spiking 9 cents in February." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Explainers:

5 takeaways from March's jobs report. Kathleen Madigan in The Wall Street Journal.

Highlights from the jobs report. Sarah Portlock in The Wall Street Journal.

5 signs the job market may be accelerating. Josh Boak in the Associated Press.

Charts: The jobs report in pictures. Chad Stone in The Huffington Post.

Benefits expired, but the labor force dropouts haven't surged. "The main reason for the flat unemployment rate was a surge in the labor force -- the number of people working or looking for work. The labor force jumped by more than half a million people in March, following a sizeable jump in February. After many months of people giving up the job search, that could be an indication more people are coming off the sidelines and back into the labor force. The development may be especially surprising given the expiration in extended unemployment benefits in late December." Phil Izzo in The Wall Street Journal.

More good news in the job report — sort of. "We’ve recovered! The country now has more private sector jobs than it did before the recession, surpassing its previous peak. That was in January 2008, when there were 115,977,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ survey of businesses. Last month, the bureau announced Friday morning, there were 116,087,000. High fives all around. Actually, no. Many of the comparisons of the pre- and post-recession economies leave out one significant detail: we’re not just trying to get back to where we were before the bottom dropped out. We’re trying to get back to where we would have been. Keep in mind that we have 15 million more people now than we did then, an increase of 4.6 percent." Shaila Dewan in The New York Times.

The long view: A long way to go to achieve pre-recession robustness. "'Growth-wise, in terms of the economy and the labor market, we think 2014 will look a lot like 2013 and 2012 did,' said Guy Berger, United States economist at RBS Securities. 'In all likelihood, we will see average monthly job gains of a little north of 200,000 this year.' While that pace of job creation would gradually bring the unemployment rate down, it would take until nearly the end of the decade before the labor market returned to the level of robustness that prevailed in the mid-2000s, let alone the 1990s." Nelson D. Schwartz in The New York Times.

Temp jobs are surging as firms contain expenses. "The economy is creating jobs. But how many of them will endure? The 'short-term' staffing industry is enjoying a long-term boom, with temps accounting for more than one-tenth of all job growth since 2009, according to government data." Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.

The near-term political fallout: How this report hurts the Democrats. "Democrats were fervently hoping for a bigger number. Because if they don’t get faster growth soon, they could wind up trying to hold off Republicans this fall while fighting the triple threat of an unpopular president, an unpopular health care law and a stagnant economy that has left voters grouchy and pessimistic. Experts say even a single good jobs number wouldn’t be enough. And the March number...was hardly a blockbuster. It will take months of stronger employment gains and increases in take-home pay to lift the grim national mood. Democrats, fairly or not, will get nearly all of the blame if the economy sinks back into the mud -- and time is running short for them to get credit for any improvement." Ben White in Politico.

On the surface, though, Democrats seemed happy. They touted filling the 'Bush jobs hole.' Michael McAuliff and Arthur Delaney in The Huffington Post.

Why the report keeps the Fed's bond-purchase 'tapering' on track. "Key data points were largely consistent with the Fed’s view of how the economy is evolving. A healthy payroll employment gain of 192,000 in March, taken together with upward revisions to hiring estimates for the two previous months, suggest the labor market is strong enough to tolerate the Fed’s slow retrenchment of its bond program. A one-penny drop in average hourly earnings for all workers and an unchanged unemployment rate at 6.7% support Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s conclusion that wage and inflation pressures aren’t building and interest rates can stay low for longer." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.

Other economic policy reads:

Life without jobless benefits: Watching, searching and praying. Tamara Keith in NPR.

Senate panel votes to extend temporary tax breaks. John D. McKinnon in The Wall Street Journal.

Obama is poised to sign executive order on equal pay and contractors. Bill Chappell in NPR.

VINIK: Report serves as validation for idea of slack in the labor market. "As the labor market tightens, employers will have to raise wages to compete for scarce labor. Economists have been debating for months the tightness of the labor market. The argument centers around the long-term unemployed and the millions of workers who have dropped out of the labor force. One side believes that the long-term unemployed have become disconnected from the labor market, as employers will very rarely hire them. In this case, the short-term unemployment rate, which has already returned to its pre-recession level, is a better indicator of the state of the labor market. The other side argues that the unemployment rate is not representative of the labor market and that many discouraged workers will begin searching for jobs again as the economy recovers. This jobs report bolsters the second theory, as wage growth actually fell slightly in March. This indicates there is still slack in the labor market and the Fed’s loose monetary policy will continue to bolster it." Danny Vinik in The New Republic.

CASSIDY: Inequality and the jobs report. "The jobs report also provides a wealth of information about how different populations are doing -- serving as what might be called a distributional indicator. Given the increasing attention to inequality in our public debates, it is surprising that this aspect of the jobs report doesn’t receive more attention each month....So, rather than trying to further parse the payroll numbers, let’s look, for once, at the distributional data in the report, which shows that a great deal of variation and inequity are persisting, despite the over-all improvement. The recovery has been real for some groups, particularly those with college educations and whites who aren’t trapped in extended spells of unemployment. But, for other groups, including the long-term unemployed, African-Americans, and young adults who aren’t in college, finding work remains a formidable challenge, and finding a decent job is even harder." John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

WOODHILL: Report shows need to focus on incentives, not stimulus. "Hopefully, Friday’s 'Employment Situation' report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will drive a stake through the heart of the Democrats’ push to revive extended unemployment insurance benefits. The 0.39 percentage point increase in labor force participation since extended benefits expired in December is the largest seen for any calendar quarter since 2Q1984. And, the increase in total employment (Household Survey) during the first quarter of 2014 was the biggest quarterly advance in 14 years. These two results directly contradicted the expectations of Keynesian economists, who predicted that the end of extended unemployment benefits would slow job growth (because of lower consumer spending), and induce jobless people to exit the labor force." Louis Woodhill in Forbes.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: The decline of work? "In a normal economy, the employment and jobless rates have an inverse relationship: When one rises, the other falls, and vice versa. But in the current economy, the unemployment rate is falling but the employment rate has fallen too. What's going on? In a word, former workers are leaving the economy or sitting on the sidelines. The labor force participation rate, which measures the active portion of available workers not including drop-outs, now stands at 63.2%, a level last seen in August 1978. That's around the time the late Steve Jobs founded Apple....Many attribute the decline of work in America to the wave of Baby Boomers heading into retirement and the fact that the population at large is getting older. Studies show this is part of the story, though that is also a problem if those workers are retiring earlier because they lost a job and can't find a comparable one....This decline in work has lasted so long that it deserves more economic study. Hiring usually accelerates in a recovery, Americans see more job opportunities and rejoin the labor force. But we can speculate about why this time is different." Editorial Board.

COWEN: Automation alone isn't killing jobs. "Although the labor market report on Friday showed modest job growth, employment opportunities remain stubbornly low in the United States, giving new prominence to the old notion that automation throws people out of work....Driverless vehicles and drone aircraft are no longer science fiction, and over time, they may eliminate millions of transportation jobs....How afraid should workers be of these new technologies? There is reason to be skeptical of the assumption that machines will leave humanity without jobs." Tyler Cowen in The New York Times.

BLOOMBERG VIEW: Don't try calling this jobs market normal. "The headline number in today's employment report -- 192,000 nonfarm jobs created in March, bringing the three-month average to 173,000 -- suggests that the U.S. recovery is on track to bring the labor market back to normal, albeit gradually. Try telling that to the millions of people who are still suffering in the purgatory of long-term joblessness....The government's goal should be to limit the damage. That means consolidating federal jobs programs and experimenting with creative ways to boost morale. It also means extending unemployment benefits for those still searching for work, even if some of the money goes to people who have given up." The Editors.

Top opinion

WILL: A tax reformer's uphill push. "The Sisyphean task of tax reform should be tried only by someone who will not flinch from igniting some highly flammable people -- those who believe that whatever wrinkle in the tax code benefits them is an eternal entitlement. Tax reform’s Senate champion is Ron Wyden, the affable, cerebral and tall Oregon Democrat....A serious Republican reform plan has been produced by Rep. Dave Camp, who is retiring from Congress but will probably be succeeded as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee by Paul Ryan, who has a wholesome monomania about promoting economic growth. Conservatives should rejoice that the Senate’s most important chairmanship, that of the Finance Committee, has come to Wyden, whose progressive credentials are impeccable but who says: 'We like expanding the winners’ circle.' And who believes that economic growth of 4 percent is not only feasible but urgent." George Will in The Washington Post.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Hypocritical tax cuts. "What’s particularly outrageous is that the bill calls for the government to borrow the entire $85 billion cost of the two-year reinstatement. That is not just imprudent but hypocritical....Assuming that the tax cuts are renewed repeatedly -- a safe bet -- their cost over a decade will run to hundreds of billions of dollars. In effect, they will “give back” more than half of the revenue from the fiscal-cliff deal of 2012, when tax rates were raised on very high income taxpayers. There are useful provisions in the new package. But it is unconscionable to borrow and spend on behalf of corporate America while rejecting even a modicum of prudent borrowing to address the unmet needs of ordinary Americans and the nation at large." Editorial Board.

NOCERA: On Michael Lewis's crusade. "There is always something just a little frustrating about reading a Michael Lewis book. On the one hand, Lewis’s core point -- whether it is that left tackle has become the second most important position in football ('The Blind Side'), or that the stock market has become rigged by high-frequency traders, as his new book, 'Flash Boys,' claims -- is almost always dead-on. His ability to find compelling characters and tell a great story through their eyes is unparalleled. He can untangle complex subjects like few others. His prose sparkles. On the other hand, there usually comes a point in a Michael Lewis narrative when it all starts to feel just a little too perfect....The arrival of 'Flash Boys' has put a more important question on the table: whether high-frequency traders have been given an unfair advantage that needs to be dealt with. Lewis’s answer is clearly yes, and 'Flash Boys' is both clear enough and persuasive enough that Lewis’s millions of readers are likely to agree with him." Joe Nocera in The New York Times.

RHEE: Opt out of standardized tests? Wrong answer. "Opt out of measuring how well our schools are serving students? What’s next: Shut down the county health department because we don’t care whether restaurants are clean? Defund the water-quality office because we don’t want to know if what’s streaming out of our kitchen faucets is safe to drink? Tests serve many purposes: They chart progress. They identify strengths and weaknesses. They help professionals reach competency in their careers. All these measures are critical to improving public schools." Michelle Rhee in The Washington Post.

McMANUS: Is Obamacare too big to fail? "When Obamacare's first open-enrollment period ended last week, the tally was impressive: 7.1 million Americans signed up for insurance on federal and state exchanges by the March 31 deadline, several million more signed up for Medicaid and a whole lot of under-26 Americans got covered by their parents' plans. That doesn't mean Obamacare is guaranteed to succeed. The program still faces a series of difficult tests -- most important, keeping costs under control so insurance premiums don't soar in coming years. And the program is certain not to be universally popular with its participants. Just think: Millions of newcomers to health coverage are about to join the rest of us in those frustrating battles with insurers. But the enrollment numbers do mean that the main argument Republicans hurled against the law -- that it was doomed to collapse -- is looking weaker than ever. They also mean that Democrats now have a chance to shift the healthcare debate from whether the law should be repealed to how to improve it. Recent polls have found that between 53% and 71% of respondents (depending on how the question is worded) favor keeping the law and fixing it." Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times.

MARCUS: The real danger behind the ‘McCutcheon’ ruling. "The risk posed by the ruling, in which the chief justice wrote the plurality opinion, is not as much its immediate impact but the implications of its reasoning in demolishing an already rickety campaign finance structure. McCutcheon’s critics wail that it clears the way for wealthy individuals to plow millions into political campaigns. Um, but where have they been? The opportunities to write seven- and eight-figure checks were plentiful before the ruling. The difference that McCutcheon makes is that mega-donors have previously had to conduct their political spending indirectly, through super PACs or other entities that do not write checks straight to candidates or parties....The immediate repercussions are less than some overwrought critics claim....The real risk lies in the conservative justices’ seemingly deliberate obtuseness to the real world of campaign contributions -- in particular, their cramped understanding of what constitutes the kind of corruption or risk thereof to justify campaign finance legislation." Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post.

JONATHAN BERNSTEIN: Why won't pro-climate Republicans speak up? "Americans are more climate-skeptical (if that’s the right term) because the U.S. has a two-party system with one party dedicated to climate skepticism. Most people follow trusted opinion leaders, at least on those issues where they have little personal stake and little personal expertise (which means most issues for most of us). Views on climate change probably are reinforced by the rise of the partisan media in recent decades. But Rush Limbaugh and Fox News aren’t even necessary for most Republicans to disagree with the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists; all it takes is for voters to tend to accept what high-visibility Republicans are saying. What’s harder to answer is why movement conservatives have accepted that view, and why the rest of high-visibility Republicans go along." Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg View.

DOUTHAT: Health care without end. "So you think now that enrollment has hit seven million, now that the president has declared the debate over repeal 'over,' now that Republican predictions of a swift Obamacare unraveling look a bit like Republican predictions of a Romney landslide, we’re going to stop arguing about health care, stop having the issue dominate the conversation, and turn at last to some other debate instead? You think it’s over? It’s never over. I mean, O.K., it will be over in the event of a nuclear war, or a climate apocalypse, or if the robots eventually rise up and overthrow us....But for the foreseeable future, the health care debate probably isn’t going to get any less intense. Instead, what we’ve watched unfold since 2009 is what we should expect for years, decades, a generation: a grinding, exhausting argument over how to pay for health care in a society that’s growing older, consuming more care, and (especially if current secularizing trends persist) becoming more and more invested in postponing death." Ross Douthat in The New York Times.

ACKERMAN AND AYRES: Obama needs to put his money where his mouth is on campaign-finance reform. "Although the president has speechified against the court’s decisions in the past, his actions tell a different story....If the president is to be taken seriously, it’s time for him to make campaign finance a centerpiece of the upcoming campaign. Despite appearances, serious reform remains possible within the new limits set out by the Roberts court. Obama should take full advantage of the chief justice’s explicit recognition that the 'appearance of corruption' serves as a compelling rationale for controlling contributions. This provides a meaningful roadmap for concrete reforms that will call a halt to the rise of plutocracy in American politics." Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres in Slate.

David Letterman interlude: Featuring "The Simpsons" couch gag.

2. How Obamacare is cutting the uninsured rate

Number of Americans without health insurance reaches new low. "The share of Americans without health insurance has dropped to the lowest level since before President Obama took office, according to a new national survey that provides more evidence the healthcare law is extending coverage to millions of the previously uninsured. Just 14.7% of adults lacked coverage in the second half of March, down from 18% in the last quarter of 2013, the survey from Gallup found. The survey results, which track with other recent polling data and enrollment reports, indicate that about 8 million people have gained health insurance since September. That figure takes into account any losses in coverage the law may have brought about by the cancellation of health plans that did not meet the new standards. Gallup's survey highlights a historic expansion in coverage unparalleled since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid half a century ago. It also undermines critics' persistent claims that the law has done little to expand health insurance." Noam N. Levey in the Los Angeles Times.

Explainer: The CBO's Obamacare enrollment estimate is more complicated than you think. Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post.

About that Medicaid expansion: Enrollments boosted by 3 million. "More than 3 million people have enrolled in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program since October, according to new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Friday. This is the first time the Obama administration has reported actual enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP since the Oct. 1 start of enrollment. Previous CMS reports have provided numbers for those determined eligible for the programs, which is different from actual enrollment. CMS reported Friday morning that total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment since September grew 8.3 percent in states that expanded their programs for low-income residents, five times higher than the 1.6 percent enrollment increase that non-expansion states saw over the same time." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Not surprisingly, states that embraced the Medicaid expansion have seen the largest increases in enrollment. "It’s one more sign that the health care law is reducing the number of Americans without insurance significantly -- although it doesn’t tell us by how much or whether, at year’s end, the reduction will live up to original projections. It's also one more window into our growing geopolitical divide -- between the part of America where officials are trying aggressively to help poor people get health insurance, and the part where officials are not....Taking advantage of flexibility following the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, a large swath of mostly conservative states have opted not to expand eligibility. As a result, millions of low-income Americans living in these states remain with no viable source of comprehensive coverage. The story is different in states that have expanded Medicaid." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

Explainer: The Republicans' plan to cut Medicaid, explained. Sarah Kliff in Vox.

Another reason the uninsured rate is declining: The individual mandate. "California officials often cited the high demand for health insurance in explaining this week's last-minute surge for Obamacare. But some of the people who waited in line for hours this week said another big reason was to avoid paying the health law's penalty for being uninsured." Soumya Karlamangla in the Los Angeles Times.

Explainer: So, now you have health insurance. How do you make the most of it? Lisa Zamosky in the Los Angeles Times.

Seniors are fine with 'team care' approach to Medicare. "Increasingly, the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly as part of the Affordable Care Act is moving to a system that rewards doctors and hospitals for working together to improve care. By contracting with entities known as accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes, the providers use a team approach that can involve lower cost providers and allied health professionals to provide seniors with more attention while at the same time keeping them healthy and out of more expensive care settings. A new national survey of adults 65 and older from the John A. Hartford Foundation about 'team care and the medical home' shows 27 percent say they get this kind of care right now, they like it and it has improved their health. The openness to new models debunks theories by some in health care who think patients only want to see a doctor for all their health care needs." Bruce Japsen in Forbes.

Republicans quietly agree to fix for health-care law they hate. "At the prodding of business organizations, House Republicans quietly secured a recent change in President Barack Obama's health law to expand coverage choices, a striking, one-of-a-kind departure from dozens of high-decibel attempts to repeal or dismember it. Democrats describe the change involving small-business coverage options as a straightforward improvement of the type they are eager to make, and Obama signed it into law. Republicans are loath to agree, given the strong sentiment among the rank and file that the only fix the law deserves is a burial." David Espo in the Associated Press.

Other health-care reads:

Explainer: Five things about states with problem-plagued exchanges. Jennifer Corbett Dooren in The Wall Street Journal.

Obamacare shows how Obama is pulling a reverse Reagan. James Oliphant in The Atlantic.

Even small medical advances can mean big jumps in medical bills. Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times.

Babies interlude: They taste lemon for the first time.

3. The next challenges for the health care law, including some friendly fire

Some Democrats fight Obama over Medicare Advantage. "More than two dozen Democrats are fighting the Obama administration over planned cuts to private plans offered in Medicare, tied in part to the 2010 health overhaul, which could divide the party on health care in the run-up to this year's midterm elections. The cuts to Medicare Advantage insurers, which are expected to be included in planned 2015 payments to be unveiled Monday, have drawn increasingly vocal opposition from Democrats who fear that insurers will use the cuts to justify higher premiums or fewer options for enrollees. Other Democrats defend some of the cuts as needed changes. As part of the Affordable Care Act's roughly $700 billion in Medicare savings over 10 years, lower payments to Medicare Advantage insurers are supposed to bring them in line with spending under traditional Medicare. The health law used some of those savings to help pay for its expansion of insurance coverage." Kristina Peterson and Anna Wilde Mathews in The Wall Street Journal.

Will Obama's employer mandate survive? "Allies of the administration are questioning whether the requirement for businesses to provide insurance will ever be implemented, given the drumbeat of opposition from industry groups. On Wednesday, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he thinks the mandate will be scrapped. 'It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go,' Gibbs told a healthcare gathering in Colorado. The White House on Thursday insisted that its former spokesman was wrong and said the mandate would be phased in, starting in 2015. That hasn't quieted skeptics, who question whether it would be better for the administration to simply delay or undo the mandate altogether." Elise Viebeck and Justin Sink in The Hill.

Can Democrats change the politics of health care? "The president asserted that the debate over repealing the law is now over. Republicans dissent, but there’s little question that the GOP’s goal of dismantling the law becomes increasingly difficult. For Obama and the Democrats, however, that also will mean that when problems arise in the health-care system, whether involving cost or coverage, critics will blame them -- fairly or not -- for the law’s complexity and the clumsy hand of government. The substantive debate ahead will challenge Republicans most. Democrats contend that the progress that has been made in signing up so many people will force Republicans to temper their message of repeal and instead focus their energies on changes in the law. Outright repeal, they argue, is not only unrealistic, particularly as long as a Democrat is in the White House, but less and less appealing politically. Republicans recognize that." Dan Balz in The Washington Post.

Dancing interlude: Dance-off between New York cop and street performer.

4. Why more reports and data actually deepen the political divisions on climate change

Climate divide heightening, as reflected by responses to release of U.N. report. "The divide between advocates and skeptics over whether to do something about climate change is widening, with both sides growing more certain of their convictions. A report this week from the United Nations warning of dire consequences from greenhouse gas emissions made headlines around the world and spurred calls for action from environmental groups. But the report landed with a thud in Washington, where both Democrats and Republicans clung more tightly to their positions about the prudent policy response to climate science....Experts and lawmakers broadly agree that climate change has become a more polarizing issue during President Obama’s time in the White House." Timothy Cama in The Hill.

Quotable: "I would have been shocked if this would have caused anybody to change what they thought. If people are persuaded by evidence, they would have been persuaded long ago." -- Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University. Timothy Cama in The Hill.

Some insight as to why: More information has the opposite of the desired effect. "There’s a simple theory underlying much of American politics....It’s what we might call the More Information Hypothesis: the belief that many of our most bitter political battles are mere misunderstandings. The cause of these misunderstandings? Too little information -- be it about climate change, or taxes, or Iraq, or the budget deficit. If only the citizenry were more informed, the thinking goes, then there wouldn’t be all this fighting. It’s a seductive model. It suggests our fellow countrymen aren’t wrong so much as they’re misguided, or ignorant, or -- most appealingly -- misled by scoundrels from the other party. It holds that our debates are tractable and that the answers to our toughest problems aren’t very controversial at all. The theory is particularly prevalent in Washington, where partisans devote enormous amounts of energy to persuading each other that there’s really a right answer to the difficult questions in American politics -- and that they have it. But the More Information Hypothesis isn’t just wrong. It’s backwards. Cutting-edge research shows that the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become." Ezra Klein in Vox.

PURDY: Does tackling climate change need the politics of the impossible? "It’s starting to feel like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could keep issuing its reports from here to eternity. The Fifth Assessment Report, released just in time to avoid April Fool’s Day, continues a steady trend: our knowledge is increasing, just about everything that matters is getting worse, and all we can realistically hope to do is soften the edges of a slow-moving catastrophe." Jedediah Purdy in The Daily Beast.

Obama administration challenges draft of forthcoming report as too conservative. "U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is concerned that a crucial United Nations report on climate science may be too harsh in assessing the cost of fighting global warming....'The discussion of the economic costs of mitigation is too narrow and does not incorporate co-benefits of action,' U.S. officials wrote in a submission to the UN, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg. They said including only one side of the equation 'unnecessarily skews the information.' The comment refers to 'global consumption losses' identified in the report of as much as 4 percent in 2030, 6 percent in 2050 and 12 percent in 2100 as a result of action to protect the climate, according to a draft leaked in January. State Department officials are pressing to factor in improvements to public health and lower energy costs from increased efficiency that would happen if fossil fuels were limited. Those would offset the price to be paid for switching over to cleaner forms of energy such as wind and solar and paring back on lower-cost fuels such as coal." Alex Morales in Bloomberg.

Context: IPCC meeting in Berlin this week to hash out final part of 3-stage report. "After concluding that global warming almost certainly is man-made and poses a grave threat to humanity, the U.N.-sponsored expert panel on climate change is moving on to the next phase: what to do about it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, will meet next week in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can curb the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are overheating the planet. It is also trying to give estimates on what it would cost. In the third report of a landmark climate assessment, the IPCC is expected to say that to keep warming in check, the world needs a major shift in investments from fossil fuels -- the principal source of man-made carbon emissions -- to renewable energy." Frank Jordans in the Associated Press.

Wind power cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, industry report says. "The growth of wind power in the United States is putting a significant dent in emissions, according to a forthcoming report from the American Wind Energy Association. Wind generation avoided 95.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, which is equivalent to taking 16.9 million cars off the road. That's a 4.4 percent cut to power sector emissions, when compared to the level of emissions that would have been generated if that power had come from fossil fuels. Wind proponents say that's evidence that the wind industry is playing a major role in meeting U.S. emissions goals." Kate Sheppard in The Huffington Post.

Other energy/environmental reads:

U.S. taps new energy sources, and potential geopolitical clout. Jackie Northam in NPR.

Feds hope $5 billion settlement a lesson for polluters. Elizabeth Shogren in NPR.

Interior Dept. says offshore drilling tests could begin this year. Tim Devaney in The Hill.

So happy it's baseball season interlude: Fan brings new meaning to "can of corn" catch. (Note: Your Wonkbooker is an Indians and Cardinals fan.)

5. More on the Fort Hood shooting's fallout

Shooting revives debate on mental illness. "Last week's shooting at Fort Hood has reopened a debate about guns and mental health in the U.S. as lawmakers and public officials once again tackle the question of whether more can be done to address the rising threat of active shooter incidents. The most recent incident, which involved an Army specialist who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, is the third shooting on a U.S. military installation in the last five years. It is also the second that involved a gunman with mental health problems, the other incident being the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard last fall. There is widespread agreement among both lawmakers and defense officials that soldiers returning from war need more attention paid to their mental health as well as their physical health." Rebecca Kaplan in CBS News.

As well as base security. "The April 2 shooting at Fort Hood also highlights the need to bolster security at military bases, lawmakers and officials said. 'I don’t think you can ever 100 percent secure a military base from something like this happening, but I do think it requires a review, a re-analysis of the force protection policies that we have at our military installations and see how can we better secure them,' Representative Mike McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the House homeland security committee, said today on 'Fox News Sunday.' McCaul said that the military should consider hiring more police and allow senior leaders to carry guns on bases." Greg Giroux and Miles Weiss in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Mullen: More guns on bases not the answer. "A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued Sunday against calls to relax gun restrictions on the nation’s military bases in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting spree at Fort Hood. During an appearance on NBC’s 'Meet the Press,' retired Adm. Michael Mullen said security protocols must be revisited in light of the rampage, but that he opposes 'routinely allowing arms on any military base in the country.'" Benjamin Goad in The Hill.

The Fort Hood shooting and wars without end. "One of the cruel realities of veterans killing one another is that each act robs the community of the very thing -- camaraderie --many veterans miss most when they come home from a war zone. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were always, in military parlance, 'unconventional' or 'asymmetric' wars that defied traditional formations; the lines on those battlefields, thousand and thousands of miles away, were never clear. Wednesday’s tragedy at Fort Hood shows, unfortunately, that those lines may now run through the middle of America, and that these veterans could find themselves waging unconventional war -- unrelenting psychological and emotional skirmishes -- still for decades to come." Nicholas Schmidle in The New Yorker.

Fort Hood rampage sparks calls for more post-combat mental health exams. "Service members returning from combat should be subject to more thorough mental examinations, Rep. Tim Murphy said Sunday in response to last week’s shooting spree at Fort Hood. The Pennsylvania Republican, a clinical psychiatrist in the Naval Reserves who treats soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) said the military should beef up its evaluation of troops returning from overseas." Benjamin Goad in The Hill.

This week: President Obama to attend funeral for Fort Hood victims. Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Other national security reads:

State Dept. warned against releasing CIA torture report. Josh Rogin in The Daily Beast.

Kerry says Mideast peace talks need 'reality check.' Anne Gearan and William Booth in The Washington Post.

Animals interlude: Big cats play with toilet paper.

Wonkblog roundup

Under pressure, Wal-Mart upgrades its policy for helping pregnant workers. Lydia DePillis.

This is what fantasy plans for 21st century public transit should look like. Emily Badger.

Facing Obamacare deadline, more young people signed up in March. Jason Millman.

These congressmen want to tear down the wall between church and state. Christopher Ingraham.

Metro areas where blacks and whites have very different employment prospects. Emily Badger.

Louisiana’s coastline is disappearing. Here’s why it’s so hard to escape. Lydia DePillis.

Medicaid enrollment up 3M, higher in expansion states. Jason Millman.

A veteran programmer explains how the stock market became "rigged." Max Ehrenfreund.

Et Cetera

New GOP push for immigration reform blocked.  Ed O'Keefe and David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

FDA nutrition label shift expected to face pushback. Georgina Gustin in Roll Call.

How public-health advocates are trying to reach non-vaccinators. NPR.

GOP confident about Paul Ryan 's budget. John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman in Politico.

Common Core turns business leaders against Oklahoma GOP. Claudio Sanchez in NPR.

Political push for raw, unpasteurized milk is increasing access, but illnesses are up, too. Kimberly Kindy in The Washington Post.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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