Wonkbook: Will Obama delay immigration reform?

September 4

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Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: More than 1,900. That's the number of people who have died in the most recent Ebola outbreak, surpassing the death toll in all previous outbreaks combined.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: Growth in the unauthorized immigrant population has leveled off, a new survey finds.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) The tricky timing of immigration reform; (2) U.S.'s versus others' economies; (3) a new era for health spending?; (4) banking regulators keep regulating; and (5) many Americans aren't eating well despite more jobs.

1. Top story: Obama's being asked to delay immigration reform moves -- by some in his own party

To delay or not: Timing on immigration reform holds risks for Obama. "White House officials calculated earlier this summer that immigration would not play a major role in the elections, except perhaps for the sizable Hispanic population in Colorado, where executive action could boost Democratic Senator Mark Udall. Now other Democratic candidates in tough Senate races are asking the White House to delay. But immigration rights advocates...warn that Hispanics could stay away from the polls in protest if Obama postpones a decision....Obama must weigh the drawbacks of losing support in Latino-heavy states such as Colorado against the risk of energizing right-leaning Republican voters in states such as Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, and New Hampshire." Jeff Mason and Julia Edwards in Reuters.

ICYMI:

Obama may or may not act on immigration reform this summer. Steven T. Dennis in Roll Call.

Immigration reform hasn't been such a hot-button issue on the campaign trail lately in pivotal Colorado. Jake Sherman in Politico.

Top Latino Democrat, activists push Obama on immigration reform. "Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez and a group of immigrant-rights activists urged President Barack Obama Wednesday to unilaterally reduce deportations before the November elections, despite concerns such action could hurt vulnerable Democrats at the polls....The Illinois Democrat and representatives from several activist groups said the political pluses for the Democratic Party far outweigh the minuses....He said Democrats who are publicly and privately urging caution from the White House have the political calculus wrong." David Eldridge in Roll Call.

Interview: Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez on immigration reform. WBUR.

Boehner: Immigration reform could happen next year — as long as... "Boehner...warned it is contingent on President Obama following the law as he decides on executive actions to take on the issue....In July, Boehner said the House would not take up immigration reform this year, pointing to the flood of child immigrants crossing the border over the summer and Obama 'pounding his chest about using his phone and pen.' 'But I did outline that, you know, there’s a possibility that Congress could take this issue up next year,' he said." Mario Trujillo in The Hill.

Primary source: Transcript of Boehner's interview. Hugh Hewitt Show.

Those caveats make immigration reform unlikely in 2015. "Boehner's subliminal message to Obama is this: abandon your executive action, enforce the laws and we'll play ball on reform next year. That's highly unlikely. Republican and Democratic operatives largely believe the prospects of reform passing in 2015 and 2016 are slim to none. In 2015, the presidential jousting will begin, and there are already signs that Republican candidates will be competing over who's the toughest sheriff on immigration. Reform is anathema to conservative voters, and GOP leaders would be more wary of crossing them. There's also a good chance Republicans would rather wait until after the 2016 election." Sahil Kapur in Talking Points Memo.

Americans more interested in border security. "A new Pew Research Center survey found that 33% of Americans want to focus on border security, 23% prefer a pathway to citizenship, and 41% want both. Last year, as Congress debated an immigration bill that would have allowed many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens, Pew estimated that 25% of Americans wanted the government to focus on granting citizenship, 25% wanted more focus on enhanced enforcement, and the rest felt both should be given equal priority....The shift in views spans political leanings, as more Republicans, Democrats and independents favor focusing on border security." Alan Gomez in USA Today.

Pew also says illegal population in U.S. much longer than in past. "Those numbers could bolster the case made by many Democrats, and some Republicans...that those already living here have become part of the fabric of American society. More immediately, the numbers hold implications for the Obama administration as the White House weighs whether to expand a program that gives temporary relief from deportation and work permits to some illegal immigrants. If President Barack Obama does expand the program, as many expect, his eligibility criteria are likely to include a measure of how long someone has lived in the U.S. as well as what sort of family ties he or she has. The Pew report finds there are millions of people with both longevity and family ties." Laura Meckler in The Wall Street Journal.

Chart: Where America's immigrant population comes from, in one map. German Lopez in Vox.

Deportations don't lower crime rate, study says. "The finding 'calls into question the longstanding assumption that deporting noncitizens who commit crimes is an effective crime-control strategy,' said the study....The analysis...coincides with the Obama administration’s internal review of the program, known as Secure Communities. Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, has suggested that he might overhaul the program, saying it needs 'a fresh start.' Secure Communities, which began in 2008 under President George W. Bush, became a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement strategy....Yet the program has been plagued with trouble since it began." Kirk Semple in The New York Times.

Number of children crossing border fell again in August. "More than 3,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended last month, a 45% decline from the 5,500 children who crossed in July....In June, the number of children crossing illegally was 10,600, mostly originating from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Last week, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declared the border crisis over 'for now.' Earnest said there are a 'variety of factors' that could be contributing to the decline....The number of migrants typically goes down when the weather gets hotter. But Earnest described the situation as 'volatile' and said the Obama administration remains focused on securing the border and devoting resources to immigration courts." Marianne Levine in the Los Angeles Times.

Chart: The counties that have received the most undocumented immigrant children. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

Stopgap bill could mean more shuffling of funding by border agencies. "The federal agencies on the front lines of the crisis could be left with more of the same in the months ahead if Congress passes a stripped-down continuing resolution without additional funding to manage the surge, as some Republicans have recently suggested. Such a stopgap would avoid a shutdown and keep the federal government operating past Sept. 30. But by stretching prior-year spending levels and policy directives into the early months of fiscal 2015, a CR could leave federal officials with old guidance and little flexibility as they look to respond to a rapidly changing situation." Tamar Hallerman in Roll Call.

Other immigration reads:

U.S. officials: Facilities for migrant kids were humane. Daniel Gonzalez in The Arizona Republic.

VINIK: Why immigration reform won't happen next year. "If those words sound familiar, they should. Boehner has long played footsie with Democrats over passing a comprehensive bill. Last November, Boehner told reporters that immigration reform 'absolutely' wasn’t dead. But in February, after the right wing freaked out over 'immigration principles' that the House GOP leadership released, Boehner pulled back and announced that no reform was possible, because Obama was untrustworthy. Just like that, immigration reform was dead. But couldn’t this time be different? It seems highly unlikely." Danny Vinik in The New Republic.

BAUER: A constitutional crisis in the works. "For many years, President Obama denied that he had the power to take unilateral action on immigration, but now, facing congressional opposition, he seems ready to claim that authority....Ironically, the president’s actions may forestall any future legislative action on immigration by igniting a political firestorm and, some fear, precipitating a constitutional crisis. Behind closed doors, the president and his team may be contemplating actions that would significantly transform the legal-immigration system, legalize millions of illegal immigrants, exacerbate the economic anxieties of many Americans, and kick off a broader public debate about the limits of executive power." Fred Bauer in National Review.

Top opinion

SAMUELSON: The coming investment boom? "Suppose we could design the next phase of the economic recovery. What would it look like? Here’s one pleasing vision: Business investment in plants and equipment — factories, computers, freight cars, software, machine tools — would take the lead. This would boost job creation and productivity (a.k.a. efficiency), enabling companies to increase wages without raising prices. It’s a splendid fantasy. But it just might come true. That’s the message from the government’s recent second-quarter report on gross domestic product, which measures the economy’s growth." Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post.

BOVARD: How the feds distort their 'food-security' numbers. "The National Academy of Sciences urged the USDA in 2006 to explicitly state that its food-security survey results are not an estimate of nationwide hunger. The USDA responded by dropping any mention of 'hunger' in the survey's response categories. Nevertheless, the survey's results continue to be pervasively misrepresented as an accurate measure of hunger in America....Some Americans do indeed suffer from hunger, but the federal government has shed little light on the challenges they face....More than 40 years after President Nixon declared war on hunger, the federal government still doesn't care to accurately measure the problem." James Bovard in The Wall Street Journal.

KIRSCH: The case for abolishing political parties. "American political parties used to be interest coalitions; now they are a cross between ideological camps and lifestyle designations....If people no longer seek the truth in their deliberations, but only try to advance a party agenda, then the general will cannot emerge and justice cannot be done. That is Weil’s first argument against parties: They prevent democracy from finding out the true, correct solutions to problems. More important, however, is Weil’s second argument, that parties necessarily corrupt the souls of their members." Adam Kirsch in The New Republic.

RICHARDSON: Bring back the party of Lincoln. "For all the differences between establishment Republicans and Tea Party insurgents, their various efforts to rebrand the Grand Old Party tend to start from a common premise: the belief that Ronald Reagan was the quintessential Republican, and that his principle of defending wealth and the wealthy should remain the party’s guiding vision. In doing so, they misunderstand the party’s longer history. They would do better to look to earlier presidents, and model their new brand on the eras when the Republican Party opposed the control of government by an elite in favor of broader economic opportunity." Heather Cox Richardson in The New York Times.

Dog days of summer interlude: Pug has fun playing in a pit of plastic balls.

2. How does the U.S. economy stack up with others?

OECD says U.S. has better job market than most. "The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development...expects the unemployment rate among its 34 member countries to inch down from 7.4 percent to 7.1 percent by the end of next year. That’s still significantly higher than it was before the global financial crisis but a big improvement from the previous three years....The driving force behind those gains is the American labor market, the report said. The rapid decline in the U.S. jobless rate over the past year to 6.2 percent has surprised even some of the world’s top economists. The OECD predicted unemployment would fall another 1.1 percentage points to 5.9 percent, besting the member-country average." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Interview: Mark Pearson of the OECD on why America's economy is performing those of so many others. Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post.

Still, Europe's job market has some strengths that the U.S.'s doesn't. "No single reason explains why prime-age employment and workforce participation trends are weaker in the United States. But among the factors: Europe better protects prime-age workers....The U.S. disability program forces many ailing Americans to choose between working and collecting disability....Though American and European women are similarly likely to be working or seeking work, in Europe the percentage is climbing. In the United States, it's falling....Spain, France, Germany and Italy have eased rules that had made it hard for companies to hire part-time and temporary workers. The loosened rules have enabled more Europeans to find work." Paul Wiseman and Christopher S. Rugaber in the Associated Press.

U.S. climbs to third in ranking of world's most competitive economies. "The U.S. trailed only Switzerland and Singapore in the annual survey by the World Economic Forum....The Great Recession and 2008 financial crisis took a toll on U.S. global competitiveness, according to the survey. By 2012-13, the country had fallen to seventh amid a sluggish economy as well as bitter partisan debates over the debt limit and other fiscal issues. But a strengthening economic recovery and less budget strife in Washington has helped the U.S. to improve its ranking among the 148 economies covered by the survey." Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times.

Strong anecdotal reports on growth in new Fed survey. "The U.S. economy strengthened in all regions of the country in July and August, in areas from consumer spending to auto sales to tourism, the Federal Reserve reported....All 12 of the Fed's regions reported growth. Six...characterized growth as 'moderate.' The other regions reported somewhat slower expansion....The survey found no clear evidence that the economy is expanding so fast that the Fed might soon need to begin raising interest rates to prevent inflation....The survey, known as the Beige Book, is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered with other data when Fed policymakers next meet Sept. 16-17." Martin Crutsinger in the Associated Press.

Explainer: We read the Fed's most recent Beige Book, so you won't have to. Sarah Portlock in The Wall Street Journal.

Strong factory orders, auto sales brighten U.S. economic picture. "The Commerce Department said new orders for manufactured goods jumped 10.5 percent in July on robust demand for aircraft and autos, compared to a 1.5 percent rise in June. Orders excluding the volatile transportation category slipped 0.8 percent in July, but that drop followed a 1.4 percent increase the prior month....Separately, industry research firm Autodata Corp said auto sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.53 million units in August, the highest level since January 2006 and above Wall Street's expectations of a 16.6 million-unit pace. The factory and auto sales reports added to employment and housing data in painting an upbeat picture of the economy." Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.

Chart: Watch the U.S. transition from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, in one GIF. Reid Wilson in The Washington Post.

OECD offers boost to fiscal stimulus proponents. "Because cyclical unemployment is the main problem right now in many O.E.C.D. countries, the report said, economic stimulus 'promoting aggregate demand and job creation remains a key policy priority.' Otherwise, the report warned, there is a risk that unemployment caused by economic weakness could eventually lead to structural unemployment as 'the many people who have accumulated long jobless spells, discouragement and loss of human capital make their reintegration more difficult.' Governments could help, the report suggested, by focusing job training and creation on the long-term unemployed who are most at risk of giving up on work." David Jolly in The New York Times.

Unemployment trickles down to poorer workers, study finds. "During recessions, higher-income workers with more education take jobs that are below their qualification level, according to new research. Such underemployment, in turn, leaves fewer job openings for which the so-called lower-skilled workers are qualified....Making a case that several Fed officials, including Chairwoman Janet Yellen, have emphasized in the past, Messrs. Barnichon and Zylberberg argue the U-3 rate is too narrow to capture all of the labor market weakness that has resulted from the recent recession, the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression." Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in The Wall Street Journal.

THOMA: Sagging jobs growth is not just a skills gap. "According to this view, outsourcing is not the main problem. Instead, technological change is the largest driving force behind sagging employment and income trends for workers in the middle and lower half of the income distribution. Often supporting this argument are statistics showing that while manufacturing employment has dropped considerably, the total value of manufacturing production has not. Just as much or more is being produced, but by machines instead of people. However, new work by Autor and several prominent co-authors calls this into question as the primary explanation for employment trends since 2000." Mark Thoma in CBS News.

Strange cat interlude: This cat has a strange way of drinking water from a faucet.

3. The end of an era of meteoric health-care spending growth?

Health care spending to rise again, but not as fast as in past. "Numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show that spending growth last year is expected to have remained very low by historical standards at just 3.6 percent. (The final data have yet to come in.) In 2014, as the economy gains steam and the Affordable Care Act’s main coverage provisions kick in, that increase is expected to be 5.6 percent. But even the higher number is nearly 2 percentage points lower than what the CMS Office of the Actuary estimated two years ago. And it’s well below the average 7.2 percent annual growth from 1990 to 2008....There’s still reason for concern, however. Almost any rise in health care spending remains a threat over the long run to federal finances." Brett Norman in Politico.

Why CMS actuaries think health spending growth will be slower. "One of those reasons is the greater prevalence of high-deductible health plans, which are supposed to make people more careful users of health-care services since they bear more of the cost. Further, the growth in how much Medicare spends per beneficiary has been historically low in recent years, though the actuary expects that will eventually return to normal levels. Drug spending also isn't expected to hit previously high levels as generics become more widely available, though the expected rise in expensive specialty drugs will drive the spending increase, officials said." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Per capita Medicare spending is actually falling. "The starkness of the pattern has been obscured because the budget office does not generally adjust its numbers for inflation. So its official charts — and other charts based on them — can mislead when it comes to future costs because they show increases that are simply a reflection of economy-wide inflation. Adjusted to reflect the value of a dollar, Medicare spending has not been rising and is not projected to rise in the next few years. The only other time cost growth has ever stayed below zero was in the late 1990s, when Congress made substantial cuts to Medicare spending. Then, the trend lasted for three years. This time, the budget office expects it to be more enduring." Margot Sanger-Katz in The New York Times.

Another way of looking at it: Health spending to exceed $5T in 2023. "U.S. healthcare spending will rise to $5.2 trillion by 2023 as the economy grows and baby boomers become eligible for Medicare, government actuaries said Wednesday. The new forecast from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) showed total health spending will rise to about one-fifth of the economy in nine years compared with 17.2 percent in 2012." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Other health care reads:

CVS to implement its tobacco sales ban early. Michelle Fay Cortez and Kristen Hallam in Bloomberg.

Can Big Data and patient informed consent coexist? Arthur Allen in Politico.

Texas abortion clinic to reopen after ruling. Erik Eckholm in The New York Times.

VA rules may enable benefits long denied to Vietnam War veterans. Dave Philipps in The New York Times.

Baby interlude: 7-week-old baby hears mother for first time after getting hearing aids.

4. What's happening with bank regulations?

Agencies approve new suite of banking rules. "U.S. regulators set requirements for the amount of high-quality, liquid assets big banks must stockpile to survive a 30-day liquidity drought, taking a major step in efforts to prevent a repeat of the 2008 credit crisis....The agencies also proposed a rule on collateral for swaps traded outside of clearinghouses and wrapped up rules on how much loss-absorbing capital must be held against total assets. The liquidity and leverage-ratio rules are based on accords reached by the 27-nation Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. They’re meant to keep banks running in a crisis by limiting how indebted they can get and demanding they hold stable assets such as Treasuries, corporate debt and stocks." Jesse Hamilton in Bloomberg.

Bank-liquidity rule reflects Dodd-Frank requirements. "The 15 largest banks — those with more than $250 billion in assets — will have to hold enough cash, government bonds and other high-quality assets to fund operations for 30 days during a time of market stress. Smaller banks...will have to keep enough to cover 21 days. Banks with less than $50 billion in assets and nonbank financial firms deemed by regulators as posing a potential threat to the system will not be subject to the requirements....Fed officials say the rules are stronger than new international standards for banks....The requirements were called for by Congress in the sweeping overhaul law responding to the 2008 financial crisis." Marcy Gordon in the Associated Press.

How the derivatives rule aims to curtail risk buildup. "The 2008 crisis revealed how flaws in the market had allowed for dangerous buildups of risk at large Wall Street firms and worsened the run on the banking system. Since then, regulators have been trying to make the derivatives market less risky. The rule proposed on Wednesday focuses on margin payments, which traders in derivatives make to each other to protect against the risk that they don’t get paid what they are owed. Such margin payments add discipline to a high-octane trading activity and make it more likely that derivatives traders can bear losses if one large entity collapses. But the industry, seeking to minimize its costs, has not applied margin requirements evenly across the system. The proposed rule aims to change that." Peter Eavis in The New York Times.

Top bank investigator at DOJ to leave agency. "Tony West, a senior U.S. Justice Department official who oversaw investigations into bank mortgage practices tied to the 2007-2009 financial crisis and negotiated more than $36 billion in payouts, is leaving the agency....West...came to the Justice Department in 2009 to lead the civil division, and was later promoted to the position of associate attorney general. He helped coordinate state and federal investigations into mortgage securities that banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp had sold in the run-up to the financial crisis." Julia Edwards and Aruna Viswanatha in Reuters.

Other business/financial reads:

House GOP moves toward Export-Import Bank deal. John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman in Politico.

Commerzbank close to settling U.S. sanctions probe. Karen Freifeld in Reuters.

Path of stolen credit cards leads back to Home Depot. Nicole Perlroth in The New York Times.

How taxpayers subsidize Freddie Mac. Joe Light in The Wall Street Journal.

China's anti-monopoly push creates anxiety for U.S. businesses. Dexter Roberts in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Animal attack interlude: Watch this ram take down a drone.

5. America's mounting food problem

USDA: More jobs, but little change in number of 'food-insecure.' "The agency says that about 17.5 million families — or 1 in 7 — were food insecure last year....In 2012, the number was 17.6 million. The number of households experiencing what the government calls 'very low food security' — which means people actually miss meals or cut back their intake because they don't have enough money for food — was also essentially unchanged last year at 6.8 million households....USDA sociologist Alisha Coleman-Jensen, an author of the report, says the numbers have not declined as much as one might expect with a drop in unemployment, because higher food prices and inflation last year offset the benefits of a brighter job market." Pam Fessler in NPR.

Another study: America's growing food-inequality problem. "On the one hand, the analysis found that the American diet, on the whole, improved...'from 1999 through 2010,'...suggesting that Americans are likely responding to recent nutrition education efforts. That's consistent with a number of macroeconomic food trends, including America's shift away from soda. But that improvement, however encouraging, doesn't appear to be happening society-wide. Americans in the top socioeconomic tier are leading the charge while Americans in the bottom tier are being left behind." Roberto A. Ferdman in The Washington Post.

ICYMI:

Tens of millions of Americans — and 620,000 military households — relied on food pantries last year. Pam Fessler in NPR.

Food-stamp use shows continued "underemployment" pain. Tim Henderson in Pew Stateline.

'To-do list' on food safety grows larger for agencies. "The 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was billed as creating a fundamental shift in the way government protects the nation’s food supply against the threat of food-borne illness. But despite bipartisan and industry support for the program, only a fraction of the funding needed to implement and enforce it has materialized. Now, with most fiscal 2015 funding issues likely in limbo until after the midterm elections, uncertainty remains. Without additional funding, priorities of the ambitious initiative could fall short, public interest groups fear." Benjamin Goad in The Hill.

Other food policy reads:

Profile: Monsanto, under attack for GMOs, has a new defender. Jacob Bunge in The Wall Street Journal.

Money begins to flow in Oregon over its GMO ballot measure. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

Relaxation interlude: Dog gets a massage.

Wonkblog roundup

The housing bust turned more renters and homeowners into neighbors. Emily Badger.

The end of health care’s historic spending slowdown is near. Jason Millman.

Can a new $76 million net under the Golden Gate Bridge really prevent suicides? Keith Humphreys.

America is slowly — but surely — becoming a nation of tea drinkers. Roberto A. Ferdman.

20 states bar cities from building their own Internet. Netflix wants the FCC to change that. Brian Fung.

Mapping the counties where public-school children still remain segregated. Emily Badger.

After quitting tobacco, CVS makes its next health-care moves. Jason Millman.

OECD: America’s job market is better than most. Ylan Q. Mui.

Et Cetera

Justice Department to probe Ferguson police force. Sari Horwitz, Carol D. Leonnig and Kimberly Kindy in The Washington Post.

Federal agencies flooded with comments on new rules. Gautham Nagesh in The Wall Street Journal.

Louisana same-sex marriage ban survives federal court challenge. Lyle Denniston in SCOTUSblog.

U.S. and Europe struggle with response to a bold Russia. Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger in The New York Times.

EPA looking at new mandates on methane. Jennifer A. Dlouhy in the Houston Chronicle.

Obama spy chief comes out in favor of NSA reform. Dustin Volz in National Journal.

Long read: Welcome to the Uber wars. Andrew Zaleski in Politico Magazine.

Minimum-wage hike makes Arkansas ballot. Reid Wilson in The Washington Post.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.

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