Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara (@pkollipara). 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. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 104. That's the average number of unaccompanied child migrants apprehended at the border each day in August, less than a third the rate in May and June.
Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: Buckets of ice brought in more funding for ALS research in 30 days than the government gave in a year.
Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Labor policy debates on Labor Day; (2) the post-Labor Day election season begins; (3) the latest on the Ebola crisis; (4) which GOP-governed states will Medicaid expand next?; and (5) the global effects of the U.S. oil boom.
1. Top story: The troubling state of labor
How are labor markets doing? It may take 24 indicators to know. "It was long ago...measuring the share of the workforce that was looking for a job was a perfectly acceptable way of determining the health of the country’s labor market....But that number has gotten a lot murkier since the Great Recession. A falling unemployment rate might be bad if it’s the result of people dropping out of the workforce because they’re given up hope of finding a job. A rising unemployment rate might be good if it means a strong economy is encouraging workers to start looking again. So economists...soon realized that one statistic wasn’t going to cut it. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen cited several more in a speech last year, including the number of jobs being created, the rate at which workers voluntarily quit their jobs, and the size of the labor force. Since then, the list has grown even longer." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.
Explainer: America's fastest-growing jobs. Robert Serenbetz in Time Magazine.
That 40-hour workweek is a lot more than 40 hours. "Full-time American workers labor the equivalent of nearly an additional day each week, averaging 47 hours instead of the standard 40, according to Gallup poll results released Friday. Just 42% of full-time employees work 40 hours a week, the traditional total based on five 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. workdays, Gallup said of findings it released ahead of the Labor Day weekend. Nearly the same percentage — 39% — say they work at least 50 hours a week. And almost one in five Americans, or 18%, said their workweek stretched 60 hours or more." Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times.
The changing face of temp working. "The work of temping has changed vastly — today 42 percent of temporary workers labor in light industry or warehouses. And there are more of them. The number of workers employed through temp agencies has climbed to a new high — 2.87 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they represent a record share of the nation’s work force, 2 percent. Labor groups fret that the trend signals the decline of full-time and permanent jobs with good benefits. But what is happening with temp employment is no sharp break with the past." Steven Greenhouse in The New York Times.
More workers say they see wage theft. "A flood of recent cases...accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips. Worker advocates call these practices 'wage theft,' insisting it has become far too prevalent. Some federal and state officials agree. They assert that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before, pointing to the record number of enforcement actions they have pursued. They complain that more employers...are flouting wage laws. Many business groups counter that government officials have drummed up a flurry of wage enforcement actions, largely to score points with union allies." Steven Greenhouse in The New York Times.
Obama to hike pay for federal workers by 1 pct. in 2015. But unions aren't happy. "The National Treasury Employees Union...said agency personnel deserve a greater rate increase....Federal pay rates automatically rise each year by a certain percentage under a complex formula...unless Congress or the president take action to implement an alternative plan....The statutory pay increases for 2015 would have amounted to 1.8 percent for uniformed personnel and 1.3 percent for civilians if Obama had not proposed an alternative plan. In January, federal workers received their first across-the-board pay raise in three years because of the 1 percent increase that Obama implemented in late December." Josh Hicks in The Washington Post.
White House, unions continue to push for a higher minimum-wage. "The White House and union leaders are using Labor Day reinvigorate efforts to raise the minimum wage. Legislation to increase the federal pay floor from $7.25 an hour stalled in Congress this spring, but Democrats hope the issue will resonate with voters in November, especially in states with closely contested Senate races....Congress has not heeded the president’s call. A bill that would have lifted the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour failed to pass the Senate earlier this year. And Republican House Speaker John Boehner indicated a similar measure wouldn’t be introduced in his chamber, arguing raising the wage will cost the country jobs." Eric Morath in The Wall Street Journal.
What better place for a labor-focused speech than in Wisconsin, a labor policy hotbed. "President Obama on Monday renewed his call to raise the federal minimum wage and to protect the right to equal pay for women as the midterm elections come into sight. In spite of opposition from Republicans, Mr. Obama said...his goal is to make sure all Americans can meet simple goals, like being able to pay their bills and send their children to school....Wisconsin has been a battleground for labor unions in recent years. In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a law limiting the collective bargaining rights of public workers, a measure that drew thousands to the State Capitol in protest in 2011." Emmarie Huetteman in The New York Times.
The best state for labor unions: New York. "Labor Day began in New York City....Since then, unions’ influence has ebbed. But in New York, labor unions maintain more power, and more membership, than they do in any other state. More than a quarter of all workers in New York are represented by unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest rate in America. Alaska and Hawaii are the only other states where more than 20 percent of the workforce is represented by unions....Labor unions’ strength in the Empire State comes from a long reliance on the manufacturing sector." Reid Wilson in The Washington Post.
Interview: Rich Yeselson on whether unions are dead — no, but their power has declined. Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.
Charts: The decline of labor unions, especially in the U.S. Danielle Kurtzleben in Vox.
More fast-food worker strikes this week. "The next round of strikes by fast-food workers demanding higher wages is scheduled for Thursday, and this time labor organizers plan to increase the pressure by staging widespread civil disobedience and having thousands of home-care workers join the protests. The organizers say fast-food workers — who are seeking a $15 hourly wage — will go on strike at restaurants in more than 100 cities and engage in sit-ins in more than a dozen cities. But by having home-care workers join, workers and union leaders hope to expand their campaign into a broader movement." Steven Greenhouse in The New York Times.
With inflation pressures easing, Fed can focus more on jobs. "Inflation pressures have eased after a brief run-up this spring, giving the Federal Reserve more latitude to focus on bringing down high unemployment. Consumer prices rose just 1.6% in July from a year earlier, the Commerce Department said Friday. Excluding volatile food and energy components, so-called core prices rose 1.5% year-over-year. Each measure climbed 0.1% from the prior month. The report marked the final reading of the Fed's preferred inflation gauge, the price index for personal consumption expenditures, before central bankers head into their Sept. 16-17 policy meeting. Most signs point to benign inflation pressures." Josh Mitchell in The Wall Street Journal.
KLEIN: In America, Labor Day is a lie. "A simple place to start the discussion of rights and wrongs is with Labor Day itself. Labor Day is a federal holiday, which means that federal employees get the day off, and some federally chartered businesses have to give their employees the day off. But there's no guarantee that workers in private businesses will get the day off with pay — Time reports that data collected by Bloomberg BNA shows roughly 40 percent of employers require some employees to come into work on Labor Day." Ezra Klein in Vox.
MARTELLE: Why Americans support both unions and right-to-work laws. "In a sense, they have lost the PR battle for the hearts and minds of the nation’s workers. Too many people distrust unions, buying into the perceptions of corruption — does anyone really think thievery among union officials is more pervasive than among Wall Street and corporate executives? — and loss of workplace flexibility. The Gallup poll, though, also found that many Americans just don’t like being forced to join an organization against their will, even if they support the organization itself. It comes down to perceptions of fairness....That’s a reality the union movement needs to digest." Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times.
SAMUELSON: Workers are at the mercy of markets. "What’s ultimately at stake is the Great Recession’s lasting effect on labor markets. Are they in the process of reverting to their modern role, promoting steadier employment and higher living standards? Or has there been a major break from the past, ushering in a harsher, more arbitrary system whose outlines are still faint? On this Labor Day, the verdict is unclear." Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post.
FOX: What unions no longer do. "The decline of unions in the U.S. has often been painted as inevitable, or at least necessary for American businesses to remain internationally competitive. There are definitely industries where this account seems accurate. Globally, though, the link between unionization and competitiveness is actually pretty tenuous....And even if the decline of unions was inevitable or desirable, that still leaves those tasks unions once accomplished — which on the whole seem like things that are good for society, and good for business — unattended to. Who’s going to do them now?" Justin Fox in Harvard Business Review.
BROUGHTON: When Labor Day meant something. "Somewhere along the line, Labor Day lost its meaning. Today the holiday stands for little more than the end of summer and the start of school, weekend-long sales, and maybe a barbecue or parade. It is no longer political. Many politicians and commentators do their best to avoid any mention of organized labor when observing the holiday, maybe giving an obligatory nod to that abstract entity, 'the American Worker.' Labor Day, though, was meant to honor not just the individual worker, but what workers accomplish together through activism and organizing." Chad Broughton in The Atlantic.
STIGLITZ: Democracy in the 21st century. "Thus, Piketty’s forecast of still higher levels of inequality does not reflect the inexorable laws of economics. Simple changes...would reduce inequality and increase equality of opportunity markedly. If we get the rules of the game right, we might even be able to restore the rapid and shared economic growth that characterized the middle-class societies of the mid-twentieth century. The main question confronting us today is not really about capital in the twenty-first century. It is about democracy in the twenty-first century." Joseph E. Stiglitz in Project Syndicate.
KRUGMAN: A Medicare miracle. "What’s the moral here? For years, pundits and politicians have insisted that guaranteed health care is an impossible dream, even though every other advanced country has it. Covering the uninsured was supposed to be unaffordable; Medicare as we know it was supposed to be unsustainable. But it turns out that incremental steps to improve incentives and reduce costs can achieve a lot, and covering the uninsured isn’t hard at all. When it comes to ensuring that Americans have access to health care, the message of the data is simple: Yes, we can." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.
WILLIAMSON: What to do about wages. "The Left thinks that inequality is not a mere measure of relative incomes or wealth but something that does things in the world, something that acts — and not only acts but acts decisively, determining Americans’ economic prospects. This sort of flatly preposterous analysis is the unfortunate effect of mistaking the map for the territory and the model for the thing modeled, the kind of magical thinking that causes people to believe that Superman could turn back time by reversing the rotation of the Earth. That leads to the sort of silly writing exemplified above, but it also leads to bad policy ideas." Kevin D. Williamson in National Review.
KIM AND FARMER: What's missing in the Ebola fight in West Africa. "As international groups pull staff from the three countries, airlines suspend commercial flights and neighboring countries close their borders, some have argued that it will be next to impossible to contain the outbreak — that public health systems are too weak, the cost of providing effective care too high and health workers too scarce. But Ebola has been stopped in every other outbreak to date, and it can be stopped in West Africa, too. The crisis we are watching unfold derives less from the virus itself and more from deadly and misinformed biases that have led to a disastrously inadequate response to the outbreak. These biases, tragically, live on, despite evidence that disproves them again and again." Jim Yong Kim and Paul Farmer in The Washington Post.
EPP AND MOODY: How to rebuild trust between African-Americans and police. "Police seek to justify investigatory stops as a way to fight crime proactively in high-crime areas, and it is true that these stops occasionally uncover illegal drugs and weapons. But this comes at a cost of stopping large numbers of innocent people. This 'numbers game,' as police sometimes call it, sacrifices the dignity and trust of hundreds who are innocent to find one who is guilty. There is a way forward: Rein in investigatory stops. African Americans resent not so much the police but a particular type of police activity." Charles Epp and Steven Maynard-Moody in The Washington Post.
KAHLENBERG AND POTTER: The original charter-school vision. "This new band of smarter charter schools could move us beyond stale debates and back toward the original purpose of charter schools: to build powerful models from which the larger system of public education can learn. To be effective laboratories for reform, charter schools cannot be seen as hostile to traditional public schools. Good laboratories also need to give teachers the authority to suggest new approaches and the security to experiment without fear. And because charter schools don’t automatically reflect residential segregation patterns, they should be at the forefront of experimenting with how best to realize our nation’s enduring goal of making one out of many." Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter in The New York Times.
Animals interlude: These cats think they're liquids.
2. Let the post-Labor Day election marathon begin
It might sound stupid, but maybe it isn't the economy this time. "Wait. What? The economy is not the No. 1 issue? That's right. Gallup pollsters asked voters what was important, and the No. 1 topic turned out to be dissatisfaction with politicians. No. 2 was immigration. The economy had slipped to No. 3. Given the depth of the recession and slow motion of the recovery, it can be almost jarring to realize that the U.S. economy no longer is in crisis mode. Despite a setback amid harsh weather this past winter, economists now say the recovery is advancing at a good clip." Marilyn Geewax in NPR.
Explainer: 8 questions and answers about the midterm elections. Dan Balz in The Washington Post.
Maybe we won't throw the bums out, either... "A surly electorate that holds Congress in even lower regard than unpopular President Barack Obama is willing to 'keep the bums in,' with at least 365 incumbents in the 435-member House and 18 of 28 senators on a glide path to another term when ballots are counted Nov. 4....Republicans and Democrats who assess this fall's midterm contests say the power of incumbency — the decennial process of reconfiguring congressional maps and hefty fundraising — trumps the sour public mood and antipathy toward gridlocked Washington....That leaves many voters angry, not only with the political reality but their inability to change it." Donna Cassata in the Associated Press.
...or get rid of the gridlock. "If anything, the results of this year's congressional races could push the two major parties even further apart, leaving President Barack Obama struggling to accomplish much more of lasting significance....Even if the GOP takes over the Senate, the margin is expected to be exceedingly narrow, positioning the party to stymie Obama and congressional Democrats but unable to do much to advance its own agenda. Mark Z. Barabak in the Los Angeles Times.
Chart: Where the candidates stand, using a new political rating system. David Leonhardt in The New York Times.
The elections may prompt Team Obama to stall its immigration plans. "White House officials are locked in an intense debate over whether President Barack Obama should announce a plan to defer deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants before Election Day — mindful that whichever choice they make could be tagged as the reason that Democrats lost the Senate. The problem: a lack of consensus, both inside and outside the West Wing, on the political ramifications. With the most endangered Senate Democrats faring better than expected heading into Labor Day, each option carries risks that could shake up the political environment — in essence, creating a September or October surprise." Carrie Budoff Brown in Politico.
Why a government shutdown is so unlikely. "Seizing on comments from Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Steve King, Democrats have been advancing the possibility that Republicans will push the economy to the brink....The move would be electoral suicide for Republicans, which is precisely why the notion is so appealing for Democrats — and precisely why it is so unlikely to happen....Democrats, however, say that sounds familiar." Daniel Newhauser in National Journal.
Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates. "Wealthy political contributors have more access than ever to candidates since the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. More than 300 donors have seized the opportunity, writing checks at such a furious pace that they have exceeded the old limit of $123,200 for this election cycle, according to campaign finance data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization....Together, 310 donors gave a combined $11.6 million more by this summer than would have been allowed before the ruling. Their contributions favored Republican candidates and committees over Democratic ones by 2 to 1." Matea Gold in The Washington Post.
What might a GOP Senate do? "Senate Republicans are starting to plan an agenda intended to extract policy concessions from President Barack Obama without inducing the capital's market-rattling brinkmanship of recent years. Republican senators say the emerging plans aim to show voters that the party can successfully govern—enacting GOP policy while avoiding a sharply confrontational tone that some Republicans fear could endanger the party's electoral prospects in 2016. Some of the top goals include approving the Keystone XL pipeline, passing accelerated rules for overseas trade agreements, speeding up federal reviews of natural-gas exports and repealing the 2010 health law's medical-device tax." Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.
Other political reads:
Both sides cite discrimination in battle over Texas voter ID law. Manny Fernandez in The New York Times.
Random acts of kindness interlude: These firefighters' act of kindness has gone viral.
3. The latest on the Ebola outbreak
The virus just keeps spreading. Now it's reaching big cities. "Already, the hardest-hit West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have reported more than 3,000 cases, including the infections of 240 health-care workers. Ebola is now spreading from the remote provinces and into the teeming cities such as Freetown, where 1.2 million people jostle for space. Previous outbreaks had been limited to remote villages, where containment was aided by geography. The thought of Ebola taking hold in a major city such as Freetown or Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, is a virological nightmare. Last week, the World Health Organization warned that the number of cases could hit 20,000 in West Africa." Todd C. Frankel in The Washington Post.
Amid hysteria... "Unusual tactics and inventive thinking will be needed to beat West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, according to some of the world’s top experts in disease eradication....Leadership must be imposed, the experts said, perhaps with a West African in charge. Donors must commit at least $500 million. And a new strategy is needed, with the first priority being to stop the panic caused by imprisoning residents of the affected countries behind barbed wire and roadblocks. The outbreak will not end, they argued, until average citizens calm down and help their infected neighbors instead of fleeing from them." Donald G. McNeil Jr. in The New York Times.
...signs of hope with experimental drug. "As the Ebola outbreak spread to a fifth African country Friday, researchers announced that the experimental drug pressed into emergency use in recent weeks had cured a group of 18 monkeys of the deadly disease, including some that didn’t receive the treatment for five days after they were injected with the virus. The research raised new hope for the eventual use of the cocktail of monoclonal antibodies against Ebola, which has no cure or vaccine....The treatment has not been tested on humans, although it was given on an emergency basis to seven people who fell ill in recent weeks, including two American missionaries who recovered....The small supply of the drug, perhaps 20 doses, is exhausted." Lenny Bernstein, Abby Ohlheiser, and Abby Phillip in The Washington Post.
Ebola preparations arrive at a campus near you. "College students from West Africa may be subject to extra health checks when they arrive to study in the United States as administrators try to insulate campuses from the worst Ebola outbreak in history. With the virus continuing to kill in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, the expected arrival of thousands of students from those countries has U.S. authorities on alert but cautioning against alarm....While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued no specific recommendations for colleges, some state health departments, including in South Carolina and North Dakota, have spelled out for administrators what symptoms to look for and how to react." Carolyn Thompson in Associated Press.
Astronomy interlude: Check out this flurry of flares from the Sun.
4. Which GOP-governed states will expand Medicaid next?
23 states still haven’t expanded Medicaid. Which could be next? Thursday's announcement that Pennsylvania will expand its Medicaid program brings the country one state closer to the original expansion outlined under Obamacare. But because of the Supreme Court's 2012 decision making the expansion a voluntary program, there are still 23 states that haven't expanded public health insurance to all of their low-income residents.The expansion in Pennsylvania will add about 500,000 low-income to adults to the Medicaid rolls. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.
Obama keeps working with GOP governors on Medicaid. But what types of expansion won't the administration sign off on? "The Obama administration hasn't signed off on all the changes that Republican administrations have requested. Medicaid is meant to be a safety-net program and certain changes — like putting a cap on how many people can sign up, for example, or significantly increasing enrollees costs — are unlikely to get federal sign-off. The Pennsylvania experience is the starkest example of that, as the Obama administration starkly rejected Corbett's proposal to tie Medicaid eligibility to a beneficiary's employment status. That would be a huge change to the Medicaid program." Sarah Kliff in Vox.
Explainer: 23 states still haven’t expanded Medicaid. Which could be next? Jason Millman in The Washington Post.
Chart: The 10 largest states not expanding Medicaid leave 3.6 million without insurance. Sarah Kliff in Vox.
Deep-red Wyoming could make an expansion push. "Few states are as conservative as Wyoming....But even there, state officials are starting to open up to the idea of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. The legislature requested earlier this year that Gov. Matt Mead (R) meet with the Obama administration to discuss the state's options. Mead's office told TPM that the governor met with staff from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the first time in July. Mead said recently that he would present expansion options to the legislature early next year." Dylan Scott in Talking Points Memo.
Tennessee may submit a proposal to D.C. in the fall. "The state may soon submit a proposal to Washington to expand Tennessee's Medicaid program but did not release any new details on how it might work. This would be the first time for the governor to actually submit a plan. If approved by federal officials and the state legislature, the plan would help Tennesseans caught in the coverage gap of the Affordable Care Act, which has left 162,000 Tennesseans without health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In March 2013, Haslam ruled out expansion of a traditional Medicaid model and said he favored a plan to leverage federal funds to, instead, help the poor buy private health insurance." Tom Wilemon in The Tennessean.
Arizona's highest court will decide Gov. Brewer's Medicaid expansion. "The Arizona Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge from Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who is seeking to protect the state’s use of federal dollars to expand Medicaid last year....The Medicaid expansion — which was expected to provide coverage to about 300,000 residents — has been the center of a lengthy courtroom battle between Brewer and the leaders of the GOP-controlled House and Senate....Brewer’s position on Medicaid stands in stark contrast to those of the chief executives of states such as Texas and Louisiana." Sarah Ferris in The Washington Post.
Other health care reads:
Court blocks rule that would have closed most of Texas' abortion clinics. Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.
Judge halts enforcement of new Louisiana abortion law. Janet McConnaughey in the Associated Press.
Medicare will settle appeals of short-term care bills. Reed Abelson in The New York Times.
Coverage for end-of-life talks gaining ground. Pam Belluck in The New York Times.
Doctors are changing their business models. Lisa Zamosky in the Los Angeles Times.
Smaller military hospitals said to put patients at risk. Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew W. Lehren in The New York Times.
Balancing act interlude: This dog is good at balancing fruits and vegetables on its head.
5. The American oil boom's global reach
Oil production in the Permian Basin to drive down prices. "One of the state's oldest oil fields, the Permian Basin in West Texas, is booming again, thanks to advanced technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. And Permian oil output shows no signs of stopping at its current 1.7 million barrels a day....The hot, new Bakken oil field in North Dakota pumps about 1 million barrels a day now. The Eagle Ford in South Texas: 1.5 million. The oil flowing from the Permian is so plentiful that it is threatening prices." Russell Gold in The Wall Street Journal.
An oil bonanza in Texas. "The new bonanza has doubled the state’s crude production over the last two years, suddenly making Texas a bigger producer than either Kuwait or Venezuela....Most of the price of gasoline is determined by the world price of crude, now hovering around $100 a barrel. Turmoil in major producer countries like Iraq and Libya does matter. But the new source of American energy means more supply has been added to global markets — almost the exact amount that has been taken off the market at times because of unrest in the Middle East and Africa over the last five years." Clifford Krauss in The New York Times.
World pressure mounts on U.S. to ease ban on most oil exports. "Washington is facing growing international pressure to ease its long standing ban on crude oil exports, with South Korea and Mexico joining the European Union in pressing the case....South Korean President Park Geun-hye told a visiting U.S. delegation of lawmakers on the House of Representatives energy committee on Aug. 11 that tapping into the gusher of ultra-light, sweet crude emerging from places like Texas and North Dakota was a priority, the lawmakers said....In the midst of a shale revolution, the United States is soon expected to surpass both Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer." Valerie Volcovici, Timothy Gardner and Meeyoung Cho in Reuters.
Long read: Amid oil and gas boom, Colorado continues role as earthquake lab. Kevin Simpson in The Denver Post.
Feds' hydraulic fracturing regulations for public lands inches along. "The Obama administration is on track to impose new mandates governing hydraulic fracturing on public land by the end of the year — a move that will test the White House’s ability to appease worried environmentalists while still sustaining the drilling boom bolstering the U.S. economy....It appears unlikely the final rule would be published before the Nov. 4 midterm elections — a benefit to several Senate Democrats in tight reelection contests who have weathered attacks from opponents seeking to tie them to the administration’s energy and environmental policies." Jennifer A. Dlouhy in the Houston Chronicle.
Other energy/environmental reads:
EPA staff recommends significantly lower ozone standard. Neela Banerjee and Tony Barboza in the Los Angeles Times.
Obama pushes green standards for everything but the kitchen sink. Tim Devaney in The Hill.
Solar power set to double for seventh straight year. Zack Colman in the Washington Examiner.
Nuclear waste is above ground indefinitely. Matthew L. Wald in The New York Times.
As BP pays for oil-spill impact, some people aren't seeing the cash. Jeff Brady in NPR.
Confused cat interlude: Watch what happens to this cat that has a laser pointer on its head.
Name That Data winners, week 7. Christopher Ingraham.
Oklahoma’s public schools are starting the year in legal limbo. Max Ehrenfreund.
What your 1st-grade life says about the rest of it. Emily Badger.
Where foreign students are coming from. Roberto A. Ferdman.
Why are Venezuela’s supermarkets so empty? Matt O'Brien.
The White House is spending billions to combat drugs. But drug use keeps rising. Christopher Ingraham.
23 states still haven’t expanded Medicaid. Which could be next? Jason Millman.
Name That Data! Christopher Ingraham.
All you need are 24 indicators to understand the labor market. Ylan Q. Mui.
Food-stamp use starting to fall. Neil Shah in The Wall Street Journal.
Why Ferguson might prompt real change. David Nather in Politico.
NSA phone-data collection program set for legal challenge. Joe Palazzolo in The Wall Street Journal.
Education requirements deter many would-be dreamers. Cindy Carcamo in the Los Angeles Times.
Mexico operations deter child, family migrants. Mark Stevenson in the Associated Press.
Economic sanctions spare Western-tied Russian fund. Jeff Horwitz and Stephen Braun in the Associated Press.
After gun tragedies, Connecticut and Arizona take different paths. Jessica Boehm and and Sarah Ferris in The Washington Post.
Tech looks abroad to keep drones in the air. Tony Romm and Kevin Robillard in Politico.
Education Department revamps contracts with student-loan servicers. Alan Zibel and Josh Mitchell in The Wall Street Journal.
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Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.