In a scathing editorial this week, The Oregonian called on Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber -- a Democrat whom the paper has supported for decades -- to step down following revelations that he may have allowed his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, to use her position for private gain and professional advancement.
"To recite every reported instance in which Hayes, ostensibly under Kitzhaber's watchful eye, has used public resources, including public employee time and her 'first lady' title, in pursuit of professional gain would require far more space than we have here," the editors wrote. "Suffice it to say there's a pattern, and the person who bears the responsibility for allowing it to form and persist is Kitzhaber, who should know better. After all, as he pointed out during Friday's press conference, he's been serving in public office on and off since the 1970s."
That press conference was in response to reporting by the paper revealing that Hayes had been paid as a consultant for advocacy organizations while she was working as an unpaid adviser on energy policy to Kitzhaber's office, and that the two men who arranged these gigs for her subsequently got jobs in the administration.
Hayes has left her policy role in the administration, and the governor has said that his office took steps to separate Hayes's work as a paid consultant and her public duties. He has said he has no intention of resigning and intends to do the job Oregon's citizens elected him to do.
"For a newspaper editorial board to call for a governor's resignation is rare," notes The Washington Post's Hunter Schwarz.
What's in Wonkbook: 1) The immigration stalemate 2) Opinions, including Gerson and Strassel on vaccines and the G.O.P. primary 3) Conservatives object to climate science in the classroom, and more
Number of the day: $57 trillion. That's the increase in global public and private debt since the financial crisis, according to a new report from McKinsey. Neil Irwin in The New York Times.
1. Top story: Congress at impasse on immigration
It's unclear whether and how lawmakers will extend funding for border security past this month. "With just two legislative weeks to go before the Homeland Security Department shuts down, Republicans still don't have a plan. For the third time, Democrats blocked a funding bill that would keep the department running on Thursday, and they show no signs of letting up. If Democrats remain unwilling to accept anything less than a clean DHS bill—with no provisions blocking President Obama's executive actions on immigration—Republicans will be forced to pick from an arsenal of limited options. And of those that remain, none look good for the GOP. If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a plan, he isn't sharing it with his members, much less the public. Sen. John Thune, McConnell's number three, said Thursday that his party's strategy had 'yet to be determined' and called it 'a work in progress,' while Sen. Jeff Flake said simply: 'We don't know yet.' " Sarah Mimms and Lauren Fox in National Journal.
Democrats criticizing Republicans' refusal to extend funding are citing the risk of terrorism. "The strategy, which draws on recent global events, raises questions about how long Republicans can keep up their fight against President Obama before facing a backlash from an American public that is increasingly wary of terrorism. It also reshuffles the usual politics, in which the GOP has tended to be the party more aggressively appealing to worries about national security." Sean Sullivan in The Washington Post.
So what would happen if Homeland Security shuts down? "Of the more than 230,000 employees who work for DHS, the vast majority — around 200,000 — would continue to work, but without paychecks. The 'essential' employees who would remain on the job include the department's 40,000 border patrol and customs officers, 50,000 TSA screeners, 13,000 immigration law enforcement officers, 40,000 active duty Coast Guard members, and 4,000 Secret Service agents. Those workers would be nearly certain to be paid eventually, as lawmakers have routinely approved retroactive compensation after other government shutdowns. ... In an ironic twist, a funding lapse at DHS would not stop the Obama immigration programs that Republicans are fighting to stop. Because the programs offering deportation relief and work permits to certain illegal immigrants are funded through fees, they'd continue even in a shutdown." Justin Sink in The Hill.
2. Top opinions
GERSON: Why is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) so unpredictable? "When Chris Christie commits a gaffe on vaccination and reverses himself, it indicates a man out of his depth. With Paul, it reveals the unexplored depths of a highly ideological and conspiratorial worldview. ... His domestic libertarianism provides no philosophical foundation for most of the federal government. As a practical matter, he can call for the end of Obamacare but not for the abolition of Medicare or Medicaid or the National Institutes of Health. Yet these concessions to reality are fundamentally arbitrary. The only principle guiding Paul's selectivity is the avoidance of gaffes. Of which he is not always the best judge." The Washington Post.
STRASSEL: What's Chris Christie's plan, and what are his beliefs? "Chris Christie's burbling and backtracking on vaccines this week led to another round of debate over whether the New Jersey governor is presidential material. ... Mr. Christie's bigger problem with a conservative primary electorate won't be his words; it will be what he’s describing with them. His warm-up presidential speeches have been vague—heavy on personality and the need for 'leadership' and 'renewal.' This is partly a function of early days in a presidential campaign, but it's also a tacit acknowledgment that Mr. Christie’s policy record—by comparison with some other would-be GOP contenders—is relatively thin." The Wall Street Journal.
EGAN: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is to blame for the money Americans waste on fraudulent supplements. "To understand how we got here, you have to go back to 1994, when Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah midwifed through Congress a new industry protected from all but minimal regulation. It is also an industry that would make many of his closest associates and family members rich. In turn, they've rewarded him with sizable campaign contributions. Even though serious illnesses, and some deaths are on the rise from misuse of these supplements, Hatch is determined to keep regulators at bay." The New York Times.
NOAH SMITH: Defining the middle class is impossible. "I've come to the conclusion that middle class is more of a state of mind than an income threshold. 'Middle class' basically means a feeling of being in a similar economic situation to the people around you, combined with a sense of overall optimism and security about that economic situation. In other words, if you think 'I'm doing O.K., and most people around me are doing O.K. too,' you're in the middle class. That's why inequality kills the idea of a middle class, even if it improves people's standard of living overall. When everyone makes $50,000 a year, it's easy to tell that you're middle class. If half of those people suddenly start making $150,000 a year, it's no longer so easy." Bloomberg View.
BOUIE: The new G.O.P. proposal just isn't a plausible replacement for Obamacare. "The consequences of the proposal are straightforward: By ending Obamacare in its entirety and placing limits on Medicaid, it would eliminate insurance for millions of Americans and make it harder for middle- and working-class people to purchase coverage. And while it's described as a plan to save money, the truth is that it accomplishes this by reducing care for the poor and raising costs on everyone else. In other words, this isn't a plan to achieve universal coverage. That's simply not a Republican goal, and it's part of the reason it has proven politically difficult to craft an alternative." Slate.
Republicans' goal should be to restore state authority over health insurance. "This would reintroduce competition in the design of health plans, instead of forcing consumers into the Washington-designed plan imposed in the exchanges. Right now, the only thing that varies among ObamaCare's different metal plans (bronze, silver, gold) is the cost sharing. The actual benefits—the narrow doctor networks and closed drug formularies—are basically the same." Scott Gottlieb and Tevi Troy in The Wall Street Journal.
YGLESIAS: Jeb Bush's speech addressed local policy, not federal policy. "The good news is that Bush's mayoral campaign really did launch with a smart speech. In theory, he could start applying that intelligence to national issues. But the risk is that he'll just robotically apply local government insights to the federal situation. ... The big question in state/local government is how to spend middle class people's money wisely on services that are better provided collectively than on the free market. But the big question in the federal government is how much money to redistribute from the rich/young/healthy to the poor/old/sick. These are totally different questions, and Jeb isn't even bothering to answer the second one." Vox.
3. In case you missed it
Hackers are targeting a weak point: the health-care sector. "Hackers gained access to the private data of 80 million former and current members and employees of Anthem in one of the largest medical-related cyber-intrusions in history. ... Security experts said health care has become one of the ripest targets for hackers because of its vast stores of lucrative financial and medical information. Health insurers and hospitals, they added, have often struggled to mount the kinds of defenses used by large financial or retail companies, leaving key medical information vulnerable." Drew Harwell and Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post.
Some conservatives are fighting to keep climate science out of classrooms. "In Wyoming last year and in South Carolina in 2012, legislators banned public schools from implementing national teaching standards that treat human-caused global warming as settled science. ... In West Virginia the state school board adopted standards based on the Next Generation framework in November, but modified the language at the request of L. Wade Linger, a board member who runs an information technology company in Fairmont. One tweak added a reference to Milankovitch cycles, long-term shifts in the earth’s orbit that some climate change skeptics—though few scientists—have blamed for rising temperatures." Alex Nussbaum for Bloomberg.
Did quantitative easing accomplish anything? "Eric Rosengren, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, gave a speech in Frankfurt on Thursday arguing that the Fed's full employment mandate gave the central bank more flexibility to be aggressive earlier, and that open-ended programmes that are tied to economic targets are more effective than purchases of predetermined size and duration. Nothing novel there. But his speech also contained, perhaps inadvertently, some interesting arguments that the rounds of bond-buying after the acute phase of the financial crisis did little for the real economy." Matthew C. Klein in The Financial Times.