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    Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose last week as interest rates declined, an industry group said on Wednesday. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 2.3 percent in the week ended April 17.

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    Sales and profits at Lockheed Martin (LMT) decreased in the first quarter, primarily due to fewer aircraft orders and slower sales in its missiles and information systems business, the company said Tuesday. But chief executive Marillyn Hewson reiterated an optimistic outlook about the future of defense spending, a theme that executives at major defense contractors have adopted in recent earnings calls. “While it is too early to predict the final level of [the 2016] defense budget, it is encouraging that the President and Congress are aligned in their recognition of the need to increase defense spending from the recent constrained level,” she said in a call with analysts. President Obama’s budget request is higher than the limits proposed by the Budget Control Act, which calls for renewed federal spending cuts — known as sequestration — in 2016. Hewson also stressed the company’s pivot to international growth, saying that despite a potential increase in domestic business, it was on target to grow its share of foreign work to 25 percent of total sales in the next few years. Lockheed Martin (LMT) executives have identified international growth as a priority for the company to offset drops in domestic spending.An increasing share of that growth is coming from the company’s information systems segment, Bruce Tanner, Lockheed’s chief financial officer, told analysts. The information segment, which is centered in the Washington region, has seen lower sales than other parts of the business because it is more vulnerable to cuts in federal spending. [Why Lockheed Martin (LMT) is looking abroad]Internationally, cybersecurity is a growing portion of the company’s business, Tanner said. Information technology support, air traffic management and intelligence were three other key areas for Lockheed’s work abroad, he said.After addressing technical challenges, Lockheed plans to deliver 45 F-35 fighter jets to the Pentagon this year and is on track to achieve initial operating capability for the Marine Corps this summer, Hewson said. [Meet the most fascinating part of the F-35: The $400,000 helmet]The company’s space systems and mission systems segment saw an increase in sales for the quarter, due to the commencement of a large Air Force contract known as Space Fence to track space debris floating around the Earth. Lockheed Martin (LMT) recorded sales of $10.1 billion in the first quarter, down from $10.7 billion a year ago, while profit decreased to $878 million or $2.74 per diluted share, from $933 million or $2.87 per diluted share in 2014. The company’s stock price closed down 0.3 percent at $196.3.




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    Sales and profits at Lockheed Martin (LMT) decreased in the first quarter, primarily due to fewer aircraft orders and slower sales in its missiles and information systems business, the company said Tuesday. But chief executive Marillyn Hewson reiterated an optimistic outlook about the future of defense spending, a theme that executives at major defense contractors have adopted in recent earnings calls. “While it is too early to predict the final level of [the 2016] defense budget, it is encouraging that the President and Congress are aligned in their recognition of the need to increase defense spending from the recent constrained level,” she said in a call with analysts. President Obama’s budget request is higher than the limits proposed by the Budget Control Act, which calls for renewed federal spending cuts — known as sequestration — in 2016. Hewson also stressed the company’s pivot to international growth, saying that despite a potential increase in domestic business, it was on target to grow its share of foreign work to 25 percent of total sales in the next few years. Lockheed Martin (LMT) executives have identified international growth as a priority for the company to offset drops in domestic spending.An increasing share of that growth is coming from the company’s information systems segment, Bruce Tanner, Lockheed’s chief financial officer, told analysts. The information segment, which is centered in the Washington region, has seen lower sales than other parts of the business because it is more vulnerable to cuts in federal spending. [Why Lockheed Martin (LMT) is looking abroad]Internationally, cybersecurity is a growing portion of the company’s business, Tanner said. Information technology support, air traffic management and intelligence were three other key areas for Lockheed’s work abroad, he said.After addressing technical challenges, Lockheed plans to deliver 45 F-35 fighter jets to the Pentagon this year and is on track to achieve initial operating capability for the Marine Corps this summer, Hewson said. [Meet the most fascinating part of the F-35: The $400,000 helmet]The company’s space systems and mission systems segment saw an increase in sales for the quarter, due to the commencement of a large Air Force contract known as Space Fence to track space debris floating around the Earth. Lockheed Martin (LMT) recorded sales of $10.1 billion in the first quarter, down from $10.7 billion a year ago, while profit decreased to $878 million or $2.74 per diluted share, from $933 million or $2.87 per diluted share in 2014. The company’s stock price closed down 0.3 percent at $196.3.




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    WASHINGTON-- Lame income growth and weak demand from first-time buyers are big reasons why home sales aren't stronger, economists said Tuesday. "It's strictly a matter of low demand," said David Crowe, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders, a Washington-based trade group, at a forum about the state of the housing market. "There's a significant lack of first-time home buyers."

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    WASHINGTON-- If you think undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes, a new report may cause you to think again. Far from not paying taxes-- as is alleged by critics-- undocumented immigrants paid about $11.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2012, according to a report released late last week by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Here's how that $11.8 billion breaks down, according to the report: Nearly 60% was sales and excise taxes, amounting to more than $7 billion.

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    No one wants to live in South Dakota. It's so bad that the state's hilarious new ad campaign touts the advantages it has over Mars. "Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota?" it asks. The comparison makes sense when you think of it this way: More than 200,000 people applied to be prospective astronauts on the first trips to Mars, which could take place in 2024, if plans go well.

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    The primary goal for moving an aircraft carrier off the coast of Yemen is to protect the free flow of commerce in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, but is also mindful of efforts by Iran to supply arms to Shiite-linked Houthis, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday. There have been numerous reports quoting unnamed Pentagon officials that the USS Theodore Roosevelt is keeping watch over an Iranian flotilla that could be delivering arms to the militants.

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    WASHINGTON-- Anxiety about technology taking away jobs is leading families to invest in homes and other assets, said Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller at a Tuesday housing-market conference in Washington. Machines are replacing people at a "tremendous" rate and inequality is rising, he said during the keynote address at a forum held by the National Association of Realtors. "We have an era of billionaires... and a lot of people feel they are being left behind," Shiller said.

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    Wealthier Kansans are paying much less in taxes after Republican Gov. Sam Brownback cut overhauled the state's income tax a few years ago. Brownback and other Republican officials hoped that more generous policies would stimulate the economy, bringing more revenue into the state's coffers and making up the difference on the bottom line.It didn't work. Kansas's economy has kept expanding at more or less same plodding pace as the rest of the country. And now, according to official estimates released Monday, the state will have at least a $143 million budget shortfall in 2016, and likely more. Lawmakers are looking for a way to plug the hole.One thing they're not considering: asking the wealthy to chip in. Instead, in a legislature that last week barred welfare recipients from using their benefits to go swimming or watch movies, the proposals that look most likely to succeed are sales and excise taxes that would be paid disproportionately by Kansas's poor and working class."You've got policymakers at this point who are unable to embrace the fact that there was a mistake made," said Annie McKay, the executive director of the left-leaning Kansas Center for Economic Growth. The think tank in Topeka argues that the state's deficit can't be eliminated without reversing some of the income tax cuts Brownback made in 2012.Poor and working-class Kansans already carry a heavy burden under the state's tax system, compared to people of modest incomes in most other states. Among the fifth of the Kansas population with the lowest incomes, the average person pays 11.1 percent of what they make in state and local taxes, including sales taxes. Among the wealthiest one in every 100 Kansans, the average tax bill is just 3.6 percent of annual income, according to a recent report from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.People who make less are more vulnerable to increases in sales and excises taxes, since they spend more of their money buying basic goods and services they need to get by. This is especially the case in Kansas, where food is subject to sales tax. Kansans can receive a tax rebate for their food purchases, but those who make nothing or too little, to owe income tax aren't eligible. The pay the sales tax on food in full.The defense of the plan to raise sales and excise taxes -- the sales tax would increase from 6.15 percent to 6.3 percent, under one proposal -- is that people should be taxed on what they spend, not what they make, so as not to penalize them for earning more but instead to encourage them to save and invest their money."You're moving from taxing a productive activity to taxing a consumption activity," said Joseph Henchman of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. "Most economists will say that it is good for economic growth."In practice, though, people who don't have much money can't save or invest it. They have to spend it to get along. The more you make, the smaller the fraction of your income you have to spend to cover the basics. And wealthier households, which spend more on luxuries and entertainment, can always give up some of their purchases and keep the money in the bank if they don't want to pay the higher rate.As a result, raising the sales tax equally for everyone means asking poorer households to pay significantly more, relative what they earn.The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy's Meg Wiehe notes that in many states, average incomes have only increased among the richest groups in recent years. As a result, a system of taxation that depends more on the economic fortunes of the poor and the middle class might not produce increasing revenue in the future to meet the needs of growing states, unless the broad national trends change and incomes begin improving throughout the economy."Kansas has really shifted the responsibility for paying for taxes from those at the top with the most income, where income is growing, to those at the very bottom of the income spectrum, where incomes are stagnant or even declining," Wiehe said.Poorer residents are required to pay a larger share of their incomes than wealthier residents in state and local taxes across the country. That difference is even greater among some states that don't have an income tax, such as Washington. There, the poorest fifth pay 16.8 percent of income in taxes on average, compared to just 2.4 percent among the very wealthiest, according to the report from the institute.Brownback also has indicated he's willing to slow -- but not stop -- the implementation of his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy. However, he still seeks to eliminate the income tax over time. And some Republicans in the state legislature say they are fiercely committed to the original tax cuts and might oppose attempts to slow their implementation.Lori McMillan, a law professor at Washburn University in Topeka who has talked about tax policy with several state legislators, said she thought they had good intentions. "They're not trying to break the backs of the poor," she said. "They're nice people."Yet McMillan, who describes herself as conservative politically, worries that policymakers have failed to reckon with the consequences of their reforms for taxpayers and for the state's budget over the long term.Even the proposed increases in sales and excises taxes would make up only a fraction of the deficit. To balance the budget for this year, Brownback and other policymakers have proposed temporary measures, such as transferring money out of the state's highway fund.




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    Wealthier Kansans are paying much less in taxes after Republican Gov. Sam Brownback cut overhauled the state's income tax a few years ago. Brownback and other Republican officials hoped that more generous policies would stimulate the economy, bringing more revenue into the state's coffers and making up the difference on the bottom line.It didn't work. Kansas's economy has kept expanding at more or less same plodding pace as the rest of the country. And now, according to official estimates released Monday, the state will have at least a $143 million budget shortfall in 2016, and likely more. Lawmakers are looking for a way to plug the hole.One thing they're not considering: asking the wealthy to chip in. Instead, in a legislature that last week barred welfare recipients from using their benefits to go swimming or watch movies, the proposals that look most likely to succeed are sales and excise taxes that would be paid disproportionately by Kansas's poor and working class."You've got policymakers at this point who are unable to embrace the fact that there was a mistake made," said Annie McKay, the executive director of the left-leaning Kansas Center for Economic Growth. The think tank in Topeka argues that the state's deficit can't be eliminated without reversing some of the income tax cuts Brownback made in 2012.Poor and working-class Kansans already carry a heavy burden under the state's tax system, compared to people of modest incomes in most other states. Among the fifth of the Kansas population with the lowest incomes, the average person pays 11.1 percent of what they make in state and local taxes, including sales taxes. Among the wealthiest one in every 100 Kansans, the average tax bill is just 3.6 percent of annual income, according to a recent report from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.People who make less are more vulnerable to increases in sales and excises taxes, since they spend more of their money buying basic goods and services they need to get by. This is especially the case in Kansas, where food is subject to sales tax. Kansans can receive a tax rebate for their food purchases, but those who make nothing or too little, to owe income tax aren't eligible. The pay the sales tax on food in full.The defense of the plan to raise sales and excise taxes -- the sales tax would increase from 6.15 percent to 6.3 percent, under one proposal -- is that people should be taxed on what they spend, not what they make, so as not to penalize them for earning more but instead to encourage them to save and invest their money."You're moving from taxing a productive activity to taxing a consumption activity," said Joseph Henchman of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. "Most economists will say that it is good for economic growth."In practice, though, people who don't have much money can't save or invest it. They have to spend it to get along. The more you make, the smaller the fraction of your income you have to spend to cover the basics. And wealthier households, which spend more on luxuries and entertainment, can always give up some of their purchases and keep the money in the bank if they don't want to pay the higher rate.As a result, raising the sales tax equally for everyone means asking poorer households to pay significantly more, relative what they earn.The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy's Meg Wiehe notes that in many states, average incomes have only increased among the richest groups in recent years. As a result, a system of taxation that depends more on the economic fortunes of the poor and the middle class might not produce increasing revenue in the future to meet the needs of growing states, unless the broad national trends change and incomes begin improving throughout the economy."Kansas has really shifted the responsibility for paying for taxes from those at the top with the most income, where income is growing, to those at the very bottom of the income spectrum, where incomes are stagnant or even declining," Wiehe said.Poorer residents are required to pay a larger share of their incomes than wealthier residents in state and local taxes across the country. That difference is even greater among some states that don't have an income tax, such as Washington. There, the poorest fifth pay 16.8 percent of income in taxes on average, compared to just 2.4 percent among the very wealthiest, according to the report from the institute.Brownback also has indicated he's willing to slow -- but not stop -- the implementation of his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy. However, he still seeks to eliminate the income tax over time. And some Republicans in the state legislature say they are fiercely committed to the original tax cuts and might oppose attempts to slow their implementation.Lori McMillan, a law professor at Washburn University in Topeka who has talked about tax policy with several state legislators, said she thought they had good intentions. "They're not trying to break the backs of the poor," she said. "They're nice people."Yet McMillan, who describes herself as conservative politically, worries that policymakers have failed to reckon with the consequences of their reforms for taxpayers and for the state's budget over the long term.Even the proposed increases in sales and excises taxes would make up only a fraction of the deficit. To balance the budget for this year, Brownback and other policymakers have proposed temporary measures, such as transferring money out of the state's highway fund.




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    Yet households still worried about money; young struggle for work. WASHINGTON-- Even though U.S. growth slowed sharply in the first quarter, Americans are more optimistic about the economy now than at any time since President Obama took over the White House in January 2009.. A new CNN poll shows that 52% of Americans view the economy as "very" or "somewhat" good vs. 48% who call it "poor" or "somewhat poor."

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    Europe had a hand in this weekend's tragedy in the Mediterranean. Close to 5,000 migrants died last year attempting to cross the sea to Europe from Africa, but the continental governments have hesitated to help for fear of encouraging even more migrants to try to reach their countries illegally.Before Americans criticize European xenophobia too freely, though, it's worth noting that a parallel logic has contributed to deaths along our own border with Mexico. Americans' insistence on preventing illegal immigration has trumped any humanitarian concerns about migrants attempting the crossing.Surveillance on the border has only encouraged those crossing the border to travel by more remote and more dangerous routes. The result, as Nora Caplan-Bricker explained last year in The New Republic, is that the number of deaths along the border has been increasing, even as the number of immigrants has declined rapidly.Welcome to Wonkbook. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. Follow Wonkblog on Twitter and Facebook.What's in Wonkbook: 1) Mediterranean shipwreck 2) Opinions, including Graham and Bernstein on campaign finance 3) Oil companies are drilling in deeper and deeper waters, and moreChart of the day:There are far more black women than black men in our communities, due to incarceration and early deaths. In all, 1.5 million black men are essentially missing from American life. Justin Wolfers, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy in The New York Times.1. Top story: 850 migrants believed dead in wreckA boat carrying migrants to Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sunday. "The United Nations refugee agency estimated Tuesday that as many as 850 migrants had gone to their deaths in a boat capsizing earlier this week off the coast of Libya, even as the ship’s captain and a crew member were taken into custody on criminal charges. ... Only 28 migrants survived. A substantial number of passengers — including scores of women and children — perished Sunday as they were trapped below decks on the three-tiered vessel, apparently helpless as the boat tipped over, according to interviews with survivors." Anthony Faiola in The Washington Post.Chaos in Libya and throughout the region has left migrants even more vulnerable. "Shipwrecks killing hundreds of migrants at a time have been happening in the Mediterranean for years. Just last week, another shipwreck killed about 400 people. ... When Muammar Qaddafi ruled Libya, his government had an agreement with Italy to try to intercept and turn back ships leaving for Europe. But Qaddafi was toppled in 2011, thanks to the Arab Spring and support for the rebels from the US and Europe. And in the utter chaos that's engulfed Libya over the past few years, there's no government entity really capable of patrolling the Mediterranean. ... Many of the skirmishes between militias in Libya's north and southwest aren't just about support for or opposition to the current Libyan government — they're also over control of smuggling routes. And human smuggling has become an important part of the economy of many communities along the Libyan border, and for some ethnic groups within the country." Dara Lind at Vox.Europe has shied away from helping shipwrecked migrants. "Governments under pressure from domestic anti-immigrant parties have shrunk from the task. Last year Italy undertook its own, much-praised operation to rescue people from boats, saving many; but it was scaled back in October after other governments declined to join in and some complained, wrongheadedly, that the effort itself might be attracting migrants. In recent months a much smaller E.U. search-and-rescue mission has been limited to Italy’s territorial waters, making it far more likely that sinkings and other accidents will lead to mass deaths," writes the editorial board of The Washington Post.BERSHIDSKY: But the United States is also to blame. In Syria, "a U.S.-led coalition, including mainly Arab states, is already waging war. And these countries bear at least some responsibility for the plight of Syria's peaceful population. Similarly, the countries that conducted the 2011 military intervention in Libya and contributed to its becoming a failed state -- including the U.S., Canada, Norway and Qatar -- are obligated to help fix the humanitarian disaster they helped create." Bloomberg View.2. Top opinionsGRAHAM: Republican candidates disagree on what to do about money in politics. "Divisions within the Republican Party seem to be the product of a movement to deregulate campaign finance that has achieved stunning victories over the last 15 years. If the movement isn't quite a victim of its own success, it now faces some disarray bred by winning so quickly and completely. Having triumphed, conservatives aren't unified on where to go next. ... Conservatives are faced with a new set of questions: What happens now? Are there more restrictions to knock down? Are the changes good, or have they gone too far?" The Atlantic.JONATHAN BERNSTEIN: The issue of campaign finance has political advantages. "Campaign-finance reform is a safe subject. It's hard to see how events will make current talking points on it look silly or embarrassing in the future. Restricting money in politics is broadly popular (especially with a lot reporters and their editors), even if it isn't something that will sway a lot of votes in the general election next year. And it's a low-cost way of appealing to Democrats who tend to support insurgent candidates -- that is, those who make a stink about money in politics. It's a lot less risky issue for Clinton than engaging in antiwar oratory or committing to some specific economic proposals."Bloomberg View.Obamacare is creating monopolies in hospitals, writes Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins. "During the 2008 financial crisis, “too big to fail” became a familiar phrase in the U.S. financial system. Now the U.S. health-care system is heading down the same path with a record number of hospital mergers and acquisitions—95 last year—some creating regional monopolies that, as in all monopolies, will likely result in higher prices from decreased competition. ... Health-care conglomeration aligns with the Affordable Care Act, which created incentives for physicians and hospitals to work together in 'accountable care organizations.' "The Wall Street Journal.3. In case you missed itFive years after the Deepwater Horizon spill, oil companies are drilling riskier wells. "Opening this new frontier, miles below the bottom of the Gulf, requires engineering feats far beyond those used at BP's much shallower Macondo well. But critics say energy companies haven't developed the corresponding safety measures to prevent another disaster or contain one if it happens — a sign, environmentalists say, that the lessons of BP's spill were short-lived. These new depths and larger reservoirs could exacerbate a blowout like what happened at the Macondo well. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil could spill each day, and the response would be slowed as the equipment to deal with it — skimmers, boom, submarines, containment stacks — is shipped 100 miles or more from shore. Since the Macondo disaster, which sent at least 134 million gallons spewing into the Gulf five years ago Monday, federal agencies have approved about two dozen next-generation, ultra-deep wells." Cain Burdeau for the Associated Press.Clinton wants the tax code to support the real economy, not the financial sector. "She hinted on Monday that she hopes to get tougher on traders and reexamine the capital gains tax. ... She plans to 'take a hard look at what is now being done in the trading world, which is just trading for the sake of trading. ... We have to look at the whole tax system and try to figure out what is an economic investment as opposed to one without economic purpose because there are a lot of those where people are just basically playing games,' she said." Jennifer Epstein for Bloomberg.Amtrak needs a new bridge and a pair of new tunnels into New York. "The 104-year-old Portal Bridge... crosses the Hackensack River in New Jersey on the way to New York City's Penn Station. It's been called the Achilles' heel of the rail system's Northeast Corridor, a stretch that accommodates some 750,000 passengers a day. Paired with two outdated tunnels leading into Penn Station that were flooded during Superstorm Sandy, it's a treacherous stretch where delays are frequent. ... The Portal Bridge is a swing bridge that has to move out of the way of ships passing below on the Hackensack River, but its age and disrepair means it doesn't always lock back into place. When that happens, trains can pile up for hours and send ripples all the way up to Pennsylvania. About 450 trains go over the bridge every day." Jason Plautz in National Journal.Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has to convince progressives to move forward on a trade deal they don't like. "Last week, legislators introduced a bill that is a key part of passing the biggest trade deal of the new century. The measure, known as Trade Promotion Authority, would require Congress to vote treaties up or down without amending them -- and a broad coalition of labor, community and environmental groups is pulling out all the stops to defeat the measure... What is Wyden's pitch? Well, Trade Promotion Authority has trade-offs, he says. U.S. trade negotiators want to be able to tell other countries that Congress won't mess with a deal once it's inked. And Congress offers a compromise: They give away the right to quibble with specific sections of the treaty, in exchange for a promise that the administration will adhere to a set of priorities Congress lays out." Lydia DePillis in The Washington Post.UPCOMING EVENT: Washington Post Live presents “Executive Actions — Reimagining Industries in a Changing Economy,” April 24 at George Washington University. Register to attend an intimate conversation with five CEOs, including MGM Resorts’ James Murren; Richard Plepler of Home Box Office, Inc.; Desiree Rogers of Johnson Publishing Company; Eric Spiegel of Siemens USA and John Viehmeyer of KPMG, Global and USA.




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    Europe had a hand in this weekend's tragedy in the Mediterranean. Close to 5,000 migrants died last year attempting to cross the sea to Europe from Africa, but the continental governments have hesitated to help for fear of encouraging even more migrants to try to reach their countries illegally.Before Americans criticize European xenophobia too freely, though, it's worth noting that a parallel logic has contributed to deaths along our own border with Mexico. Americans' insistence on preventing illegal immigration has trumped any humanitarian concerns about migrants attempting the crossing.Surveillance on the border has only encouraged those crossing the border to travel by more remote and more dangerous routes. The result, as Nora Caplan-Bricker explained last year in The New Republic, is that the number of deaths along the border has been increasing, even as the number of immigrants has declined rapidly.Welcome to Wonkbook. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. Follow Wonkblog on Twitter and Facebook.What's in Wonkbook: 1) Mediterranean shipwreck 2) Opinions, including Graham and Bernstein on campaign finance 3) Oil companies are drilling in deeper and deeper waters, and moreChart of the day:There are far more black women than black men in our communities, due to incarceration and early deaths. In all, 1.5 million black men are essentially missing from American life. Justin Wolfers, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy in The New York Times.1. Top story: 850 migrants believed dead in wreckA boat carrying migrants to Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sunday. "The United Nations refugee agency estimated Tuesday that as many as 850 migrants had gone to their deaths in a boat capsizing earlier this week off the coast of Libya, even as the ship’s captain and a crew member were taken into custody on criminal charges. ... Only 28 migrants survived. A substantial number of passengers — including scores of women and children — perished Sunday as they were trapped below decks on the three-tiered vessel, apparently helpless as the boat tipped over, according to interviews with survivors." Anthony Faiola in The Washington Post.Chaos in Libya and throughout the region has left migrants even more vulnerable. "Shipwrecks killing hundreds of migrants at a time have been happening in the Mediterranean for years. Just last week, another shipwreck killed about 400 people. ... When Muammar Qaddafi ruled Libya, his government had an agreement with Italy to try to intercept and turn back ships leaving for Europe. But Qaddafi was toppled in 2011, thanks to the Arab Spring and support for the rebels from the US and Europe. And in the utter chaos that's engulfed Libya over the past few years, there's no government entity really capable of patrolling the Mediterranean. ... Many of the skirmishes between militias in Libya's north and southwest aren't just about support for or opposition to the current Libyan government — they're also over control of smuggling routes. And human smuggling has become an important part of the economy of many communities along the Libyan border, and for some ethnic groups within the country." Dara Lind at Vox.Europe has shied away from helping shipwrecked migrants. "Governments under pressure from domestic anti-immigrant parties have shrunk from the task. Last year Italy undertook its own, much-praised operation to rescue people from boats, saving many; but it was scaled back in October after other governments declined to join in and some complained, wrongheadedly, that the effort itself might be attracting migrants. In recent months a much smaller E.U. search-and-rescue mission has been limited to Italy’s territorial waters, making it far more likely that sinkings and other accidents will lead to mass deaths," writes the editorial board of The Washington Post.BERSHIDSKY: But the United States is also to blame. In Syria, "a U.S.-led coalition, including mainly Arab states, is already waging war. And these countries bear at least some responsibility for the plight of Syria's peaceful population. Similarly, the countries that conducted the 2011 military intervention in Libya and contributed to its becoming a failed state -- including the U.S., Canada, Norway and Qatar -- are obligated to help fix the humanitarian disaster they helped create." Bloomberg View.2. Top opinionsGRAHAM: Republican candidates disagree on what to do about money in politics. "Divisions within the Republican Party seem to be the product of a movement to deregulate campaign finance that has achieved stunning victories over the last 15 years. If the movement isn't quite a victim of its own success, it now faces some disarray bred by winning so quickly and completely. Having triumphed, conservatives aren't unified on where to go next. ... Conservatives are faced with a new set of questions: What happens now? Are there more restrictions to knock down? Are the changes good, or have they gone too far?" The Atlantic.JONATHAN BERNSTEIN: The issue of campaign finance has political advantages. "Campaign-finance reform is a safe subject. It's hard to see how events will make current talking points on it look silly or embarrassing in the future. Restricting money in politics is broadly popular (especially with a lot reporters and their editors), even if it isn't something that will sway a lot of votes in the general election next year. And it's a low-cost way of appealing to Democrats who tend to support insurgent candidates -- that is, those who make a stink about money in politics. It's a lot less risky issue for Clinton than engaging in antiwar oratory or committing to some specific economic proposals."Bloomberg View.Obamacare is creating monopolies in hospitals, writes Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins. "During the 2008 financial crisis, “too big to fail” became a familiar phrase in the U.S. financial system. Now the U.S. health-care system is heading down the same path with a record number of hospital mergers and acquisitions—95 last year—some creating regional monopolies that, as in all monopolies, will likely result in higher prices from decreased competition. ... Health-care conglomeration aligns with the Affordable Care Act, which created incentives for physicians and hospitals to work together in 'accountable care organizations.' "The Wall Street Journal.3. In case you missed itFive years after the Deepwater Horizon spill, oil companies are drilling riskier wells. "Opening this new frontier, miles below the bottom of the Gulf, requires engineering feats far beyond those used at BP's much shallower Macondo well. But critics say energy companies haven't developed the corresponding safety measures to prevent another disaster or contain one if it happens — a sign, environmentalists say, that the lessons of BP's spill were short-lived. These new depths and larger reservoirs could exacerbate a blowout like what happened at the Macondo well. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil could spill each day, and the response would be slowed as the equipment to deal with it — skimmers, boom, submarines, containment stacks — is shipped 100 miles or more from shore. Since the Macondo disaster, which sent at least 134 million gallons spewing into the Gulf five years ago Monday, federal agencies have approved about two dozen next-generation, ultra-deep wells." Cain Burdeau for the Associated Press.Clinton wants the tax code to support the real economy, not the financial sector. "She hinted on Monday that she hopes to get tougher on traders and reexamine the capital gains tax. ... She plans to 'take a hard look at what is now being done in the trading world, which is just trading for the sake of trading. ... We have to look at the whole tax system and try to figure out what is an economic investment as opposed to one without economic purpose because there are a lot of those where people are just basically playing games,' she said." Jennifer Epstein for Bloomberg.Amtrak needs a new bridge and a pair of new tunnels into New York. "The 104-year-old Portal Bridge... crosses the Hackensack River in New Jersey on the way to New York City's Penn Station. It's been called the Achilles' heel of the rail system's Northeast Corridor, a stretch that accommodates some 750,000 passengers a day. Paired with two outdated tunnels leading into Penn Station that were flooded during Superstorm Sandy, it's a treacherous stretch where delays are frequent. ... The Portal Bridge is a swing bridge that has to move out of the way of ships passing below on the Hackensack River, but its age and disrepair means it doesn't always lock back into place. When that happens, trains can pile up for hours and send ripples all the way up to Pennsylvania. About 450 trains go over the bridge every day." Jason Plautz in National Journal.Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has to convince progressives to move forward on a trade deal they don't like. "Last week, legislators introduced a bill that is a key part of passing the biggest trade deal of the new century. The measure, known as Trade Promotion Authority, would require Congress to vote treaties up or down without amending them -- and a broad coalition of labor, community and environmental groups is pulling out all the stops to defeat the measure... What is Wyden's pitch? Well, Trade Promotion Authority has trade-offs, he says. U.S. trade negotiators want to be able to tell other countries that Congress won't mess with a deal once it's inked. And Congress offers a compromise: They give away the right to quibble with specific sections of the treaty, in exchange for a promise that the administration will adhere to a set of priorities Congress lays out." Lydia DePillis in The Washington Post.UPCOMING EVENT: Washington Post Live presents “Executive Actions — Reimagining Industries in a Changing Economy,” April 24 at George Washington University. Register to attend an intimate conversation with five CEOs, including MGM Resorts’ James Murren; Richard Plepler of Home Box Office, Inc.; Desiree Rogers of Johnson Publishing Company; Eric Spiegel of Siemens USA and John Viehmeyer of KPMG, Global and USA.




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    By Joseph Adinolfi and Brian Aguilar, MarketWatch, Terrence Horan. Hungary's central bank cut its benchmark rate to a record low. Central banks around the globe are rushing to ease monetary policy as looming deflation and still-weak commodity prices weigh on growth expectations.

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     A sage observer once remarked, "Speculation is going on when someone else is making money, and you and I aren't." Speculation has been ripe, as hot money has raised the price of financial assets even in the face of disappointing progress in the real economy. How forgiving has the market been?

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    The U.S. federal funds rate, which banks charge each other to borrow their excess reserves, averaged 0.13 percent on Monday for a sixth straight day, Fed data released early Tuesday showed. The fed funds rate, which the Federal Reserve targets to achieve its rate objective, traded in a range of 0.05 percent to 0.3125 percent, matching the range set in the previous seven sessions.