The WonkLine: February 20, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below.



National Security

Arriving in South Korea, Secretary of State Clinton addressed the possibility of a change in North Korea’s leadership.

John Hughes, a former assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, suggests a way to induce Russian cooperation on Iran. “In return for Russian pressure upon Iran to end its military nuclear program,” Hughes writes, “the Obama White House quid pro quo would abandon the missile defense project the Bush White House had planned to build on Russia’s doorstep.”

A new report from Israel’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies suggests that Operation Cast Lead was “not merely futile but foolish too.”


In preparation for President Obama’s fiscal responsibility summit, CQ reports that “battle lines are being drawn over how the new administration should address long-term budget challenges.”

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro plans to ask bank boards “to disclose more about directors’ backgrounds and skills, specifically how much they know about managing risk.”

Ed Glaeser on Obama’s housing plan: “If the plan were actually a serious attempt to fix every problem in the housing market, it would be much more of a mess. As it is, it certainly has its flaws, but its great virtue is that it doesn’t try to fix everything.”

Health Care

Meggie Mahar on how Medicare can lower costs: “Rather than denying coverage,” for less effective treatments, Medicare could “tie its payments  to providers” to effectiveness,  lowering fees for those treatments that provide less benefit.”

Dana Blankenhorn wonders “if the industry is conning the government” on Health IT.

Tim Foley observes that the new health care vision from the Commonwealth Fund (released yesterday) “feels a little like Groundhog Day.”


The Center for Public Integrity has released the investigative report Coal Ash: The Hidden Story, with an an interactive map that shows the location of 446 coal ash landfills and disposal ponds across the nation.

Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) asked the coal mining industry “to help West Virginia increase renewable energy production” to allow them to have “the credibility to join the national energy policy debate on issues such as global warming.”

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) tells the Associated Press “it’s time to ‘take a whack‘ at climate change,” with legislation reaching the Senate floor by “late summer.”