The WonkLine: March 5, 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.



Health Care

President Obama kicks off his health care reform effort today “by bringing all the major players together at the White House.” USA Today points out that while the summit is largely symbolic, the White House “has high hopes” because “of who will be in the room: consumers and providers, business and labor, insurers and drugmakers.”

‘Americans At Risk,’ a new Families USA report, finds that “86.7 million people under the age of 65 went without health insurance for some or all of the two-year period from 2007 to 2008.”

Time Magazine publishes Karen Tumulty’s account of “How the Health Care Crisis Hit Home for My Family.” “My editors decided to put this story on the cover not because it is so extraordinary, but because it is so common, and becoming more so every day,” Tumulty notes.


The USA National Phenology Network is “calling for volunteers to help track the effect of climate change on the environment” by observing “the timing and duration of natural seasonal events of plants and animals.”

“Speaking Tuesday to a group of progressive media outlets,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “I would like to see one bill” that contains cap-and-trade legislation, a renewable electricity standard, and smart grid legislation – contrary to the Senate approach of separate energy and climate bills.

U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern told international leaders on Tuesday, “The U.S. is in the game,” but that “we need to be guided both by science and by common sense” in terms of emissions targets.


New York attorney general Cuomo “has issued subpoenas to several top Merrill Lynch & Co. executives who were each paid more than $10 million in cash and stock last year.”

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request by Bloomberg news, the Federal Reserve refused to disclose the banks and securities firms receiving federal loans, alleging that it would cast “a stigma” on recipients.

According to the SEC, “more than a dozen Wall Street trading firms systematically cheated their customers of millions of dollars by improperly slicing bits of profit from countless trades.”

National Security

Chinese authorities have imposed an “unofficial state of martial law on the vast highlands where ethnic Tibetans live.”

President Obama has launched a “high-level, urgent review” of U.S. policy toward Sudan that will consider whether the U.S. should re-examine joining the International Criminal Court.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano –- a former governor of the border state of Arizona –- is promising stepped-up coordination with Mexico to stop the southward flow of assault rifles, many of which are imported into the US and then smuggled into Mexico for drug gangs.