The WonkLine: March 16, 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.




Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) “has been told by several of his most faithful GOP backers…that they’ll abandon their support” if he votes for the Employee Free Choice Act, while the AFL-CIO promised to “help him win a tough 2010 primary” if he supports the bill.

During his first televised interview — the first broadcast interview with a Fed chief since 1987 — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said “the biggest risk to an economic recovery is a shortage of ‘political will.’

Simon Johnson on Saturday’s G-20 meeting: “It was a disaster — we face what officials readily concede is the biggest financial and economic crisis since the 1930s, yet this conclave agreed on precisely nothing that will make any difference.”


The Maldives plans to become the world’s “first carbon-neutral nation,” potentially signaling a new trend of smaller nations leading the way on renewable energy and climate change.

According to a new study, the northeastern United States “is likely to see the world’s biggest sea level rise from man-made global warming,” jeopardizing “lots of infrastructure, including the New York subway system.”

Polar bears “are in danger of being wiped out unless urgent measures are taken to combat climate change.” “No sea ice equates no polar bears. It’s really that simple,” WWF polar bear expert Geoff York said.

National Security

A suicide bomber attacked a group of South Korean tourists in southern Yemen yesterday, killing four of them.

Fareed Zakaria writes that “the problem with American foreign policy…includes a Washington establishment that has gotten comfortable with the exercise of American hegemony and treats compromise as treason and negotiations as appeasement…This is not foreign policy; it’s imperial policy.”

Pakistan’s government capitulated to protesters’ demands to reinstate the popular chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, reshaping the political landscape in a country crucial to the West’s battle with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Health Care

The Board — the gang of nine bipartisan health reformers in the senate — is having a difficult time agreeing on the details of health reform.

Congressional Quarterly asks: “What if Congress and President Obama achieve their goal of overhauling the health care system this year, only to find there aren’t enough primary care doctors for all those newly insured patients?”

To lower health care costs, a commission appointed by Gov. Patrick Deval (D-MA) is considering scrapping the fee-for-service payment system in favor of one that rewards hospitals and physicians for stressing prevention and better management of chronic disease.