The WonkLine: March 17, 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

The decision not to renew Blackwater’s security contracts in Iraq “has left the State Department scrambling to fill a protection gap for U.S. diplomats and civilian officials there.

Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s reformist former president, has decided to withdraw from the June presidential race to support a political ally, the country’s semiofficial Fars news agency reported Tuesday.

The Washington Times reports that the U.S. government has barred Uzi Arad, who is expected to serve as Israel’s national security adviser, from entering the United States.


In a recent appearance on Bill Bennett’s radio show, RNC Chairman Michael Steele “revealed he is an unusually ill-informed global warming denier.” “We are cooling. We are not warming,” he said.

“China’s top climate change negotiator, Li Gao, said his country should not pay for cutting emissions caused by the high demands of other countries.” China has recently overtaken the US as the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases.

MIT economist Ben Olken says with every 1 degree rise Celsius in a given year, poor countries experience about a 1 percent drop in economic growth.


Republicans have appointed Sen. John Thune (R-SD) “to coordinate a broad campaign aimed at defeating” the Employee Free Choice Act; Thune “is already spearheading efforts to focus the lobbying power of business groups…against the measure.”

In an attempt to circumvent bonus restrictions, officials at Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and other financial institutions “are discussing increasing base salaries for some executives and other top-producing employees.”

Dean Baker writes that “US officials were wrong to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt. Now they wrongly assume all banks are too big to fail.”

Health Care

“As they search for savings to redo the nation’s $2.4 trillion health system, key congressional Democrats and administration officials” are indicating they’re open to malpractice reform.

Karen Tumulty tells the story of ‘two Democrats’ who want to “scrap employer health care.” As one Administration official put it, “a lot of people think this is where the system should be 20 years from now, but no one sees how it can be there two years from now.”

The Hill is reporting that “maneuvering by the healthcare industry and other business interests to cozy up to Democrats on health reform is causing unease among their traditional Republican allies on Capitol Hill.”