The WonkLine: March 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

Yesterday, three former American secretaries of state — including Henry Kissinger — and a former secretary of defense were in Moscow “for informal meetings with top Russian officials in an attempt to pull relations between the United States and Russia out of a tailspin.”

The economic crisis “is hitting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans harder than other workers — one in nine are now out of work — and may be encouraging some troops to remain in the service.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “has allied himself with an outspoken Sunni leader in several provinces and broached a coalition with a militant, anti-American cleric, suggesting the emergence of a new axis of power in Iraq centered on a strong central government and nationalism.”

Health Care

Tom Daschle: “When I withdrew from consideration to be secretary of health and human services, some pundits said health reform had received a devastating blow. While it would be flattering for me to believe that, it would also be completely wrong.”

Yesterday, the Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee approved legislation to set up a “health care authority” which would create the framework for a single-payer system.

“The U.S. Health and Human Services Department named a panel of 15 government experts on Thursday to advise the government on how to spend $1.1 billion set aside to study which medical treatments work best.”


The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. “wants Congress to broaden its power to protect consumers from banks that are engaged in criminal acts”; the FDIC “wants the ability to write the laws” it uses to regulate banks.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) “proposed empowering the FDIC, rather than the Federal Reserve, to act as a risk regulator for the nation’s financial institutions, citing the Fed’s failings in heading off and resolving the current financial crisis.”

Simon Johnson and James Kwak on AIG employees: “[W]hen insiders have broken a financial institution, the most direct remedy is to kick them out. Traders are hardly in short supply, and you don’t need to rely on the ones who made the toxic trades in the first place.”


Today, Michelle Obama “will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden” to provide organic food for meals and “to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables.”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released a report Thursday that found “nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats” including mountaintop mining and climate change.

After months of delay, last night the U.S. Senate “confirmed the nominations of Harvard physicist John Holdren as Obama’s top science advisor and Oregon State ecologist Jane Lubchenco as administrator of NOAA.”