The WonkLine: March 23, 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

Nearly 100 people, most of them monks, were being held in a Tibetan area of northwestern China after a crowd attacked a police station there on Saturday. The authorities, who said they had restored order in the region, said 6 people were arrested and 89 others had “surrendered” to the police.

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul is on a visit to Iraq, the first by a Turkish head of state for more than 30 years. Gul is due to hold talks with his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, whose ouster spurred waves of protests that led to President Musharraff’s downfall, returned to work Sunday.

Health Care

Over 75 percent of Americans are “dissatisfied” with overall health care costs in the U.S., according to a recent CNN poll.

MIT professor Jonathan Gruber notes that the Massachusetts healthcare plan has been “nothing less than the most significant expansion in insurance coverage, in percentage terms, in the history of the United States.”

Republicans are predicting a “doomsday scenario” of “crushing debt and eventual federal bankruptcy” if President Obama’s budget is enacted. Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden’s economic advisor, responded that the administration is going to stand firm on the “priorities that brought them to the dance here.”


According to a Fed report, “the gap between the wealth of white Americans and African Americans has grown…[F]or every dollar of wealth held by the typical white family, the African American family has only one dime. In 2004, it had 12 cents.”

One part of last week’s CBO report is sure to “break the hearts of lobbyists for student loan companies”; the administration’s plan to originate all loans out of the Direct Loan Program would save $94 billion over 10 years, “double the administration’s own estimate.”

The IRS “is not living up to its pledge to crack down on wealthy tax cheats, an IRS watchdog group says, citing a drop in audits of millionaires last year.”


Brookings Institution energy and climate expert David Sandalow, a former Clinton official, is being nominated as the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for Policy and International Affairs, and BP chief scientist Steven Koonin has been tapped as undersecretary for science.

We still have a flat earth caucus in the United States Senate,” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told UNC Chapel Hill students, as he asked them to make fighting climate change “the new civil rights movement.”

The Associated Press has found that several Appalachian states “let coal companies inject slurry into abandoned mines” but “none track exactly how much slurry is pumped underground” or examine its chemical composition.