The WonkLine: April 2, 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, or subscribe to the RSS feed.




As the Red River slowly recedes into its banks” after flooding Minnesota and North Dakota, “estimates suggest tens of millions of dollars in public damages — not counting losses by homeowners and businesses.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) met with ten coal-state Democrats on Tuesday skeptical of climate legislation “to make sure that what we do doesn’t devastate an economy.”

“Since 1998, Europe has weathered over 100 major floods, causing just as many deaths; these floods have displaced half a million people and cost some €25 billion worth in damage,” said Stavros Dimas, E.U. commissioner for the environment, at a white-paper press conference yesterday.


A report by the Office of Inspector General at the Labor Department finds that, under President Bush, “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not follow correct procedures in 97 percent of sampled cases.”

Peyton Young at FT notes that, under Secretary Geithner’s bank plan, “the more aggressively investors compete in bidding for these [toxic] assets, the worse off the taxpayers will be. I call this the taxpayers’ curse.”

Seven banks “have formed a coalition to argue that Congress should not go overboard in regulating the derivatives market following the downfall of American International Group”; a financial-services lobbyist characterized the effort with one word: “toast.”

National Security

North Korea has begun fueling a long-range rocket and could launch it by the weekend, CNN said, with the United States and others threatening punishment for a move they say violates U.N. resolutions.

Michael Cohen writes that recent provocative statements from Israeli leaders have “given Obama a golden opportunity to almost painlessly put pressure on Israel’s new government.”

Andrew Exum writes that President Obama’s new Af-Pak strategy represents an “admission that solely ‘kinetic’ means — blowing things up and killing people — cannot be relied upon to end the threat from terror groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Health Care

The House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation yesterday requiring “health plans to notify individuals and employers of any exclusions or limitations on their health benefits at the point of sale.”

“A 65-year-old retired couple this year would need $240,000 on average to cover medical expenses, according to a recent study by Fidelity Investments.”

The LA Times profiles Kaiser Permanente: “reformers in the U.S. and abroad are looking at Kaiser as a model of some of the biggest ideas in healthcare today — prevention and demonstrable quality care, such as high mammography rates and top cardiac surgery results.”