The WonkLine: April 9, 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, and subscribe to the RSS feed.



National Security

Even with increased support from President Obama, better policing in Afghanistan may be impossible unless Afghani government officials at all levels “stop cannibalizing their civil administration and police force for a quick profit,” the New York Times reports.

The Taliban and al Qaeda are using U.S. internet firms to spread their militant messages. “The odd pairing of violently anti-American extremists and U.S. technology companies continues elsewhere and appears to be growing.”

Baitullah Mehsud, a 35-year-old former physical education teacher, has become the prototype of the “ruthlessly ambitious new generation of Taliban fighters” in Pakistan, a country that Islamist militarists are making into a stronghold.

Health Care

A study finds that a tax on sodas of a penny an ounce could lead to a drastic reduction in consumption of sugary drinks and help lower America’s obesity rate.

Yesterday, President Obama formally established an executive office for healthcare reform at the White House. “The new office will help ensure that policymakers across the executive branch work toward Obama’s healthcare agenda.”

Smokers die about 10 years earlier than non-smokers, “resulting in reduced costs for Medicare and other entitlement programs, according to CDC statistics.” But as Kaiser Daily Health Report points out, “smokers cost the country $96 billion annually in direct health care costs, and an additional $97 billion per year in lost productivity.”


A new report calculating the global warming pollution footprint of U.S. mutual funds finds that “carbon intensity indicates financial risk.”

White House officials say the administration “will be flexible” on the “complicated subject” of comprehensive energy legislation, including the possibility of backing away from the principle “that carbon permits should be auctioned rather than given away” — a development the electricity lobby finds “encouraging.”

Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator wants “industrialized countries to assist us through direct investment, transfer of technologies,” because their oil economy will be affected by restrictions on global warming pollution.


The Obama administration “is encouraging several large investment companies to create the financial-crisis equivalent of war bonds: bailout funds.” The funds “would give ordinary Americans a chance to profit from the bailouts that are being financed by their tax dollars.”

Bloomberg reports that “Federal Reserve officials are conducting an internal review of bank supervision aimed at improving regulators’ response to stress in the financial system.”

The Washington Post outlines how Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “staged a revolution” and reinvented the Federal reserve. Dean Baker responds here.