The WonkLine: April 15, 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.




Wildfires fueled by “high winds and bone-dry conditionsraged through Oklahoma and Texas, burning over 200,000 acres of land. In Texas, the fires destroyed two towns and killed three people, while in Oklahoma, “losses from wildfires could reach $20 million dollars.”

Michigan officials “announced investments in four new operations that would employ several thousand workers” in advanced battery production collectively worth about $1.7 billion. The projects “illustrate the state’s burgeoning hold on the vehicle battery production market.”

St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp, the world’s largest coal company, announced “first-quarter profit tripled” to $170 million.


According to Bloomberg, “Federal Reserve officials are considering steps to provide the public with more information about emergency programs aimed at reviving credit and ending the U.S. recession,” including increased disclosure “on the collateral it holds against loans to financial firms.”

ProPublica’s Eye on the Bailout reports on the rare FDIC maneuver employed when the New Frontier Bank of Greeley, Colorado, failed last week.

Reuters reports that Fiat’s chief executive, “facing a two-week deadline to work out a partnership with Chrysler LLC, warned the troubled U.S. carmaker’s unions he would ditch the idea unless they agreed to cut labor costs.”

National Security

President Ahmadinejad of Iran said today that he was preparing a new proposal to resolve disputes with the West over Iran’s nuclear program, opening the door to talks with the United States, the official I.R.N.A. news agency reported.

Spencer Ackerman reports that “Naval reformers think the successful rescue of Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates may have highlighted structural imbalances in the U.S. Navy’s ability to handle irregular warfare — just as difficulties experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan awakened the U.S. Army to counterinsurgency requirements.”

South Korea said it will soon announce plans to curtail the North’s suspected trade in illicit weapons after its neighbor raised tensions by vowing to quit talks and restart its nuclear arms plant.

Health Care

The Washington Post challenges President Obama on how he plans to finance health care reform: “Many of the savings identified in the president’s budget are phony…the health-care savings he has identified are all directed to new health-care spending, and, even then, they cover only a fraction of the likely costs of a health-care bill.”

The New Health Dialogue and Ezra Klein look through Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ written follow-up to the questions submitted for the record by the Finance Committee.

“About two-thirds of U.S. primary care physicians reported in 2004-05 that they couldn’t get outpatient mental health services for their patients—a rate that was at least twice as high as for other services, according to a national study funded by the Commonwealth Fund.”