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




ExxonMobil unseated Wal-Mart to top the 2009 Fortune 500 list, which ranked companies by their 2008 revenue. Exxon took in $442.85 billion in revenue last year, up almost 19% from 2007, and made $45.2 billion in profit.

At Economix, professor Nancy Folbre compares TARP to TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families): “One year of TANF spending equals less than 1 percent of TARP. Citibank alone received $25 billion, five times the cash transferred to mothers and children receiving public assistance in 2007.”

The administration has decided that “strong banks will be allowed to repay bail-out funds they received from the US government but only if such a move passes a test to determine whether it is in the national economic interest.”

Health Care

The Senate Finance Committee takes-up health care reform this week with “a series of three roundtable meetings between senators and health care industry experts in preparation for piecing together a health care reform package.” Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) says he “wants to have a bill ready by the end of June.”

Health economist Uwe Reinhardt argues that there are only two options for curbing the market failures associated with private sector insurance: “Either you create a public alternative that can compete on price and service…or, you tightly regulate insurers at the national level.”

Maggie Mahar explores why Medicare has not been unable to rein in the cost of cancer drugs.


Electric utility executives in coal-heavy Indiana and North Dakota attacked cap-and-trade legislation as a “tax” on electricity, calling energy policy reform “too complicated to do swiftly.”

“If Greenland melts,” Secretary of Energy Chu told reporters at the fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, “we are looking at a 7-meter sea level rise around the world. Some island states will disappear.”

Appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) confusedly attacked the science of climate change: “George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.”

National Security

UN officials sought on Monday to salvage a UN racism conference that Washington and its major allies are boycotting over concerns that it will be used as a platform for attacks against Israel. Eight Western nations are avoiding the meeting because of fears it will be dominated by what President Obama called “hypocritical and counterproductive” antagonism toward the Jewish state.

The head of Iran’s judiciary said that he had ordered the “careful, quick and fair” consideration of an appeal against the eight-year jail sentence imposed on Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi.

Emboldened by a peace agreement with the federal government, a top Islamist militant leader in Pakistan’s Swat Valley laid out an ambitious plan to bring a “complete Islamic system” to the surrounding northwest region and the entire country.