The WonkLine: May 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. Also, you can now follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.




The Treasury Department is prepared to make $22 billion from the TARP available to “a number of U.S. life insurers, acting on the embattled sector’s long-running effort to get government help.”

BusinessWeek’s Peter Coy explains how “derivatives — those complicated securities that helped cause the financial crisis — are giving some banks and other creditors the perverse incentive to kill companies that ordinarily they would want to save.”

The New York Times’ Edmund Andrews lays out the details of financial ruin via subprime mortgage: “Like so many others — borrowers, lenders and the Wall Street dealmakers behind them — I just thought I could beat the odds.”

Health Care

Hospitals and insurance companies said yesterday “that President Obama had substantially overstated their promise earlier this week to reduce the growth of health spending.”

According to a new study, “insured immigrants have lower medical expenses than U.S.-born citizens, even after accounting for lower levels of insurance coverage.” Researchers said that “the findings contradict the popular belief that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. health system.”

Yesterday the Senate Finance committee “wrestled with the issue of whether to create a public health insurance option…as a top Republican senator hinted that there could be room for compromise on the public option.”


Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) says President Obama’s “imperial climate-change policy is government that cannot work, and we humble colonials out here in the provinces have no choice but to petition for relief from the Crown’s impositions.”

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis yesterday said “women can fill green jobs in the emerging renewable-energy field,” with about $500 million in the recovery effort slated for the Labor Department for training in green jobs.

In recognition of Bike to Work Day, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu rode “his bike from his home to a rally” in Washington, D.C “to highlight the Administration’s commitment to reducing our dependence on foreign oil by supporting alternative, clean energy modes of transportation.”

National Security

Reuters reports that “Taliban fighters are shaving off their beards and trying to flee from a Pakistani army offensive in their Swat bastion, the military said on Friday, as it relaxed a curfew to allow civilians to get out.”

Iran analyst Geneive Abdo writes that “few issues unite [Iranian] conservative and reformist leaders, and even fewer topics inspire broad-based public enthusiasm. But Iran’s nuclear program has proven to unify a country that is habitually – some might say, congenitally – divided.”

The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, met on Thursday with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who urged the Israeli leader to commit to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, according to news reports. Netanyahu will visit Washington, DC, next week.