The WonkLine: June 17, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security, immigration 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 Washington Independent’s Mike Lillis asks if Congress’ cash-for-clunkers plan has turned into “cash to trade clunkers for clunkers.”

Edward Harrison at Naked Capitalism wonders why “I have yet to see any comprehensive legislation protecting homeowners from financial distress, while we have certainly put the financial services industry and its reform front and center.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, “the Internal Revenue Service is backing away from proposals to more uniformly enforce a law that taxes personal use of employer-provided cellphones.” The move “is a turnabout from last week, when the IRS proposed measures to improve enforcement of the law.”


A new report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund was released yesterday showing a close correlation between the increase in vitriol rhetoric associated with the immigration debate and a troubling rise in hate crimes against Hispanics and those “perceived” as immigrants.

Border Patrol has announced that the number of U.S. border apprehensions has fallen for the third year in a row to levels not seen since 1973.

Two white teenagers who were acquitted of murder and ethnic intimidation charges and only convicted of simple assault will be sentenced today in association with the highly publicized “death by beating” of Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez.


During last year’s Democratic primary, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) “relied heavily on Al Gore’s endorsement” despite having “never been out in front on global warming,” but is now threatening to “vote down” the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act.

Utah’s next governor, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) told the Western Governors’ Association “it appears to him science on global warming is not necessarily conclusive.” He is replacing Gov. Jon Huntsman, nominated to be the ambassador to China, who entered Utah into the Western Climate Initiative.

“Aides to Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) are in southern West Virginia for what they call a three-day fact-finding tour about mountaintop removal mining,” meeting with “coal industry officials, environmentalists and citizens.”

Health Care

In an interview with CNBC and the New York Times, President Obama said he is willing to compromise on the public option. “We’re open-minded. If, for example, the cooperative idea that Kent Conrad has put forward, if that is a better way to reduce costs and help families and businesses with their health care, I’m more than happy to accept those good ideas.”

Steve Perlstein writes, “The basic view from behind the stethoscope is that health care would be a whole lot better if only the docs were given free rein to treat their patients, organize their practices, run the hospitals and set their own fees….Unfortunately, we know now that much of that worldview is wrong.”

The New York Times’ David Leonhardt takes on the Republican ‘rationing’ rhetoric.

National Security

In the Middle East Bulletin, Iran analyst Meir Javedanfar writes that “ensuring that Ahmadinejad continues as president and that a coalition of powerful figures and reformers does not gain power is an overwhelming concern for the Supreme Leader [Khamenei], which may explain his actions surrounding Iran’s most controversial elections to date.”

The L.A. Times reports that “a top Defense Department official” said that “North Korea may be able to overcome technical difficulties and assemble a missile capable of hitting West Coast cities within three years, but it is unlikely to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead in that time frame.”

While visiting Gaza, former President Jimmy Carter “said that he urged Hamas’s leaders during a high-profile meeting here to take steps necessary to become accepted by the leading Western nations.”