The WonkLine: July 20, 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.



Climate Change

Thousands of people are fleeing wildfires in western Canada, as firefighters tackles blazes spurred by drought, high temperatures, and wind across Texas, California, and Montana, the topic of a Senate hearing tomorrow.

“The cap-and-trade bill before the U.S. Senate will put an even greater burden on the backs of farmers who already are strapped with staggering debts,” said spokesmen for the Utah Farm Bureau and U.S. Magnesium.

“About 100 people from the group Tea Party Patriots protested outside Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack’s office in Palm Springs on Friday,” calling the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation a “scam.”

National Security

Iranian reformist and former president Mohammad Khatami has joined another influential former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in calling for a referendum regarding the disputed June 12th elections.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says that Israel has no intention to end plans for a new Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem, despite objections from the Obama administration.

The New York Times reports of “a sweeping United States military review” of the American run prison and Afghan jail and judicial systems at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, in response to “worries that abuses and militant recruiting within the prisons are helping to strengthen the Taliban.”


Although the overall number of workplace deaths has fallen, recent federal statistics show that Hispanic worker deaths have increased by 76% due to lack of training, language barriers and the exploitation of immigrant workers.

Border state lawmakers are slamming the recently approved 700-mile border wall plan, saying that it’s a “waste of money” that could be better spent on “our understaffed, crowded and overburdened ports of entry.”

Due to ramped up border enforcement, migrants and drug smugglers are frequently crossing paths which is leading to a decrease in border crossings as the journey has become even more dangerous than it already was.


According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, “U.S. banks have been charging off soured commercial mortgages at the fastest pace in nearly 20 years.” At the current pace, losses on commercial property could reach about $30 billion by the end of 2009.

Troubled business lender CIT has reached a deal with its major bondholders that will keep the company out of bankruptcy with a $3 billion rescue loan.

According to a report from the TARP’s Special Inspector General, “many of the banks that got federal aid to support increased lending have instead used some of the money to make investments, repay debts or buy other banks.”

Health Care

Today, President Obama hosts a roundtable discussion with doctors and nurses at the Children’s National Medical Center “and is expected to continue a recent wave of broadcast interviews to pitch the idea that health reform needs to happen ASAP.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants to “soften” a proposed surcharge on the wealthy meant to finance health reform “so that it applies only to families that make $1 million or more.”

President Obama’s approval rating on the issue of health care has dropped below the 50 percent threshold for the first time, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.