The WonkLine: August 10, 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.




AP reports that, despite the high unemployment rate, “U.S. workers regard farm work as beneath them” and are “looking at higher rungs of the labor market,” which means increased job security for immigrants — but more competition for those seeking advancement.

In a New York Times blog post, economics professor Nancy Folbre debunked Karl Rove’s claims concerning the potential health care coverage of undocumented immigrants and denounces Rove for “dismissing the needs of [legal] noncitizens” and “feed[ing] the same animosities” that drive the “birther” movement.

There is a “deep inconsistency” in federal payments for holding immigrants in “a hastily assembled network of private prisons and local jails,” according to the AP.

Health Care

During his appearance on ABC’s This Week, Newt Gingrich appeared to defend Sarah Palin’s claim that a “death panel” would kill her family. “You’re asking us to trust the government,” Gingrich said.

The Wall Street Journal explains why “a proposal to tax generous health plans could ensnare a broader swath of employers and workers whose benefits aren’t necessarily gold-plated.”

John Harwood argues that the tumultuous town-hall environment “makes a health care compromise more unlikely.” “Yet the rowdy start of the August Congressional recess has galvanized activists on both ends of the ideological spectrum. That makes it tougher for negotiators to stake out a middle ground — especially in conservative locales that Democratic centrists call home,” Harwood writes.

National Security

President Obama arrived in Mexico yesterday for a two-day summit with the Mexican president and Canadian prime minister to discuss “a broad range of issues including climate change, the economic crisis, the swine flu pandemic and the battle against illegal drugs.”

General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, told the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. will begin to put a “premium on safeguarding the Afghan population rather than hunting down militants” by redeploying more U.S. and Nato troops to Afghan cities.

Sunni insurgents, eager to reignite sectarian tensions, targeted Iraqi Shiites today with nine bombings in Baghdad and two truck bombings in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least 48 and injuring more than 250.

Climate Change

The BBC reports that “representatives from some 190 countries are meeting in the German city of Bonn in a fresh attempt to negotiate a new treaty on climate change…The treaty is not due to be completed until a major conference to be held in Denmark this December.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today “that climate change is the greatest challenge facing a world beset by crises and called on governments to reach a deal on the environment at a meeting in Denmark later this year.”

According to military and intelligence analysts, “the changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics.”


Bloomberg reports that “the collapse in commercial real estate is preventing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke from declaring the economy and financial markets are healed.” Property values have fallen 35 percent since October 2007.

Eyes on Trade looks at the business lobby’s attempt to push President Obama to move on free trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration.

Zachary Karabell notes the “delinkage of the fate of corporate profits from that of the overall economy”: “This is undoubtedly good for stocks and positive for investors, but it is also a challenge for American society that we have not even begun to confront.”