The WonkLine: December 2, 2009

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According to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation report being released today, “more than one in four American households, including more than half of black households, use check cashers, payday lenders or pawnbrokers rather than a bank.”

Credit card companies, “facing the highest level of delinquencies since April,” are reviving “inactivity charges,” or fees for not using a card enough. “We want to encourage active use and management of the accounts,” said Fifth Third Bancorp spokeswoman Stephanie Honan.

Jon Hilsenrath at Real Time Economics looks at private sector U.S. employment since 1998 and finds a “lost decade for U.S. workers.”

Climate Change

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), “one of the few Republicans willing to negotiate with Democrats on a climate change bill,” said yesterday, “I think we need to act by next spring” to pass a bill limiting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

According to the China Meteorological Administration, “China’s output of grains could decline as much as 37 percent in the second half of this century if measures to counter the effects of climate change aren’t actively implemented.”

Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner said yesterday that “while international climate agreements are important, domestic climate change legislation is the most crucial to jumpstart greater investment in clean technologies.”

Health Care

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), “a key swing vote, plans to offer an amendment that would impose Stupak-like restrictions on abortion under the Senate health care bill.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has “put several amendment requests on the table: raising the penalty on hospitals with high rates of hospital-acquired infections, changing the small business tax credit to prevent it from discouraging hiring and increasing wages and boosting the affordability of insurance.”

In an interview with The Hill, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) “acknowledged that Reid’s ‘opt out’ public option bill does not have 60 votes necessary for passage.” Carper is working on a compromise that could be unveiled as early as next week.


Businessweek suggests creating a “Startup Founders Visa program” for those with great ideas and the desire to start a company in the U.S., in an attempt to overcome an ongoing recession and the first brain drain in U.S. history.

The number of gays and lesbians seeking asylum in the U.S. from persecution in their native countries may be rising according to a report in Newsweek.

Though the FBI is currently investigating Arizona’s “Hispanic hunting” Sheriff Joe Arpaio for using his position to settle political vendettas, Arpaio went ahead and filed a civil suit against county administrators, elected officials, judges and attorneys who have challenged his authority.

National Security

In a speech at West Point yesterday, President Obama announced “that he would speed 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in coming months, but he vowed to start bringing American forces home in the middle of 2011, saying the United States could not afford and should not have to shoulder an open-ended commitment.”

A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that Iran will itself enrich uranium up to 20 percent purity in a blow to Western efforts to stop Tehran’s sensitive nuclear activities.

The mayor of a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank has been arrested after protesters tried to stop Israeli authorities enforcing building curbs. Avi Naim was apprehended on suspicion of disrupting police, who were trying to enter Beit Arieh to hand out orders to stop unauthorised construction work.