The WonkLine: January 4, 2010

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. You can also follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.




A new report by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that “the gap in Internet use has shrunk considerably,” as internet usage among Latino adults rose 10 percent from 2006 to 2008.

Steve Levy, a conservative Suffolk County Democrat, whose opposition to undocumented immigrants has been the subject of national criticism, announced that he is weighing a primary challenge to Gov. David Paterson (D-NY).

The Los Angeles Times highlights new research that rebuts the notion that “Mexican immigrants and their offspring” are following a “trajectory of downward mobility into a permanent underclass” and points to a strong Latino middle-class.

National Security

BBC reports that “four US soldiers and one UK serviceman have been killed in two separate bomb blasts in southern Afghanistan.”

The United States and British Embassies in the capital of Yemen “remained closed for a second day Monday because of continuing threats from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group linked to the attempt to bring down an international flight into Detroit on Christmas.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “gave no indication on Monday of any resumption soon of peace talks with Israel, despite optimism of progress voiced by officials on both sides.”

Health Care

Jonathan Cohn is reporting that “according to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee.”

The Senate health care bill contains a provision that would encourage more construction businesses to provide health insurance to their workers, the New York Times reports. “Construction companies with five or more workers would generally have to provide health insurance or pay a penalty — an excise tax of $750 per employee.”

Suzy Khimm asks, “Are Corporate Insurers Defrauding the Public?”


A panel of economists at the American Economic Association’s yearly conference said yesterday that “a dismal job market, a crippled real estate sector and hobbled banks will keep a lid on U.S. economic growth over the coming decade.”

The Washington Post notes that trade disputes between the U.S. and China are multiplying “and further damaging the already tense relationship between the two economic powers.”

Clive Crook worries that “in 2010, if the [economic] crisis continues to ease, the danger is that politicians will relax and minds will wander from the need for new financial rules.”

Climate Change

“Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States — from flame retardants in furniture to household cleaners — nearly 20 percent are secret, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, their names and physical properties guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials under a little-known federal provision.”

Chinese officials said today that “a diesel spill has contaminated a stretch of the Yellow River…despite frantic efforts to contain its spread into China’s second largest waterway that provides drinking water to tens of millions of northern residents.”

Is Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey a climate change skeptic? Seems so.