The WonkLine: February 16, 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.



Experts are questioning the impact and necessity of an 18-foot high border fence built just east of San Diego. “I think it’s a Bush-era boondoggle that will have almost no consequence in terms of stemming the flow of immigration,” said Char Miller, director of the environmental analysis program at Pomona College.

“The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped by 1 million people in two years,” according to new estimates by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Arizona Republic finds that “stepped-up immigration enforcement is overloading U.S. immigration courts and undermining the ability of judges to rule fairly because they are under growing pressure to decide cases quickly.”

National Security

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that if Iran acquires a nuclear bomb it could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which would create ‘dangerous’ problems in the region.”

“Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the No. 2 behind Afghan Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar and a close associate of Osama bin Laden, was captured in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi…Baradar is the most senior Afghan Taliban leader arrested since the beginning of the Afghan war in 2001.”

“North Korea today marked the 68th birthday of its leader, Kim Jong-il, with extravagant eulogies and dance spectaculars — but the celebrations took place amid anxiety over his health and the fragile state of the economy.”

Climate Change

Real Climate challenges conservative distortions on supposed errors in the latest IPCC report on climate change. “Time for us to sort the wheat from the chaff: which of these putative errors are real, and which not?”

Media Matters takes on a conservative meme that casts warming in the last 15 years as “not significant.”

In a new study published in Nature Geoscience, scientists find that “rapidly rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mean that the rate of ocean acidification is the fastest since the age of the dinosaurs.”


Lobbying expenditures jumped 12% from 2008 to $29.8 million last year among the eight banks and private equity firms that spent the most to influence legislation,” according to data compiled by the LA Times.

The Washington Post profiles SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro’s slow battle to implement new regulations for the financial system.

The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an advocacy group for restaurant workers, writes in a new report that 90 percent of restaurant workers have no health insurance or paid sick days.

Health Care

Support for the excise tax deal reached last month appears to be “eroding,” from House members and “labor leaders, who say the proposal is too high a price to pay.”

Trial lawyers don’t want to see a tort reform fight out of the February 25th bipartisan health summit. “I would hope this would be an area we just don’t go,” Linda Lipsen of the American Association for Justice told the Hill.

The Associated Press investigated individual health insurance rate increases and found them increasing in four states including Maine up 23 percent this year, insurers in Oregon are up 15 percent, and Kansas 20-30 percent.