The WonkLine: August 24, 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

Firefighting crews are still grappling with wildfires in suburbs north of Athens, Greece. The fires “were estimated to have destroyed more than 30,000 acres of forest, farming fields and olive groves, according to the state television network NET.”

The Associated Press reports that “beetles and fire, twin plagues, are consuming northern forests in what scientists say is a preview of the future, in a century growing warmer, as the land grows drier, trees grow weaker and pests, abetted by milder winters, grow stronger.”


The Charleston Gazette lays out the schedule for The Friends of America Labor Day Rally in Logan, WV, a climate-denial event “funded by a coalition of businesses with ties to the mining community and led by Massey Energy.”

National Security

“American military commanders with the NATO mission in Afghanistan told President Obama’s chief envoy to the region this weekend that they did not have enough troops to do their job, pushed past their limit by Taliban rebels who operate across borders,” the New York Times reports.

Today, Afghanistan will “roll out partial results from a hotly contested election marred by allegations of massive fraud, with President Hamid Karzai and his chief rival both claiming the lead.”

The AP reports that “the Justice Department’s ethics office has recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder reopen and pursue several CIA prisoner-abuse cases…amid a report that President Barack Obama has approved creation of a special unit of interrogators reporting directly to the White House.”


On Friday, Guaranty Bank became the second-largest U.S. bank to fail this year. Most of its operations were sold at a loss to Spain’s BBVA Compass, the first time that a foreign bank has bought a failed U.S. bank.


Both Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet “warned that a global economic recovery shouldn’t delay an overhaul of financial- market regulations following the worst banking crisis since World War II.”

Econospeak takes the Associated Press to task for claiming that millions face shrinking Social Security payments.


Citing the heated immigration debate, Laura Wides-Munoz of the AP declared that “Sen. Mel Martinez’s resignation closes the latest chapter in the Republican Party’s tumultuous, decade-long effort to woo the nation’s Hispanic voters.” Tighter border security has “spawned a boom in hostage-taking” by drug cartels who prey on the families of undocumented immigrants who they know will turn over ransom money rather than risk deportation by contacting the police. A documentary which follows Mexican and Central American children embarking on the dangerous migration to the US will air tonight on HBO at 9pm ET.

Health Care

On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) signaled that he’s “nearly ready to give up on bipartisan health care reform talks in favor of options that could be pursued solely by Democrats.” “We could get a public option that could be passed with the 60 democratic votes we have,” Schumer said.


Jonathan Cohn argues that Obama’s focus on cost offered critics many targets. “Obama proposed to tie payments to quality; Betsy McCaughey said he would be giving doctors money for pulling the plug on grandma. Obama proposed to put a board of experts, using clinical evidence, to set Medicare payment rates; Sarah Palin interpreted that as creating a “death panel” that would declare the sick and disabled unworthy of treatment.”

Are there really 47 million uninsured Americans? The New York Times has this useful backgrounder.