The WonkLine: August 31, 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.


Bloomberg reports that “Wall Street is suiting up for a battle to protect one of its richest fiefdoms, the $592 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market that is facing the biggest overhaul since its creation 30 years ago.”

The federal government has collected profits of about $4 billion from eight of the biggest banks that have fully repaid their obligations to the government, which is “the equivalent of about 15 percent annually,” according to calculations compiled for The New York Times. The Federal Reserve has also made a $14 billion profit on the loan programs used to combat the economic crisis.


Ann Harrison at VoxEu finds that increased offshoring to low-income countries by U.S. multinational corporations has depressed U.S. wages.

Health Care

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) explains that health care reform is really about “more government control.” “If it was about health care, we could get it done in a couple of weeks,” he said. Meanwhile DeMint’s own health care plan “has drawn some criticism. Frank Knapp, chief executive of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said that the plan had no sustainable financing mechanism and that Mr. DeMint came up with it only to give himself credibility in criticizing Mr. Obama’s plan.” Bob Dole argues that President Obama must take ownership of the health care debate.

Paul Krugman explains why he misses Richard Nixon’s health care reform plan.

Climate Change

The Washington Post argues that “environmentalists are struggling” getting climate legislation passed. The climate activists photographed for the article respond, “It doesn’t look too good when a lobby effort that spends (how many?) millions on PR and media relations gets a reporter to write exactly what they want.”


“A huge mushroom cloud of smoke rose above the landmarks of Los Angeles yesterday,” as “ firefighters in Los Angeles County battled a blaze that led to the death of two colleagues and threatens more than 10,000 homes, as heat and high winds drive the flames.”

“Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. have invested $100 million each to finance separate wind farms this month, taking advantage of a brand-new federal program that is paying substantial cash grants to help cover the cost of renewable energy investments,” also including “large solar installations and geothermal facilities.”

National Security

In a long-awaited review of U.S.-led coalition strategy in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal “compares the campaign to a bull’s futile charges against a matador — with the bull getting weaker with each small ‘cut’ that is inflicted.” The Washington Post reports that Japan’s opposition Democratic Party “won a crushing election victory Sunday with pledges to revive the country’s stalled economy and to steer a foreign-policy course less dependent on the United States,” and “breaking a half-century hammerlock of one-party rule in Japan.” Examining former Vice-President Cheney’s claim that the use of torture “saved American lives,” terrorism expert Peter Bergen writes that “historians will likely judge that the putative intelligence gains made by abusive interrogation techniques were easily outweighed by the damage they caused to the United States’ moral standing.”


Mexico’s Director of Consular Affairs and Protection Daniel Hernandez says that “hard and deep-seated discrimination” against Mexicans in the US is growing “in areas where immigration is new.” Lou Dobbs is scheduled to appear at a “hate rally” sponsored by an anti-immigrant hate group in Washington, DC on September 15th and 16th. The Raleigh News & Observer found that federal investigators who accidentally deported a mentally disabled US citizen knowingly ignored documented evidence of his citizenship.