The WonkLine: February 9, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below.


“Bushfires rage through southeastern Australia,” fueled by record drought and heat, razing towns and killing 135 people.

Severe droughts have led Kenya to declare a state of emergency and threaten 4.4 million people in north China.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told The Wall Street Journal his goal is to spend half of the roughly $37 billion in the recovery plan for his department “in a year.”

Health Care

Sixty-two percent of voters say the economic crisis makes it more important than ever to take on health care reform. But “many Americans are nervous that health care overhaul may actually worsen their coverage.”

Jonathan Cohn reports: “health care would be a ‘central focus’ of Obama’s first budget proposal.”

Ken Terry summarizes the implications of health reform for the health industry: “the long-range outlook for the health-care business is mixed.


The Obama administration “is crafting a mortgage-rescue program that would see Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ease payments for hundreds of thousands of borrowers and offer a model for Wall Street to do the same.”


Companies receiving money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program “would see new restrictions on hiring specialized immigrant workers under an amendment added to the Senate stimulus bill.”

At Econbrowser, Kash Mansori examines the $15,000 home-buyers credit in the stimulus: “I think it quite likely that such a tax credit might have very little impact on the level of house prices in today’s housing market.”

National Security

Former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami, a political moderate who “favored detente with the West and more social and political freedom in Iran”, has announced that he will run for the presidency in June.

The CIA has told the President that they have increased operations in the UK to prevent terrorist attacks being launched from Britain.


Steve Clemons argues that the election of Bibi Netanyahu “will help Americans realize that the false choice approach the Bush administration has been taking in Israel-Palestine affairs was flawed — and that Obama’s team must change the game or face a serious rebuke from Middle East watchers in the US and around the world.”