The WonkLine: January 5, 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.


The Census Bureau plans on counting indigenous immigrants from Latin America for the first time by tabulating handwritten entries specifying that the respondent belongs to a Latin American indigenous group such Maya, Nahua, Mixtec, or Purepecha. White House strategists told the Los Angeles Times that if Obama shows “relentless attention to jobs” during the beginning of the year, “he’ll gain maneuvering room to address an immigration overhaul and other issues.” Chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. agreed to pay the government agreed to pay $4.5 million and “improve how it screens prospective employees” in order to avoid a federal immigration probe and probable prosecution.

Health Care

A new government report finds that “U.S. health spending grew 4.4 percent in 2008, its slowest rate in nearly 50 years.” Overall health spending, which reached $2.3 trillion in 2008 — $7,681 per person — still increased faster than the overall economy.


“The four relevant House chairmen will meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team at 1 o’clock in the speaker’s Capitol office to start setting the parameters” for negotiating the final health care bill with the Senate. “Then, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will head to the White House for an early-evening meeting with President Obama to discuss the final bill, according to Democratic officials.”

The House has released a list of key conference priorities.

Climate Change

“Australia has sweltered through its hottest decade on record, officials said Tuesday, linking a rise in heatwaves, drought, dust storms and extreme wildfires with global warming.”

“Climate change scepticism is likely to surge in 2010 and could exacerbate ‘hardship’ for the planet’s poorest people,” according to Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


The New York Times reports that “the nation’s top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government’s intelligence assets — including spy satellites and other classified sensors — to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change.”


According to the National Bankruptcy Research Center, 1.41 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy last year, up 32 percent from 2008, “a surge largely driven by foreclosures and job losses.”

The chairman of New Jersey’s pension fund estimates that the US public pension system faces a shortfall of more than $2 trillion “that will increase pressure on many states’ strained finances and crimp economic growth.”

The New York Times examines how Visa dominates the debit card market by increasing fees on merchants. “And higher fees mean higher profits for banks, even if it means that merchants shift the cost to consumers.”

National Security

The New York Times reports, “the suicide bomber who killed seven C.I.A. officers and a Jordanian spy last week was a double agent who was taken onto the base in Afghanistan because the Americans hoped he might be able to deliver top members of Al Qaeda’s network.” While the US is pushing for targeted sanctions on Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists that the door remains open for further dialogue. “The U.S. Embassy in Yemen reopened Tuesday, after a two-day closure, citing successful counterterrorism operations conducted by the government of Yemen the day before.”