The WonkLine: June 4, 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, and subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, you can now follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.

Health Care

Advertisers, corn refiners — even addiction treatment centers — have mobilized their lobbyists against new taxes on soda, beer and wine to help pay for Americans’ health care.

CQ HealthBeat on the death of so-called consumer driven health care: “When free-market advocates gathered recently for a conference call to discuss the coming health care debate in Congress, the outlook was so grim it drove one participant straight to his computer to lament the situation.”


Peter Bach makes the case for opening Medicare to bidding. He writes, “when there are too many doctors in one area, too much money gets spent on health care. But the system could take advantage of this fact to save money.”


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said today that “the world’s food import bill will drop this year,” but the “deteriorating economic environment in which the falls are taking place could offset much of the benefit.”

USA Today reports that “the recession is driving the safety net of government benefits to a historic high, as one of every six dollars of Americans’ income is now coming in the form of a federal or state check or voucher.”

The chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will ask Congress today “to impose substantial new costs and restrictions on large banks and other financial institutions” that deal in derivatives.


Putting the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill “on a fast-track” for passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “issued an ultimatum to her committee chairmen: move climate change legislation by June 19 or risk losing jurisdiction over the bill.”


“Stephen Ward, chief of staff for Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M, said Wednesday that lawmakers fear a ratepayer backlash” if carbon pollution is capped, telling “a room full of alternative-energy financiers at the Lazard Capital Markets Alternative Energy Investor Summit” that he foresees “a more modest bill” than Waxman-Markey coming from the Senate.

Researchers have discovered that the Phragmites “super weed” emits toxic chemicals to kill competitors, and “the poison becomes even more toxic” because of global warming’s effect on ultraviolet radiation.

National Security

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “the Islamic Republic’s ‘honor’ in the world should not be questioned, in an apparent criticism of reformers challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in this month’s election.” Khamenei spoke a day after a leading moderate rival accused the conservative president of humiliating the nation by adopting “extremist” foreign policies. TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were scheduled to go on trial Thursday afternoon in Pyongyang, accused of illegally entering North Korea and committing unspecified “hostile acts.” The Washington Post reports “Syria has agreed to let a delegation of U.S. military commanders visit Damascus in the coming weeks, when they will discuss joint efforts to stem the insurgency in Iraq.”