The WonkLine: March 25, 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.


President Barack Obama has “declared North Dakota a federal disaster area because of statewide flooding,” cresting in Fargo this Friday.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced it plans a practical guide for tackling the “floods, mudslides, droughts, heatwaves or storms are often the main causes of destruction and human suffering tied to climate change, rather than the creeping rise in average temperatures blamed on a build-up of greenhouse gases.”


President Obama “struck an optimistic note last night on the prospects for signing a major global warming law,” telling reporters he believed such legislation “has to take into account regional differences, it has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices.”

National Security

Advocating the “middle path” in Afghanistan, Ilan Goldenberg writes that “a massive and unlimited commitment is completely unrealistic both politically and financially…However, it’s too early to go with a minimalist approach.”

The Obama administration announced plans yesterday to move more than 450 law enforcement agents and equipment to the southern border to combat Mexican drug cartel violence, but asked for no new troops, legislation or funding from Congress for now.

The removal of about 140,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 will be a “massive and expensive effort” that is likely to increase rather than lower Iraq-related expenditures during the withdrawal and for several years afterward, according to a GAO report.


Financial Times’ Martin Wolf on Geithner’s bank rescue: “The danger is that this scheme will, at best, achieve something not particularly important — making past loans more liquid — at the cost of making harder something that is essential — recapitalising banks.”


According to a new GAO report, “nineteen companies were improperly awarded nearly $30 million in federal contracts that were supposed to go to small businesses in low-income neighborhoods.”

The New York Times reports that “up and down Wall Street, bankers and traders sharpened their pencils on Tuesday as they began the complex financial calculus of the latest bank rescue plan. Their goal: to find ways to profit from it.”

Health Care

Jonathan Cohn examines how Big Pharma is positioning itself in the health care debate. “Anything that takes us to a place …where government is making decisions instead of doctors and patients is a hot spot for us,” PhRMA CEO Billy Tauzin said in a conference call yesterday.

President Barack Obama should specifically address disparities in black unemployment, foreclosures, education and health care, the National Urban League says in its annual “State of Black America” report.

Two in three Americans believe that, “we must make it a priority to give every single American quality affordable health care,” according to a poll from Rasmussen Reports.