The WonkLine: May 8, 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.


“Thousands more people have been forced to flee their homes as strong winds drive fierce wildfires” in California, which is now in a state of emergency.

“Climate change is the greatest strategic risk facing property and casualty insurers”: Studies conducted in the last few years have demonstrated that “more and more severe wildfires will raise insurance rates.”


“An unusually warm spring thaw in Alaska is causing some of the state’s worst flooding in decades, with rising rivers wiping out an entire village,” forcing Gov. Sarah Palin (R) to declare a disaster for the flooded areas and to cancel her attendance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.


The LA Times reports that “the Obama administration is threatening to rescind billions of dollars in federal stimulus money” if California does not “restore wage cuts to unionized home healthcare workers.”

“According to an outline the company has been sharing privately with Washington legislators,” the number of cars that General Motors builds abroad for sale in the U.S. will roughly double in the next five years.

John Carney looks at Citigroup’s “stunningly” terrible mortgage portfolio: “The fact that Citi loaded itself up with such a large amount of toxic mortgages boggles the mind. They really must have been scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

National Security

“Pakistan declared war on its homegrown Islamic extremists” yesterday, reports McClatchy. Pakistan will no longer “bow our heads before the terrorists,” said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in a late-night televised address to the nation. Foreign Policy’s Laura Rozen reports that “U.S. officials and U.S. and Israeli nuclear experts dispute” a story in Thursday’s Washington Times that claimed that “a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel’s nuclear weapons from international scrutiny” was in “jeopardy.” The Washington Post reports that “Afghanistan war funding surpasses the outlay for Iraq for the first time in next year’s proposed Pentagon budget, demonstrating a shift in priorities that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seeks to execute in defense spending.”

Health Care

General Electric Co. announced yesterday that it will “invest $6 billion over the next six years” in an effort to make health care more affordable in underserved regions.


The University of North Carolina is considering a proposal to “standardize health insurance and make it mandatory for students” across its 16 campuses. Currently, eleven of the campuses “get coverage through a UNC consortium…But the coverage details, including costs and maximum benefits, vary widely.”

The Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed budget for 2010 is a $63 million increase from 2009, with additional funds going toward increasing access for rural Americans and increasig the number of healthcare workers, “particularly in areas that are traditionally underserved.”