The WonkLine: November 13, 2009

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

Climate Change

“The Greenland ice sheet is losing its mass faster than in previous years and making an increasing contribution to sea level rise,” according to new research. “In total, Greenland lost about 1,500 billion tons of ice from 2000–08, split between icebergs cracking into the sea from glaciers and water runoff.”

Saying the Obama administration “shouldn’t ‘over-promise’” in Copenhagen, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) told reporters: “The question of what our emissions targets and reductions timetable will be, I think it’s pretty hard for them to know what that will be, because we do not yet know what that will be.”


“There is a group of people who deny the science, the reality of climate change,” Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd told reporters. “They are the enemies of us all.”

Health Care

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is considering a proposal to increase the Medicare payroll tax “by one-half of 1 percentage point, to 1.95 percent for high-income people, with an expectation that the government could raise $40 billion to $50 billion over 10 years.”

The Business Roundtable has “issued an analysis saying the right combination of changes Congress is considering could slow health care cost growth by 15 percent to 20 percent over the next decade.”

“The Republican National Committee will no longer offer employees an insurance plan that covers abortion after POLITICO reported Thursday that the anti-abortion RNC’s policy has covered the procedure since 1991.”


The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is making banks pre-pay $45 billion in fees to cover the cost of bank failures, “an unprecedented assessment that reflects the agency’s projections that the current round of failures will not peak until next year.”


The Federal Reserve yesterday issued a rule prohibiting banks from charging overdraft fees unless customers explicitly sign-up for the service. The regulations “cover overdrafts from ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases, which account for roughly half of overdrawn transactions.”

Barry Ritholz takes a look at “one of the causes of the disconnect between financial firms and the subsequent meltdown: Corporate governance. Or the lack thereof.”


“Federal authorities have identified more than 111,000 immigrants with criminal records being held in local jails,” as part of an attempt to refocus immigration enforcement policy away from the “high-profile factory raids and searches in communities for immigration fugitives” that was central to Bush administration immigration policy. Yesterday, a federal jury convicted Sholom Rubashkin, the “former manager of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse, which was the site of a major immigration raid, on 86 of 91 financial fraud charges.” The ACLU of Nevada has sent a letter to the president of the University of Nevada, Reno urging the school to allow Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minuteman Project, to appear on campus on November 19 as part of a forum on immigration.

National Security

Attorney General Eric Holder “will announce today that five Guantanamo Bay detainees with alleged ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, including accused mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be transferred to New York to go on trial in civilian court.” Pakistani security officials “say two suicide car bombings killed at least 16 people and wounded scores of others in northwestern Pakistan on Friday. The attacks come as U.S. National Security Advisor Jim Jones is in the country for meetings with civilian and military leaders.” President Obama, “seeking to mend fences with America’s most important Asian ally Japan, announced that he would establish a high-level working group on the contentious issue of the continuing presence of a Marine base in Okinawa.”