The WonkLine: September 21, 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.

National Security

In a confidential assessment, General Stanley McChrystal, the chief US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, issues a stark warning that more troops are needed and that “failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term…risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”


The United Nation’s investigation of voter fraud in Afghanistan is of a magnitude “far greater than what has generally been understood,” and offers the Taliban a new avenue for its propaganda campaign.

The Obama administration’s re-thinking of missile defense strategy may have been the result of long standing suspicion of the policy by the military itself, the Washington Post reports.


Microsoft has implemented “say on pay,” making it “one of most prominent US firms to give shareholders a formal voice in executive compensation,” while a group of businesses including Tyco, AT&T; and Cisco are endorsing a set of pay principles “that hew closely to what the Obama administration is pushing.”


Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who will lead the regulatory reform effort in the Senate, “is planning to propose the merger of four bank agencies into one super-regulator, an idea that is significantly different from what President Obama envisions.”

Floyd Norris takes on the claim that student loan reform shouldn’t occur because it will cost jobs at banks: “That reminds me of arguments that we need to build some fancy weapons system to preserve jobs at military contractors.”

Health Care

Senate Finance Committee members signaled “an aggressive effort to reshape health-care legislation proposed by Chairman Max Baucus, drafting 564 amendments for consideration when the panel meets this week.” Read my overview here.

The New York Times explains why “a proposed tax on the Cadillac health insurance plans may also hit the Chevys.” “As it turns out, though, many smaller fish would get caught in Mr. Baucus’s tax net. The supposedly Cadillac insurance policies include ones that cover many of the nation’s firefighters and coal miners, older employees at small businesses — a whole gamut that runs from union shops to Main Street entrepreneurs.”

Maggie Mahar argues that “Baucus’s insurance bill is a dose of bad medicine.”


On Sunday’s “Al Punto,” President Obama told Univision’s Spanish-language audience that undocumented immigrants should not receive health care and “embraced” his promise of immigration reform without giving a timetable. USA Today reports that “more skilled immigrants are giving up their American dreams to pursue careers back home.”


Sholom Rubashkin — the former executive at Agriprocessors who is facing charges of bank fraud, immigrant harboring, mail and wire fraud following one of the largest immigration raids in US history — is suing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for “the immediate processing and release of agency records” related to the raid.

Climate Change

With climate negotiations “dangerously close to deadlock,” activists around the world are calling leaders at 12:18 pm to negotiate a fair climate treaty in Copenhagen on December 18, as world leaders come to New York City for the United Nations summit tomorrow.

On Monday, the Carbon Disclosure Project is set to release a report surveying the climate policies of the majority of the S&P; 500, in which “52 percent of respondents said they’ve set emissions-reduction targets for the companies,” with “84 percent of financial-sector respondents citing concerns including a potential shortage of raw materials and supply-chain disruptions because of severe weather.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he hopes to break the “deadlock” in global climate talks “with evidence that 10 million jobs could be created by 2020, if developing nations agree to big cuts in greenhouse gases.”