Today's Papers

Done Deal

The big story is a done budget deal, which leads USA Today, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post leads instead with fraud in Medicare home health care billing–which the NYT did two days ago.

Euphoria is the coverage’s main mood. According to USAT, “President Clinton, briefed by aides shortly before he went to play golf in Las Vegas, pronounced the deal ‘fabulous.’” And, the paper says, for House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich, it was “a dream come true.”

The NYT, LAT and WP each have the detail that President Clinton’s golf partner was Michael Jordan, but none captures Jordan’s reaction. Presumably, he was even more thrilled, since this deal will save him kajillions. The key provisions: tax credits for most families with children, $35 billion in education-related tax credits and deductions, including for interest on student loans and penalty-free withdrawals to pay education expenses from IRA accounts, an increase in cigarette taxes the added revenue mostly going towards state-chosen child health programs, a drop in the capital gains tax rates–including for most homeowners, no tax on home sale profits–and reduced inheritance taxes.

Although this deal is widely described as balancing the budget by 2002 while offering the first major tax cut since 1981, there is scant discussion today about how this feat can really be achieved, when for instance, the budgeteers abandoned proposals to charge wealthier senior citizens higher Medicare premiums and to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

The Wall Street Journal quotes economist Robert Shapiro as saying that the post-budget-bill era will be “a whole new typography.” Does that mean stand by for the fine print?

The NYT and the LAT have front-page stories about the just-concluded trial of Pol Pot, held somewhere in the Cambodian jungle (a videotape was made available to the media). The LAT headline states that Pot was “Near Tears.” Pot received a sentence of life imprisonment. The NYT has a Clinton administration official saying, “One point of discussion we want to have with Hun Sen is to say he can work his way back into the world’s good graces by turning this guy over.”

Everybody makes front-page mention of yesterday’s surprise resignation by the Air Force’s top officer, Gen. Ronald Fogleman. The explanation is widely held to be that Fogleman thought the Air Force general in charge of security at the barracks in Saudi Arabia bombed by terrorists last year was blameless but that Fogleman’s boss, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, is likely to punish him. In his resignation statement, Fogleman also mentioned that his firm stance on adulterous bomber pilot Kelly Flinn “may have put him out of step with the Air Force.” The WP adds a more prosaic motivation: Fogleman’s “displeasure over cuts ordered by Cohen in the new Air Force F-22 fighter.”

Deep inside the Post there’s word that despite earlier denials, Switzerland’s largest bank yesterday admitted that documents discovered in its shredder room by a night watchman who then disseminated them may in fact have been related to dormant accounts of Holocaust victims. The bank’s initial reaction had been to investigate the watchman, Christoph Meili, for violating Swiss banking secrecy rules. This isn’t the first time it took a night watchman to reveal a disgraceful truth fancy people with day jobs knew all about. Watergate, remember, started with night security guard Frank Wills.