Today's Papers

Greenspan’s Green Light

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today all agree: the top story is Alan Greenspan’s statement to a congressional committee that the U.S. economy is perking along so nicely that the Federal Reserve won’t be raising interest rates any time real soon. The New York Times plays that story above the fold, but reserves its top right spot for the news that President Clinton yesterday renewed his call for means-tested Medicare premiums. Another bit of news convergence: both the NYT and WP have front page stories reporting that Switzerland’s major banks are publishing a list today of about 2,000 of their dormant WWII-era accounts that may include the assets of Holocaust victims.

Greenspan’s comments to the House Banking subcommittee were a green light for Wall St., which responded with a two percent run-up to a new high of 8,061.65. The only slight damper was the Fed chairman’s remark that the money supply will have to be tightened “at some point to foster sustainable growth and low inflation.” Such comments prompted some committee members to criticize Greenspan for being insensitive to working Americans. Indeed, according to the WP, “The true constraint on the economy, Greenspan told the committee, is that the nation does not have enough people who don’t have jobs….”

Clinton’s stance on Medicare comes one day after Republican budget negotiators, fearing the election consequences of raising anybody’s premiums, abandoned means testing. Clinton’s explicit intent is to give the budgeteers political courage: “I would be happy to defend the vote of any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, who votes for this.”

Much of the current political maneuvering has to do with the trivial-seeming detail of who gets to collect the extra premiums. According to the NYT, “The president, responding to Republican complaints that premium increases would look like tax increases, also proposed that the Treasury Department, rather than the Internal Revenue Service, collect the payments for higher premiums from elderly taxpayers, who would make the checks out to the Medicare Trust Fund instead of the IRS.” The paper goes on to quote the skeptical response of Rep. Bill Archer, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee: “The only collection arm I know at Treasury is the IRS.” Even White House spokesman Mike McCurry admits, says the Times, that the Clinton payment suggestion “is a cosmetic solution to a cosmetic problem.”

In a WP “Style” piece, reporter Lloyd Grove profiles self-appointed Paula Jones spokesperson Susan Carpenter-McMillan, a Los Angeles-based former anti-abortion activist. She tells Grove, “I will never deny that when I first heard about this case I said, ‘Okay, good. We’re gonna get that little slimeball.’” Carpenter-McMillan goes on to give her opinion of James Carville: “I love Mary Matalin. I don’t know what she sees in him. He must be great in bed.”

The Wall Street Journal’s “Tax Report” states that according to the latest IRS statistics, the threshold for making it into the top 1 percent of earners is an adjusted gross income of at least $195,726. The 5 percent mark is $91,226, and the 50 percent figure is $21,802. The column also reports that Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Colorado Republican opposed to the estate tax, describes his position as “No taxation without respiration.”

Maureen Dowd’s column in the Times today offers a peek at some of the slogans to be featured in upcoming ABC-TV spots. Slogans like, “Don’t worry, you’ve got billions of brain cells.”