leads with President Clinton’s criticism Tuesday of health insurers for making it too difficult for people who switch or lose their jobs to get coverage. The Washington Post leads with oil prices hitting a ten-year low. The New York Times goes with the Senate Republicans’ proposed budget and its rejection of Clinton’s domestic spending priorities. The Los Angeles Times lead is that California thrift institution Home Savings is being bought by Seattle-based Washington Mutual, creating the nation’s seventh-largest financial institution. But the paper’s off-lead is probably the bigger story: The earthquake hazard facing Southern California may only be half as great as scientists had been saying, and it’s very unlikely that the region will ever experience that staple of Los Angeles small talk, the 8.0 quake, aka The Big One.
USAT reports that Clinton has asked HHS Secretary Donna Shalala to look into strengthening a 1996 law aimed at helping people between jobs keep their health coverage. The main problem, says the paper, is that the law doesn’t control how much companies can charge for such gap coverage, so they are tending to make it prohibitive.
Following up on the USAT lead from just over a week ago, the WP lead reports that oil prices have gone down into the $13 a barrel neighborhood, a true boon to the U.S. economy. Adjusted for inflation, this is the lowest price since the energy crisis in the 1970s. The reasons given are the same ones offered in the papers last week: a mild winter here and in Europe, a slowdown in Asian demand and the unwillingness by two of OPEC’s biggest producers, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, to cut production. A bit further below in the story is the reason for that: they are trying to gain market share via low prices.
The Senate Budget Committee proposed a Republican fiscal blueprint that, says the NYT, rejects nearly all of President Clinton’s calls for increased spending in such areas as education, child care and health care, choosing instead to put the proceeds of any tobacco settlement into Medicare. But on the other hand, the budget plan provides smaller tax cuts than were sought by many Republicans, and supports the Clinton administration’s plan to use budget surpluses to first shore up Social Security. The Times says the proposal is likely to be adopted more or less intact.
The Wall Street Journal runs a piece inside reporting that it turns out the Beardstown Ladies, the group of elderly investors who became media darlings a few years back, have been overstating the annualized rate of return they’re achieving. Turns out that between 1983 and 1993 it was 9.1 percent, not 23.4 percent, the figure on the cover of their best-selling investment guidebook. During the same period, the DJIA was up 12.1 percent. Oops, math error, say the Ladies. (The audit was prompted by earlier stories in Chicago magazine and the WSJ.) The oops is also on today’s WP and LAT front pages.
The NYT front reports on the court-ordered release yesterday of more than 124,000 pages of previously secret files from a Mississippi state agency that used spy tactics, intimidation, false imprisonment, jury tampering and other illegal methods to fight civil rights activities in the state. The files are believed to provide material for lawsuits against the state and also for the reopening of long-dormant cases of crimes against civil rights workers, along the lines of the long-delayed but finally successful prosecution of the man who murdered Medgar Evers. The Mississippi papers story is also carried inside the WP.
This week’s Bill-Bashing from Michael Kelly in his Post column includes the following table of organization for the Clinton White House: There’s “Robert Bennett, the president’s sexual misconduct mouthpiece, which is a distinguished position. It is distinguished from David Kendall, his personal-finance corruption mouthpiece; from Lanny Davis, his campaign-finance corruption mouthpiece; from James Kennedy, his White House general scandal mouthpiece; from James Carville, his ‘independent’ general scandal mouthpiece; and from Michael McCurry, his don’t ask, don’t tell mouthpiece.”