Today's Papers

Mergers and Inquisitions

The New York Times leads with two new major financial company mergers, with the bigger of the two deals also flagged by the Wall Street Journal in its front-page news box. The Washington Post goes with the confusing picture painted by the welfare statistics collected by the various states. The Los Angeles Times goes with the paper’s poll results indicating that nearly two-thirds of those queried support California’s ballot referendum item calling for an end to bilingual education in the state’s schools. USA Today leads with concerns that Protestant and Catholic extremists could derail last Friday’s historic peace deal.

BankAmerica Corp. has agreed to merge with NationsBank Corp. in a transaction valued at about $60 billion, creating, says the Times, the nation’s first coast-to-coast bank, and the largest in terms of total branches and deposits. The second deal, the $30 billion combination of Banc One Corp. with First Chicago NBD Corp., would create the country’s fifth-largest bank, which would dominate the Midwest. The two mergers will, says the NYT, further raise the standard for how big financial companies feel they need to be.

The WP lead asserts that eighteen months after federal welfare reform, “it is becoming clear that the mass of data the government requires states to collect is in such disarray that it is impossible to determine whether the law is working.” The paper says the feds can’t tell whether or not states are meeting the reform law’s targets for gainfully employing former welfare recipients. State officials respond that they are finding the federal data requirements overwhelming. The four-part series on welfare reform the NYT started yesterday also finds the data less than crystal-clear (no thanks to NYC officials, who, the paper says, gradually stopped cooperating with its requests for information). Yesterday’s series kick-off says the paper found “scant evidence” that the reforms had moved a “significant number” of New Yorkers from welfare to full-time work. Today’s installment finds more certainty about outcomes, noting that many workfare recipients have become part of the NYC municipal workforce, picking up the slack created when Mayor Giuliani reduced the city payroll ten percent.

The LAT poll finds that the end-bilingual-education measure was not opposed by any voter bloc–whether designated by age, income, gender, geography, or ethnic group. Even among Latino voters, there was 50 percent support. (The paper didn’t mention that a front-page article reporting on an earlier poll had found the level of Latino support then to be much higher.) The paper’s pollsters found that those surveyed were not that antecedently familiar with the issue, which the LAT attributes to the low-level, thus far, of television advertising about it.

The NYT front, in a piece by the man who broke Whitewater, Jeff Gerth, reveals that a May 1997 Pentagon report, secret until now, concluded that scientists from the aerospace firms Hughes and Loral Space and Communications had turned over expertise to China that significantly improved the reliability of that country’s nuclear missiles. The piece is a thorough and fascinating history of the two companies’ development of their Chinese markets in recent years. That report, says the Times, prompted a criminal investigation of the companies, which was undermined this year when Clinton approved Loral’s export to China of information about guidance systems. Loral’s chairman, the paper notes with a straight face, was the largest personal donor to the Democratic Party last year.

The WSJ editorial page revisits an argument for privatizing Social Security accounts the paper has hit before–that doing so would give blacks and married working women a much better return on their contributions than these groups now enjoy. Blacks are disadvantaged because of their comparatively short life expectancies, married women workers because Social Security payouts are presently based solely on a household’s higher earner’s contributions. The latter point is also made in a NYT op-ed.

A top-of-the-page op-ed piece in yesterday’s LAT responds to the recent decision by the Department of Justice not to prosecute Mark Fuhrman for any crimes he committed while with the LAPD by calling for the public disclosure of all of Fuhrman’s police records. “The documents in his file,” explains the writer, “may spur a debate relating to how an officer can have a file containing numerous complaints of misconduct against minorities and still be promoted through the ranks.” The proposal comes from a man with a proven penchant for spurring debates–O.J. Simpson. “Today’s Papers” says, fair enough, O.J., provided you disclose the private information from your files that you have thus far suppressed. You know, like your lie detector test results.