Today's Papers

Folding Greenspan

Yesterday’s surprise Federal Reserve interest rate cut leads at the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. The New York Times runs the cut as its off-lead and goes instead with the apparent federal budget deal, which makes everybody else’s front.

The Fed’s cut in two important interest rates came just two weeks after its previous one, and Wall St. went from ticked about insufficient credit to upticked–330 points to the good on the day. The rate move, the papers note, was the first one to come without a regularly scheduled Fed meeting in more than four years. And, observes the Post, only the second such occurrence since Greenspan became Fed chairman. A move without a meeting is taken by the papers to be a sign of the seriousness of the overall economic environment. (Although the LAT says there’s no evidence that there’s any orchestrated rate cutting by central banks around the world in the offing.) One economist tells the NYT he’s worried that the cut indicates that some particular bank or investment firm is about to have a big problem, but the paper says there are no immediate signs of this. Another tells the Wall Street Journal it means that Fed chairman Alan Greenspan admits he made a mistake.

The NYT, WP and WSJ explain that Greenspan made the move on his own authority but after consulting with other Fed officials. The papers quote experts saying they expect further interest cuts soon.

In its top paragraph, the NYT lead characterizes the new $1.7 trillion federal budget–expected to pass today–as the first in three decades with a surplus and as containing the biggest peacetime increase in military spending since Ronald Reagan was president (complete, the NYT notices, with an aircraft carrier contract for Trent Lott’s hometown, and a cargo plane contract for Newt Gingrich’s.) The Times lists what it considers the budget’s leading features: money for hiring 100,000 new teachers, relief for farmers, more than $2 billion in basic medical research funds, funds for U.S. troops in Bosnia, tightening security at U.S. embassies, replenishing the IMF, and sending food to North Korea. Another done deal: federal health plans will now be required to provide contraceptive coverage for federal employees,

The paper also describes this piece of Congressional budget reasoning: “[B]ecause of the killing of two Capitol Hill police officers earlier this year, it provides $200 million to develop a visitor center to more easily control entry into the Capitol and a tightening of security at the Capitol and the Library of Congress.” Only in Washington would it cost $100 million to (not) save a cop’s life. The WP reports that Trent Lott got a provision written into the budget bill that extends the duck hunting season in Mississippi, but never explains how a federal bill could do that.

The Times lead (ditto the Times lead editorial) says the resolution of the budget wrangle was a big victory for President Clinton, who showed he can still influence Congress even while it’s considering impeaching him. Was Clinton apologizing yet again when he said, “”Just think what we could do for America if we had these priorities all year long, instead of just for eight days”? The WP editorial on the budget manages not to feel Mr. Clinton’s gain, saying of all the players: “They reached belated agreement on a single massive bill that takes the place of eight lesser bills they should have passed earlier. They achieved the agreement in part by bending the budget rules. The omnibill contains something extra for everyone. The extra spending will eat up about a quarter of the vaunted budget surplus projected for the fiscal year just begun.” The wry headline over the editorial: “Big Deal.”

USAT features a big front-page “cover story” ramping up to the beginning Monday of the government anti-trust suit against Microsoft. The story quotes Bill Gates’ recent assessment of the government’s case: “I’m not worried about it at all.” The story mentions but does not explain two things that are a bit puzzling: 1) Why won’t Gates be called to testify? and 2) Why is there still a case concerning browsers and Windows 98, when last June a federal appeals court backed the company in a case involving browsers and Windows 95? The WSJ also does a good story on the case, mentioning along the way that the trial judge has implied he thinks the case is headed to the appeals court over him, while one of the lawyers for the states in the case says it’s going to the Supreme Court.

A short while ago, amidst all the editorial stones thrown at President Clinton for not confessing to his misdeeds, Today’s Papers challenged newspapers to make sure that they themselves were not failing to come clean about any misconduct in their own glass houses. There was no response–miraculously, no paper did anything like what it demanded of Clinton. So Today’s Papers will simply say that two of them–the Los Angeles Times and the Toronto Star (Canada’s largest paper)–know they have unpunished plagiarists on their staffs.