Today's Papers

No Taxation Without Respiration

Everybody leads with the House vote to repeal the federal estate tax, which Republicans call the “death tax.” Sixty-five Democrats joined the Republican majority, making the vote 279 to 136. The repeal would phase in slowly over 10 years, with the tax eliminated entirely in 2010. It would cost the government $105 billion in revenue over the first decade and $50 billion a year after that. The bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, and President Clinton has threatened a veto, but the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post both think the lopsided vote margin shows the idea is politically popular and there is momentum for a compromise. Clinton would be willing to sign a bill that reduces but does not repeal the tax. The WP reports that the Senate may package the bill with a minimum-wage increase. The New York Times thinks Clinton’s veto threat means the bill is dead in the water and that the Republicans were more interested in scoring points with powerful constituencies than making law. The paper also attributes the bill’s popularity to two separate booms: the one in the stock market and the 76 million aging babies who are starting to think about death.

Both the WP and the NYT report that half of the money raised by the estate tax in 1998, the most recent year for which there are figures, was paid by fewer than 3,000 estates worth more than $5 million each. The NYT says one-fifth of the total revenue came from just 374 estates worth more than $20 million each. Everyone notes that only 2 percent of Americans are subject to the tax, but the LAT quotes Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., saying that low-wage workers suffer when small businesses are liquidated to pay estate taxes.

All the papers front a story about either North or South Korea in anticipation of this week’s historic summit between the two nations. The NYT asserts  that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is thawing relations because his government cannot solve the country’s longstanding food crisis. Famine has killed up to 2 million people, and North Koreans are sneaking into China illegally to take advantage of the booming economy there. The WP wonders  which Kim Jong Il will show up to the summit meeting. Will it be the erratic playboy described by intelligence reports, or the pragmatic, diplomatically sociable leader of the past year? The LAT reports  that South Korean businesses are itching to enter the North Korean market, where they can find natural resources and cheap labor.

The NYT fronts a profile  of George W. Bush during his high-school years at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. The story suggests that Bush cultivated his “wisecracking showmanship” at Andover, as evidenced by a photo of Bush leading a skit in cheerleader drag. (The NYT’s front-page photo shows Bush in more traditional male-cheerleader garb.) Bush may not have been brainy or brawny, but he built coalitions and lifted school spirit to the highest level it had been in 30 years, mostly through his dual roles as head cheerleader and the organizer of a huge intramural stickball league. But Andover may also be the place where Bush developed his oft-criticized arrogance and dismissiveness, including his famous smirk.

The NYT also fronts news that two major record labels have settled a copyright lawsuit with BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group will get about $20 million each from, and the music startup will get the right to store consumers’ record libraries online. The labels will also get licensing fees for the use of their music. Consumers will not be allowed to download or trade music they do not already own. The NYT says the deal shows that traditional and online music businesses can make money by working together. Shares of went from just under $2 to more than $19 on the Nasdaq Friday. Three other major labels are continuing settlement negotiations with the company.

The LAT reports that NATO leaders have no idea when U.S. troops will no longer be necessary in Kosovo. A German general says peacekeepers will be needed for five to 10 years, and a former Finnish president thinks Kosovo needs two or three generations to pass before it becomes a normal society. The situation spells trouble for the next president, the paper suggests.

The WP and the NYT reefer the news that the Justice Department found no evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After an 18-month investigation, prosecutors recommended no further inquiry into a figure known only as “Raoul,” who James Earl Ray said used him as a patsy. The DOJ does not believe Raoul exists.

Guns Don’t Kill People, Soccer Kills People. The WP fronts word that in Europe, soccer hooliganism  has reached epidemic proportions. Thousands of riot police will be at a Brussels stadium to prevent fans from killing each other at the Euro 2000 soccer championship. Already this spring, two British fans were stabbed to death in Istanbul. “We love to bash the ‘brutal Americans,’ ” a BBC news anchor told his audience recently. “But you know, they do manage to go to their baseball matches without getting into fights.”