Today's Papers

Beyond A Reasonable Dow?

Everybody leads with yesterday’s stock market, a downturn that saw the Dow close below 10,000 for the first time in (exactly) a year. As to causes, the Washington Post headline cites signs of a “GLOBAL SLOWDOWN.” The Los Angeles Times’ big print appeals to “JAPAN’S WOES.” The Wall Street Journal notes that one analyst’s negative comment about two Japanese banks widely cited as a factor in yesterday’s action in fact reflects his firm’s long-standing low rating of them.

USA Today wraps its market coverage around a poll of investor attitudes, which finds 50 percent of respondents thinking the market will stay the same and 29 percent expecting better, as compared to 10 percent expecting worse and 4 percent much worse. (Where do the other 7 percent think it will go?) In general, the papers themselves feel strongly both ways, serving up half-full and half-empty “experts,” generally in a 1-to-1 ratio. The LAT lead says that many U.S. blue chips had been holding up well until yesterday, but then adds one sentence later that the Dow has tumbled hard in three of the last four trading days.

USAT goes high emphasizing something none of the other leads do: that the market dive is “hitting the U.S. Treasury.” The paper reports that according to private forecasters, because of the resultant loss in corporate, capital gains, and other tax revenues, it “could wipe out a fifth to half of the $5.6 trillion in federal budget surpluses expected over the next 10 years.” The paper goes on to observe that nevertheless neither Congress nor the White House plans to issue a re-estimate of the budget outlook until mid-July, well after the Republicans’ planned passage of their tax cut.

The New York Times lead goes high with something none of the other leads mentions at all: President Bush’s comment yesterday that he was “concerned that a lot of Americans’ portfolios have been affected” by the down stock market. The Times says Bush seemed intent on conveying a “sense of optimism,” and then reminds that Democrats have been accusing him of talking down the economy as a way of building support for his tax cut. Then after quoting Bush saying Wednesday that “good public policy” was the path to “a second wind for economic growth,” the paper adds, “During the presidential campaign Mr. Bush had insisted that the economic boom was the product of entrepreneurship rather than policy decisions in Washington.” The Times goes on to quote a Democratic congressman wondering how Bush can, as he did yesterday, still talk about the economic pitfalls ahead while promoting the idea of letting people invest some of their Social Security funds in the stock market.

Here are the “poll padder personalities” that USAT uses to make its numbers a little less crunchy: an office manager in Nashville, Tenn.; a GE employee in Morgantown, W.Va.; and a man of unidentified vocation from Centreville, Va.

Both USAT and the WP fronts feature pictures of traders, although it bears repeating that both of them may have made a fortune yesterday. Maybe USAT should have gotten a picture instead of the woman who told the paper she has most of her retirement savings in the stock market and therefore avoids even looking at her account balance.

Even as the papers report that a number of drug companies have agreed to sell some of their anti-HIV products in the developing world at deep discounts, the WP fronts word that South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has decided not to declare a national medical emergency, even though that would have enabled his government to legally (under a provision of the World Trade Organization) make even more AIDS meds cheaply available. Mbeki did not explain his stance, but the Post cites concerns about scaring away foreign investors, although it’s hard to imagine what could be scarier than an AIDS-ravaged work force.

The WP and LAT front their accounts of why President Bush switched his position on regulating carbon dioxide. What they find: a desire to avoid, especially in the 50-50 Senate, antagonizing conservative members of Congress who dispute the seriousness of global warming and also a response to lobbyists from the coal and oil industries. The LAT subheadline states: “White House downplays any damage to EPA chief caused by Bush’s reversal on carbon dioxide output from power plants.” There is no mention of any damage to say, oh, the ENVIRONMENT.