Today's Papers

G.I. Don’t Knows

The Washington Post leads with the Bush administration’s decision, in the face of spreading criticism, to delay sending a bill to Congress covering its plan to increase government funds available to religious organizations providing social services. The New York Times lead covers emerging Democratic and Republican resistance in Congress to Bush budget proposals to limit or cut spending in numerous government programs. The story illustrates the problem that just about every area of government spending has powerful constituencies. It also says flatly that Bush is likely to seek large increases in Pentagon spending in coming years. The Los Angeles Times leads with additional looming upward pressures on federal spending: new government figures predicting dramatic increases in prescription drug use among seniors and the general population, which will stress Medicaid, which already includes prescription drug coverage, and would stress Medicare if, as many have proposed, its coverage were broadened to include such a benefit. USA Today’s lead, in anticipation of the Census Bureau’s release of its national race and ethnicity results, runs under the headline “DIVERSE POPULATION GROWS.” Given that the story includes statements like “In many states, the Asian-white combination was as common or more common than black-white,” it could have also been headlined “DIVERSE POPULATION COUNTING GROWS.” A good thing? And the story never says what exactly the government gets out of all this new ethnic info.

The WP lead says that the White House expected criticism of its faith-based social services initiative from groups emphasizing church-state separation, but not from religious conservatives, including Pat Robertson (who urges a tax-credit-fueled volunteerism alternative on today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page) and one of Bush’s longtime advisers in this area, Marvin Olasky. Their big worry: either churches will be interfered with or corrupted by government regulation or that “sects” will get funded. Then there are more liberal critics (including now, says the paper, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an erstwhile supporter) who question how the initiative can avoid violating civil rights laws banning federal support for discriminatory hiring. One possible solution that appears to be gaining ground inside and outside the administration and with President Bush himself: government-funded vouchers, which enable the individual service recipient, not the government, to decide which, if any, religious-affiliated service program to patronize.

The WSJ’s front-page worldwide news box seizes on Speaker Dennis Hastert’s Sunday chat show statement that the House of Representatives will pass expansions of tax-advantaged retirement accounts and will also try to cut capital gains tax rates, moves that are the first major Republican congressional departure from the Bush administration’s tax cut program and that could add billions to its cost. A WP insider has Hastert’s comment as well as an assessment from an unnamed Senate Republican leadership aide of a capital gains cut from 20 percent to 15 percent as “economically feasible.”

The NYT reports inside (following a story originally broken by the Yale Daily News) that Doctors Without Borders and a group of Yale law students are pressuring Yale to permit South Africa to import a far more affordable generic version of an anti-AIDS drug the school holds the patent on. The university, which has a patent contract with Bristol-Myers Squibb, has refused. The paper also says that the Yale official who administers its patent holdings declined to release a copy of the Bristol-Myers Squibb contract to the law students. The Times has the drug’s inventor, a semi-retired Yale prof, saying he strongly supported the students’ campaign to make the drug available more cheaply in poor countries.

Yesterday’s LAT opinion page had an admirably clear puncturing by ex-Reagan administration Pentagon official Lawrence Korb of several myths about the U.S. military cited by defenders of a military spending increase, including President Bush: 1) If military compensation is adjusted to include the fair market value of their housing allowances, 99 percent of those in uniform do not qualify for food stamps. 2) Adjusting for inflation, the last Clinton defense budget was higher than the one Donald Rumsfeld presided over when he was defense secretary at the height of the Cold War. 3) During the 1990s, peacekeeping operations accounted for less than 2 percent of DOD spending. And only 3 percent of the active force and 2 percent of the total force including reserves were deployed in various nonwar operations. 4) The percentage of quality recruits–high-school grads and/or those making average or above on qualification tests–is higher now than at any time during the Reagan administration.

The WP goes inside with recent scientific work to make the widely used concept of wind chill a more accurate reflection of perceived temperature. The story notes that the traditional method of calculation arose from experiments using plastic cylinders of water conducted during an Antarctic expedition and that its flaws include ignoring the insulating effect of the plastic and measuring the wind high off the ground rather than at face level. And it describes how two researchers, Maurice Bluestein and Randall Osczevski, are leading the reform effort, which includes experiments by the latter using a dummy head. All of these details appeared in a WSJ front-pager three months ago, a part of the record somehow missing from the Post piece. Which raises several questions, including: Didn’t Bluestein or Osczevski mention their national front-page exposure to the WP’s reporter Guy Gugliotta? And should the Post have reporters who don’t read the WSJ, not even the front page?