Today's Papers

Less Fraternité, More Egalité

According to the Washington Post lead, President Bush has acknowledged that he might need to adjust his tax cut proposal to get it past the Senate after its quick journey through the House. The New York Times runs a similar story on its front, sourcing the news of Bush’s willingness to compromise on his tax plan to Senate Republicans. The NYT lead reports that Bush has issued an executive order to prevent a strike at Northwest Airlines this spring, a story which appears on the business front of the WP. The LosAngeles Times leads with news from the Labor Department that the economy might not be doing too badly. Employers hired almost twice as many new workers as expected in February, and as a result, the national unemployment rate remains at 4.2 percent. Some of these new jobs are in fields such as auto manufacturing and construction where the economy has been weak. More good news: Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers (85 percent of the nation’s work force) rose 7 cents to $14.10.

The WP top story starts off by asserting that Bush has recognized he may have to modify his $1.6 trillion tax cut plan. But from there, the paper doesn’t say much on what changes Bush might have in mind. Instead, it describes how Bush is relishing the process of working with legislators to pass his programs. Bush feels so confident about passing his tax plan that he is already mulling over another round of tax cuts in 2002. The NYT story gets specifics on how the administration might compromise on the tax plan from Senate Republicans. These Republicans believe that Bush would be willing to reduce the 39.6 percent tax on the wealthiest taxpayers to 35 percent instead of to the 33 percent tax rate that his plan currently calls for. The White House might also give up on its proposal to repeal the estate tax and instead settle for increasing the level at which the tax takes effect to perhaps $5 million instead of the current $675,000. The NYT reports Bush was vague about what compromises he might accept during an interview yesterday, which might explain why the WP has little to say on the topic.

The NYT lead says that yesterday Bush ordered Northwest mechanics to stay on the job for 60 days if they cannot reach a settlement over their wages with the airline by Sunday.  Bush also said he would take steps to stop strikes at any major airline this year. Bill Clinton, who told American’s pilots to get back to work in 1997, is the only other president to force airline workers to stay on the job in the last 35 years.

Bush has been keeping busy recently, to hear the NYT tell it. The paper offers a third story chronicling the activities of the president on its front. Bush wants to cut coal-burning power plants’ emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas believed to contribute to global warming. The bill, which Bush promised to pursue during his campaign, will also limit the plants’ emissions of other gases that cause acid rain and contribute to smog. The president is backed by influential Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, chair of the Senate Environmental Committee. The bill is opposed by conservative Republicans and by some coal, oil, and industry groups, who worry that such regulation of carbon dioxide emissions would be costly and conflict with Bush’s desire to raise supplies of fossil fuels.

The WP front collects evidence that there is conflict among Bush’s advisers; reports of such strife have appeared in bits and pieces in the papers throughout the week. For example, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill recently announced he is skeptical that one can believe any projections on the state of the budget surplus 10 years from now. Bush is relying on this projected surplus to fund his tax cut. White House official John J. DiIulio Jr. cautioned that evangelical leaders should not presume to speak for anyone other than themselves. The statements were apparently directed at Bush’s religious conservative allies such as Pat Robertson. While political analysts worry that strong opinions among Bush’s minions could unravel the administration, the White House is not concerned.

Fifty percent of the candidates in France’s local elections on Sunday will be women, an unusual number of women politicians for a country with a male-dominated political system, reports the WP front.  Last year, France became sufficiently ashamed of its chauvinistic politics to pass a new parity law, which requires that political parties offer an equal number of male and female candidates in elections. The law, which will be tested for the first time this weekend, will shake up a political system in which today only 7 percent of French mayors and 8.7 percent of national legislators are women. There will be an equal number of victorious men and women in the election, since in local elections the French vote for slates of candidates is nominated by political parties, and each party must meet the parity requirement. Some parties are struggling to balance their tickets between men and women. But the Greens, an environmental party, have come up with an innovative solution: Transsexuals are among their women candidates for council seats in Paris.