Everybody leads with Congress’ final approval of what the New York Times calls “the biggest tax cut in a generation.” The plan cuts taxes by $1.35 trillion over the next decade and puts rebate checks in the mail for most American taxpayers this summer. The Washington Post calls it a “major victory” for President Bush, though not one without costs. The WP says that Bush’s budget and tax proposals were a major factor in Sen. James Jeffords’ decision to leave the Republican Party. Jeffords, however, voted in favor of the final bill, which Bush is expected to sign into law in a few days. The bill’s supporters believe it will “bolster the sagging economy,” according to the Los Angeles Times, while its opponents see it “limiting the reach of government by draining it of resources.” The final tallies were a bit light (it passed 240-154 in the House, 58-33 in the Senate) because some members of Congress had already left town for the holiday weekend.
The WP has a longish background story on the bill’s principle authors in the Senate, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana and Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa, two relatively undistinguished senators whose centrist proposals raised the hackles of the more extreme members of their respective parties. Soon-to-be Majority Leader Tom Daschle told Baucus that he was “abandoning his colleagues and assured him that people would remember his breach for a long time.” But Baucus has other fish to fry: He is up for re-election next year in a state that Bush dominated last November.
The LAT fronts a debate among Islamic clerics concerning the use of religion as a rationale for violence. At issue is whether suicide bombers are to be considered martyrs, and therefore eligible for salvation, or merely suicides, headed for damnation. There is no obvious consensus and no single authoritative voice to rule on the matter. According to the paper, “martyrdom is an enticing reward for believers who are promised eternal life in paradise, permission to see the face of Allah, the loving kindness of 72 young virgins who will serve each martyr in heaven and the privilege to promise 70 relatives eternity in heaven.”
The NYT fronts the Audi A2, a sporty compact that gets 78 miles per gallon and “emits fewer ‘greenhouse’ gases than almost any vehicle on the market.” It’s all the rage in Europe but will probably never make it in the new world because it has a diesel engine, the use of which is severely restricted in the U.S. Oddly, a report from the National Academy of Sciences, due in July, will tout the diesel as “the surest, fastest way to improve the efficiency of the American fleet,” but will not recommend any changes in the environmental laws that stand in the diesel’s way.
It seems, according to a LAT front, that women from the nation’s elite colleges have found a new way to pay their tuition: they’re selling their eggs, mostly, as one might expect, in California. They are responding to ads such as this one: “Intelligent, athletic egg donor needed for loving family. You must be at least 5’10”. Have a 1400+ SAT score. Possess no major family medical issues. $50,000.” The practice has raised ethical concerns in the egg-donor community, with some saying that women who are struggling financially are not in a good position to assess the health risks involved in the procedure.
The WP goes inside with the new green card law that is pulling the rug out from many illegal immigrants. Seemingly well-intentioned, the law allows undocumented immigrants to establish residency in the U.S. if they have a close relative, spouse, or employer who will sponsor them. Unfortunately, the process is rather lengthy (“It’s going to be a 14-year wait,” a man is told by an INS worker), and many immigrants “have lost their jobs, because to benefit from the law, they had to reveal that they were working illegally.” Many immigrants apparently believed that the law conferred amnesty.
The NYT fronts a report on white flight from the Great Plains states, where many counties are losing much of their population. Slope County, N.D., “the whitest county in the nation,” once home to a bustling 5,000 people, is down to 767, all but three of whom are white. (That’s less than one person, white or otherwise, per square mile.) Meanwhile, American Indians are “coming home” to reservations in the territory, many of them to work in casinos, the “so-called new buffalo.” Real buffalo are back as well, 300,000 of them as opposed to only the few hundred that roamed around 1900. “Much of Montana is nearly as open today as it was when Lewis and Clark explored there nearly 200 years ago.” In describing the “ghostly” feel of the plains, the Times claims, in a story otherwise notable for its sobriety, that “the wind blows so hard that a cup of coffee brought outside develops whitecaps.”