Today's Papers

Tax Cuts Weather Storm

The Washington Post leads—and the others off- lead—with President Bush saying he’ll cut federal spending to help finance the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, but he won’t raise taxes. The New York Times leads with a look at how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is doing two weeks later. Answer: eh. More than 100,000 people are still living in squalid shelters instead of the temporary housing they’ve been promised. Moreover, FEMA just doesn’t have the manpower to handle the enormous number of daily requests it gets for housing info and cleanup and repair assistance. The Los Angeles Times leads with its home city’s grave lack of readiness for a Katrina-or-worse-level disaster. City officials are realizing that they neglected to plan for a situation where hundreds of thousands of people would need evacuation, food, shelter, and medical attention.

The NYT lead is not and indictment of FEMA itself, but rather a portrait of a small, hopelessly underfunded agency trying to cope with a disaster of enormous magnitude. You get the feeling that at this point, they’re doing as much as they can. It’s this Post front that’s the indictment: The excellent article brings us to FEMA City, Florida, a featureless lot of 500 mobile homes that FEMA installed a year ago for survivors of Hurricane Charley. Most of the 1,500 people came here after Charley destroyed their homes—and they’ve never left. The city they fled is now being nicely rebuilt, but they can’t afford to live there anymore.

Bush declined to identify any programs that would be targeted for cuts, but administration officials said they’d probably start with $20 billion in savings they’d already asked for in the 2006 budget, along with adjustments to entitlement programs like Medicaid. But, as the Post notes, “those [cuts] have already been examined by Congress and rejected.” [The Post also observes that the Army Corps of Engineers was one of the programs included in the pre-Katrina cut package.]

The papers pussyfoot around the fact that any of the estimated $200 billion that doesn’t come from budget cuts will have to be borrowed. The NYT pays the notion a quote’s worth of direct attention: “Well, there’s no question about it,” says Al Hubbard, director of Bush’s National Economic council, “the recovery will be paid for by the federal taxpayer, and it will add to the deficit.”

Meanwhile, Bush continued yesterday to speak of social reform and a desire to “clear away the legacy of inequality” exposed by the hurricane. The Post waits until the end of its piece to offer its newsworthy analysis of the anti-poverty claim: “What is clear from [a White House] report is that the vast majority of federal expenditures will not go toward innovative economic development programs, such as the ones laid out by Bush.” It’s not clear if this is referring to the total cost, or just the $62 billion that’s already been approved.

An NYT front offers an update on the FBI’s massive investigation of the anthrax incidents of 2001. Despite having conducted 8,000 interviews and handing out 5,000 subpoenas, four years later investigators are finding themselves with a cold case. One official with friends on the inside said, “From the people I’ve talked to, it’s going nowhere.”

The LAT fronts and the Post reefers the results of a large-scale study that shows digital mammography to be much more effective than film at detecting tumors in certain women, particularly those under 50, those with denser breast tissue, and those entering menopause—overlapping cross sections that account for 55 percent of the female population.

An NYT front reports that Israel will seek to hinder Palestine’s January elections if Hamas participates, since one of Hamas’s ideals is the destruction of Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said of the elections, “We will make every effort not to help them.” The piece also cites Sharon’s renewed reluctance to evacuate the West Bank settlements, due in part to the trauma of the evacuations in Gaza. On Friday he pledged not to remove any settlers until the final border discussions are taking place, which could be years from now.

The federal government may be contributing to identity theft by producing too many kinds of documents that bear Social Security numbers, says the LAT. For instance, the Medicare cards used by many elderly Americans are embossed with the private number, and nearly 8 million military personnel carry identification cards that sport it, too. (Army recruits can even be required by superiors to stencil their SSNs on their duffel bags.)

This bizarre little story  tells of “A Colorado man [who] acknowledged that he called media outlets to report that a 7-foot alligator had been captured at a Los Angeles lake—a report that turned out to be a hoax.” But a few things are exceedingly unclear. Who the hell, for instance, is Jay Young? And which part of Solvang’s call was the illegal hoax—that the alligator was 7 feet long, or that it was captured? And who is he supposed to’ve been impersonating? Don’t they have a better name for that crime?