Today's Papers

Bush’s Paper Cuts

The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall StreetJournal world-wide newsbox,and USA Todayall lead with the White House releasing its already heavily previewed $2.77 trillion proposed budget, which increases defense and homeland security spending while trying to rein in Medicare and trim or outright kill other domestic programs. The plan also calls for making the president’s tax cuts permanent, which would cost about $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. The Los Angeles Timesoff-leads a budget analysis but leads with a private eye to the stars getting hit with a 110-count federal indictment for racketeering and conspiracy. He allegedly spied on—and sometimes for—Sly and others.

The budget calls for euthanizing 141 programs and includes cuts for education programs, some crop subsidies, and food aid to the poor. The NYT says proposed savings from entitlement cuts is $65 billion.

Not that any of this is likely to happen. As the NYT gently notes, “It is unclear how much appetite Congress will have in a critical midterm election year for further spending cuts.”One financial analyst was not so gentle, telling the Post, “This budget is not going to happen. Of all the budgets I’ve seen recently, this is the one going nowhere the fastest.” Moderate Republicans seemed intent to prove that point, with Sen. Arlen Specter describing some of the cuts as “scandalous.”

Which is probably a good thing, because as the papers detail, the overall budget numbers are bogus, or, as the Post puts it, full of “heroic assumptions.” Perhaps to show that the administration is on track to cut the budget in half by 2009, the budget writers omitted a few small items such as the costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, and dealing with the bloated Alternative Minimum Tax. Total cost of those hidden charges: about a half-trillion dollars over the next five years. Per usual, the numbers-check stories are placed prominently for easy spotting on A10 and elsewhere in the papers’ nether-regions.

A NYT editorial christens the budget, “A TRILLION LITTLE PIECES.” A WP editorial celebrates Bush’s attempt to hold Medicare costs down.

Everybody fronts the opening day of this week’s Senate hearings on the warrantless spying. The only witness so far has been Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who politely suggested that Congress bugger off. In what caused a bit of a stink, committee Chair Sen. Specter chose not to have Gonzales give his testimony under oath. 

Asked why the White House didn’t chat with Congress before it decided to bypass the whole warrant thing, Gonzales said, “The short answer is that we didn’t think we needed to, quite frankly.”

A few Republican senators weren’t happy about that. “In all honesty, Mr. Attorney General,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said, the “argument that you’re making is very dangerous.”

Slate’s Emily Bazelon notes that despite the occasional verbal tussle, the ground rules Specter seems to have agreed to have left the hearings neutered: “No witnesses other than Gonzales. No new details of the National Security Agency spying program that the committee was supposed to be inquiring about. No request for the Justice Department’s internal legal memorandums about the legality of the NSA program.”

Everybody mentions the still-growing violence in response to the cartoons that depict the prophet Mohammed: Five Afghans were killed, most by police when protesters tried to storm the U.S.’s Bagram airbase. Crowds in Tehran set fire to the Danish Embassy. There were other major protests in Turkey, Indonesia, India, and Thailand.

A Page One piece in the Journal details how the protests came about and why they took so long to metastasize. The cartoons were first published in the fall. And some Danish clerics were super-angry. “This was the last drop in a cup of resentment, disappointment and exploitation,” said one. But it took a while to fan the flames, and it turns out Egypt lent a helping hand. “Egypt’s embassy played a fundamental role,” said one of the early organizers. There’s also speculation that Saudi Arabia has added fuel to the fire.

Don’t lose too much sleep over it … The NYT announces on Page One, “RECORD SALES OF SLEEP PILLS CAUSE WORRY.” The paper details the ever increasing number of Americans gobbling up the drugs. It then goes on to offer the requisite spooky story about somebody who had a nasty side effect. And then, in the 11th paragraph, we learn that the FDA seems to have no evidence of a high “number of complaints.” Oh.