Today's Papers

Labor Pains

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times lead today with bad news: The Labor Department announced yesterday that the U.S. economy lost 80,000 jobs in March, the largest loss in five years. It remains uncertain whether we’re supposed to call this a recession. The other big news today is that Bill and Hillary Clinton are really, really rich. Yesterday the Clinton campaign released tax return documents showing that the Clintons earned $109 million over the last eight years, mostly from their best-selling books and Bill’s speaking engagements. The Wall Street Journaltops its world-wide newsbox with word that the Iraqi prime minister ordered a freeze on raids against Shiite militants.   

The papers report that the huge job loss is the result of the problems in the housing and credit markets spreading throughout the economy. The NYT focuses on Democrats’ calls for new measures to save the workers, like economic stimulus packages and tax rebates. The WP gives top billing to an expert who declares that recession is upon us. The WSJ quotes experts who say otherwise but notes high up in its story that the unemployment rate jumped from 4.8 percent to 5.1 percent, and that according to an expert, such a large increase has never happened in the postwar period without the economy being in recession. The papers note “bright spots” in wages and in the health, education, and leisure industries.

Of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story. The WP uses an out-of-work software engineer to illustrate its piece. The NYT has a former roofing company manager and a laid-off researcher. The WSJ finds a long-unemployed woman in danger of losing her home and a man who’s decided to go for unemployment benefits instead of flipping burgers. LAT’s muse is an administrative assistant let go from an insurance brokerage. TP wants to know—where is the out-of-work economist?

The WP says the Clintons’ tax returns for the last several years illustrate a “rags-to-riches” story, since the Clintons weren’t rich when they arrived in the White House and had massive debt when they left. The papers agree that Barack Obama’s earlier tax disclosure put pressure on candidate Clinton to reveal her returns, but the WSJand the LATare the most aggressive in explaining the significance of it all, saying the disclosure makes clear the big income disparity between the candidates and could make Clinton vulnerable to political attacks over her extreme wealth. The LAT reports that in Pennsylvania, where Clinton faces a must-win primary in coming weeks, the median income is about $44,000—less than what the Clintons claimed in expenses for “cleaning and maintenance” of their homes. The WSJ and the NYT differ on whether the couple has been charitable enough; the Journal says the Clintons’ charitable giving increased with their income, while the Times says the Clintons’ charity “has not always kept up with their income.”

Forty years after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights era is on the wane, according to a front-page WP story. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference can barely pay its utility bills, the Congress of Racial Equality is down to 10 percent of the membership it had in the 1960s, and the NAACP is shedding staff due to budget shortfalls. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is gone altogether. The story suggests that the organizations are victims of their own success.

Above the fold, the LAT reports that hostilities between Kurds and Sunni Arabs are devastating the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Kurds are pushing for a referendum to annex disputed areas to Kurdistan, arguing that a vote would settle hostilities. The U.S. and Iraqi governments blame the violence on al-Qaida in Iraq, but the Times reports that problems predate the group’s involvement in the area.

The NYT fronts word that universal health care coverage in Massachusetts is compromising the quality of care available. The law adopted last year that requires residents to obtain health insurance has caused doctors’ caseloads to swell considerably.

Robert Mugabe won’t go away, says the NYT. Party officials in Zimbabwe say that if it turns out Mugabe didn’t win last week’s election, he will participate in a runoff. The slowness in announcing the victor of the election has led the opposition to suspect vote-tampering.

The WSJ reports from the front lines in the battle against the nation’s “crassness crisis.”  A Johns Hopkins University professor is leading a campaign for civility in Howard County, Md. The campaign’s chief opponent is, of all people, a pastor.

In what is perhaps the saddest sign of a suffering economy, the LAT reports that the cosmetic surgery industry in Los Angeles is sagging. A group of girlfriends has had to forgo its almost-monthly trips to a plastic surgeon for touchups. A disconsolate out-of-work mortgage broker tells the Times, “I would rather have Botox than go out to dinner.”