Today's Papers

Obama’s Bill To Stimulate Nation

All the papers lead with the big news that Congress passed president Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill Friday night. The Washington Post says the bill’s passage marks the beginning of a new ideological era with the federal government at the center of the nation’s economic recovery. The New York Times highlights the bill’s limits on executive compensation, which are stricter than those proposed recently by the Obama administration. The Wall Street Journal notes that Wall Street reacted to the “last minute” restrictions with consternation. The Los Angeles Times leads with a sunny report that the stimulus will stimulate “almost every corner of American society.”

A front-page WP article says Congress went much further than Obama wanted to go in limiting executive pay, and the NYT’s lead story says Senate Democrats actually did so over the administration’s objections. Executives at all firms that have benefited or will benefit from government funds will be allowed bonuses of only one-third the size of their salaries and only available in company stock, and only redeemable after the government’s investment has been repaid. The WSJ reports that the rules are somewhat open to interpretation.

The Times says the new restrictions amount to a “bad report card” from Congress for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for failing to be tough on firms that have already received bailout cash. Critics of the new rules say they will cause a too-quick repayment of funds or else “brain drain”—top talent will flee to hedge funds or foreign banks.

The WP provides some scene from yesterday’s long session, which was punctuated by House Minority Leader John Boehner dropping the 1,071-page bill on the floor with a loud, angry thump and the climactic return of Sen. Sherrod Brown, who cast the decisive vote near 11 p.m. after attending a memorial viewing for his late mother in Ohio.

The LAT’s lead story compares the bill to a “time-release capsule.” Most Americans will see money in the form of increased take-home pay, while infrastructure provisions may yield fruit years from now. The Congressional Budget Office says the bill will deliver most of its boost to the nation’s GDP before the end of this year and most job creation next year. A front-page WP story reports that the stimulus will pour $3.8 million into education and $1.6 billion into infrastructure projects in the Washington area.

Passing the stimulus has taught the president that bipartisanship isn’t so easy, says the NYT. The day before the big vote, Obama brought a freshman House Republican aboard Air Force One for a visit to his district in Illinois. Despite the president’s efforts, Rep. Aaron Schock stood up on the House floor yesterday to urge his colleagues to vote nay. Obama aides say from now on the administration will go for regional Republican partnerships rather than partywide cooperation. 

The NYT gives lots of space to yesterday’s plane crash near Buffalo. The crew of the plane reported “significant ice buildup”  on the wings and windshield minutes before the crash,the first fatal crash since 2006. The Times offers brief profiles of some of the passengers.

The WSJ fronts the foreclosure sale of Ben Bernanke’s boyhood home in South Carolina. Its previous occupants (not the Bernankes, who sold the place more than 10 years ago) had fallen behind on mortgage payments.

A murderous faction in Iraq is showing its artsy side, per a Page One NYT article. The Muqtada Sadr movement held an exhibition of abstract art at a gallery Baghdad. The Times says it’s unknown whether the show is part of a “cynical ploy” or genuine change in strategy for the Sadr movement. Either way, say artists, it’s a good thing.

The WP fronts a thoroughly reported postmortem on the postponed plan to move TV to all-digital broadcasts, calling the effort a classic bureaucratic breakdown. The government’s been planning this thing for more than 10 years, but partisanship and a lack of cooperation between federal agencies necessitated the recently announced four-month delay over fears that the public is not sufficiently informed.

The presidents of France and the Czech Republic can’t get along, according to the NYT. The childish spat between the former and current holders of the European Union’s rotating presidency imperils union’s ability to respond effectively to the global financial crisis.

The WSJ’s lighthearted story of the day is decidedly unromantic—it’s about former Los Angeles gang members receiving vocational training for “green collar” jobs while on parole. They’re the beneficiaries of a nonprofit founded by a Jesuit priest.                                                                   

Now this is more like it for Valetine’s Day: The citizens of a city in Mexico nearly took up arms after an ordinance banned public displays of affection, according to the LAT. Folks staged kissy-face protests all around town. The WP fronts an absolutely heartwarming story about a young boy whose twin brother died of brain cancer. The boy has sought refuge in the kitchen; he bakes and sells treats, then donates the proceeds to groups that helped his family when his brother was sick.