USA Today leads with the suggestion by President Bush's chief economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey that the administration's proposed estate tax repeal could be delayed for a couple of years in order to hold the cost of the Bush tax plan over the next 10 years to $1.6 trillion. The paper also says Bush advisers are concerned that bipartisan congressional calls for a quick tax cut could provide political cover for voting against anything larger. The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the Supreme Court's announcement yesterday that it will hear a case in the fall raising the issue of whether execution of the mentally retarded violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Los Angeles Times stuffs that, leading instead with an electric rate increase proposed by California's top power regulator for customers of the state's two biggest private utilities, which would target heavy users and hence probably not affect about half of those utilities' residential users. The paper says the hike is "almost certain" to be approved.
The USAT lead says that the estate tax repeal would cost $291.5 billion over 10 years, while the Wall Street Journal reports that a bipartisan congressional tax committee has just estimated that cost (taken together with the administration-favored gift-tax-repeal) to be $662.2 billion over the same time span. Also, the USAT story says that today Bush will give a speech addressing criticisms he's been talking down the economy, a notion Lindsey says is the "silliest I have heard." (And remember, he's the top Republican economic adviser, so he hears a lot of them.)
The WP lead says the Supreme Court's move "took death penalty opponents by surprise." Both that story and the NYT lead point out that in 1989, the Supreme Court rejected the constitutional challenge to executions of duly convicted retarded people. But the stories also observe that the 1989 decision crucially cited insufficient evidence of a "national consensus" against such executions, and that in the interim much has happened that might now suggest the existence of such a consensus. As the papers explain: Twelve years ago, only two states banned executing the retarded. But today, since 13 states don't allow any executions and since 12 of the 37 states that do still have a retarded executions ban, this means half of all the states now have such a ban.
The Post boils down the issue adeptly: Proponents of the ban argue that the mentally retarded lack the ability to weigh the consequences of their actions, while opponents argue that even very low intelligence is compatible with the ability to tell right from wrong. (Curiously, no one seems to wonder if IQ scores are inadequate measures of a condemned person's true mental ability because they are culturally biased.) The stories say that about 10 percent of the nation's death row population of 3,700 or so have IQs 70 or below. The NYT says it's unlikely any of them will be executed until the Supreme Court hands down its ruling.
The papers report inside that a Palestinian sniper killed a 10-month-old Israeli baby and wounded her father in the West Bank town of Hebron, touching off an intense firefight between Israeli forces and Palestinians.
The NYT off-leads a tough, important piece claiming that in New York state, doctors who have been disciplined for serious on-the-job mistakes and incompetence readily find work again--"especially those who bring in a lot of money." The paper found that "more than three-fourths of doctors disciplined over the last eight years resumed working almost immediately after the state punished them."
The Times further redlines the reader's outrage meter with a fronter reporting that after 10 years, the U.S. government has stopped paying uncontested claims to workers who got ill from years of Cold War-era uranium mining for nuclear weapons programs. The money originally earmarked for the program has been spent and "Congress has been reluctant to act until it decides how to apportion the federal surplus and how much to cut taxes."
The WP front flashes a memo EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman sent to President Bush a week before he decided not to advocate setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions in which she strongly recommended "that you continue to recognize that global warming is a real and serious issue."
The WP off-leads a new poll finding that although the percentage of Americans who approve of the job President Bush is doing is slightly higher than when he entered office, so is the percentage who disapprove of his performance. Additionally, the paper's pollsters found that the public still places a fairly low priority on a tax cut and that about two-thirds of those interviewed think Bush cares more about protecting large corporations than ordinary working people.
The WSJ front explains what cable outlets like A&E and The Learning Channel are doing to combat flagging cable ratings. Ix-nay on the earning-lay and go with such offerings as Best Kept Secrets of the Paranormal, Very Best of the World's Worst Drivers, Wild Weddings, and Bra Wars--a history of lingerie.