Loopholy Ghosts

Loopholy Ghosts

Loopholy Ghosts

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 31 2001 7:10 AM

Loopholy Ghosts

The Los Angeles Times leads with the FBI's preliminary crime figures for 2000, which indicate that the United States' eight-year-long decline in crime is at an end. This is also the top national story at the New York Times. The Washington Post, which doesn't front the crime stats, leads with word that President Bush will ask Congress to approve $5.6 billion in extra defense spending this fiscal year. The paper says the Pentagon is disappointed. USA Today stuffs both offense and defense, leading instead with a story headlined "ANALYSTS: TAX-CUT BAG FULL OF TRICKS."

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The FBI numbers suggest that nationwide, the amount of crime in 2000 was little changed from 1999. The NYT has an expert frame the obvious question: Is this merely a flattening out or the beginning of an upsurge? The papers identify a number of factors that could mean the latter: an economy that is demonstrably weaker than in 2000, the possibility that a new street drug will come along that will match the popularity crack had in the mid-'80s, and the 600,000 prisoners set to be released from state and federal prisons this year. Plus, if all trends really do start in California, both papers note that according to the FBI report, there and in other Western states, crime is up. Only slightly--1.1 percent--but it's the first increase, notes the LAT, since 1991. But on the other hand, the paper reports that nine of the 10 least crime-ridden cities in the U.S. with more than 100,000 residents are in ... California.

The WP lead explains that the Bush administration has decided only to address immediate needs in its current defense supplemental budget--requests for big money for new long-range programs such as a ballistic missile defense shield probably won't surface until next winter. The biggest single item in the current request? $1.9 billion for salaries.

The USAT lead is an elaboration of the gimlet point raised yesterday by the NYT's Paul Krugman: The Bush budget contains a boggling array of small windows for various tax benefits. Examples the paper cites include the need for the very wealthy to die in 2010 to avoid paying the estate tax, a deduction for part of college tuition payments that's only good between 2002 and 2005, ditto for the fix that protects middle-class families from the alternative minimum tax, and a "marriage penalty" fix that only works from 2009 to 2011.

The USAT lead headline refers to analysts in the plural, which naturally lends a good deal of extra authority. And the paper immediately quotes one critical analyst by name and goes on to assert that such outrage as his is bipartisan. But no other budget analyst is ever mentioned.

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USAT reefers-with-a-picture its report that Texas police are investigating whether President Bush's legally underage twin daughters tried to buy alcohol at an Austin restaurant Tuesday night. Police were apparently told one of the daughters had used fake ID. Neither this story nor one inside the NYT makes clear whether or not Secret Service agents saw any such thing. But USAT explains that traditionally, Secret Service agents protecting minors don't interfere with any behavior that's not a direct threat to safety on the grounds that if they were to, then the kids would be more motivated to give them the slip. Incidentally, USAT's piece runs 669 words. That's 80 more words than the paper's lead on the federal budget.