The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal business box, and Washington Postall lead with the Senate giving final passage to the $136 billion corporate tax cut, the biggest restructuring of the corporate tax code in 20 years. The bill, which now heads to Bush for signature, was originally intended to replace $50 billion in export subsidies that the WTO had ruled illegal. But it became a porker, benefiting such key constituencies as Native Alaskan whaling captains, NASCAR track owners, and importers of Chinese ceiling fans. It is supposed to pay for itself by shutting down various tax shelters, but the bill relies on always questionable sunset clauses. The New York Times fronts Moqtada Sadr's men beginning to turn in their heavy weapons as the start of a peace deal for Sadr City. USA Today's lead hypes a poll, showing President Bush's approval rating—the most reliable stat for re-election—at 47 percent. (Anything below 50 percent is trouble.) Still, the poll shows the race near tied: Among likely voters, Bush is at 48 percent and Kerry at 49. *
The tax cut bill includes $10 billion payout for tobacco farmers, a provision that had been hitched to giving the FDA regulatory control of tobacco—until House Republicans apparently decided nicotine isn't really a drug and killed the second half of the deal.
The bill was intended to target manufacturers. And it did, assuming a big-tent definition. "Everybody with a Republican lobbyist is a manufacturer," one tax committee staffer lamented to the Journal.
The Journal points to a few provisions that will benefit millions of everyday taxpayers. For instance, one clause will let people deduct some local taxes from their IRS bill.
The Post's editorial page isn't impressed. "The bill that Congress has produced is monstrous in just about every way," says the WP. "If Mr. Bush cannot bring himself to veto this terrible bill, it will be hard to take him seriously."
In return for Sadr's men handing over their heavy weapons, for which the U.S. is paying above-market prices, the U.S. has promised to lay off the guerrillas, stop patrols in Sadr City, and spend $500 million improving the neighborhood.
The Post says the hand-back deal, which is open until Friday, got off to a "slow start." One wire reporter sat at a site for three hours and saw all of three transactions. The NYT is more optimistic, quoting militia men who say they're tired of fighting.
The Times also found, finally, a real entrepreneurial spirit among the Iraqi security forces. A reporter tried to go inside one of the give-back stations, when an Iraqi guard stopped him. "Do you want to buy the weapons inside?" the guard asked. "Just $150 for a Kalashnikov."
One GI and two Iraqis were killed by a car bomb in Mosul. Nine GIs were also wounded. Witnesses told that LAT that after the blast soldiers fired randomly and wounded bystanders. The NYT mentions the bombing but neither the subsequent firing nor the civilians killed. Another two GIs were killed and five wounded by in a rocket attack south of Baghdad. Also, two hostages, an Iraqi and Turk, were reportedly beheaded.
The Post mentions that Marines called in airstrikes on a mosque in Hit, which guerrillas had apparently been firing from. The WP says insurgents in Hit "reportedly" include foreign fighters who've fled airstrikes in Fallujah. Professor-blogger Juan Cole has the most complete round-up of the day's attacks.
The NYT briefly mentions that international U.N. inspectors have concluded that nuclear-related material and equipment has been looted from Iraq sites. That includes "whole buildings." As a longer wire piece notes, after the invasion the U.S. would not let inspectors in. There have been reports of looting since shortly after the invasion. But nobody gives significant coverage to this latest wrinkle.
A front-page NYT piece reminds that when it comes to federal money for homeland security, big states are still getting shafted. For instance, California got $22 per person. Alaska got about $92. That's because rather than being risk-based or simply fair-minded, money is doled out via an age-old "spreading the wealth" crony-type system.
Update on the White House's long-shot press strategy ... The Post's Dana Milbank: "Primaris, the one-plane airline the White House has hired for the suspected purpose of eliminating the White House press corps, continues its descent into aviation history. On one flight, a television news producer was disconcerted to feel something fall in his lap on takeoff: It was a sheared-off screw of unknown origin. On another flight, a jetway rammed the plane, cracking the plastic inside of a forward door, which was patched with duct tape."