The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox all lead with the health care debate, as Democratic leaders push to make progress on legislation before lawmakers leave Washington for the August recess. The NYT takes a look at the health insurance mandate and whether the subsidies currently in discussion would really be enough to help families with modest incomes obtain coverage. Those who could show financial hardship would be exempted from the requirement to carry insurance, but that could translate into a substantial number of people remaining uninsured. The WP highlights House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's optimism that, despite the intraparty squabbling, the House will approve health care legislation, though she refused to commit to a timetable. The WSJ takes a look at the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, who continue to raise objections to the health legislation, as one of its leaders said he doesn't expect the House will vote on a bill before Labor Day.
USA Todayleads with news that the U.S. Agency for International Development has suspended a program to provide jobs to Iraqis due to evidence of fraud. The $644 million Community Stabilization Program has received much praise since it was launched in 2006, but there are claims that millions of dollars might have gone to insurgents and corrupt leaders as well as nonexistent projects. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally but goes high with Sarah Palin officially stepping down as Alaska governor yesterday and handing power over to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. Standing with her husband and two of their daughters, Palin criticized those who questioned her decision to step down 18 months before the end of her term. "It should be so obvious to you," she said. "It is because I love Alaska this much, sir, that I feel that it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical politics-as-usual lame-duck session in one's last year in office."
Some analysts say the subsidies included in the bills that are making their way through Congress are nowhere near enough to help families of modest means obtain even the cheapest health insurance. But as lawmakers struggle to keep down the costs, they are unlikely to want to make the subsidies more generous. In the bills currently being discussed, a family could be required to pay as much as 12.5 percent of its income on health insurance. On top of that, families might have to spend thousands more in out-of-pocket costs.
Pelosi is planning to restart discussions with Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where health legislation stalled last week. But the Post says some of the recently elected lawmakers "are suffering from political fatigue," particularly after the fight over the cap-and-trade system. When the climate-change bill passed it was seen as a huge victory for Pelosi, but now some worry that the controversial vote may have put health care legislation in danger since moderate Democrats are reluctant to go out on a limb again before the recess.
The WSJ points out that Blue Dog Democrats "have emerged as pivotal players in the national health-care debate" and that the White House has been working particularly hard to get these fiscally conservative lawmakers onboard. Their power became evident last week when "they humiliated California Rep. Henry Waxman," notes the paper. Many Democrats have expressed frustration with the Blue Dogs but know they can't afford to lose a group that accounts for about one-fifth of House Democrats. The WSJ also mentions that as lawmakers continue to look for ways to pay for the health care overhaul, the idea of taxing insurance firms on their most expensive policies "appears to be gaining momentum."
The NYT's Paul Krugman writes that even if Obama wanted to give the conservative Democrats everything they want, he can't, "because the Blue Dogs aren't making sense." The Blue Dogs are constantly complaining about how much the legislation would cost while also "making demands that would greatly increase that cost."
As Palin stepped down from the governor's office, she found time to criticize the media one last time and asked them to "quit making things up." She didn't say what her next step would be, beyond stating that not being in office would allow her to "fight even harder for you, for what is right." The WP wonders whether she has "a second act in her repertoire" and notes that those "who have some insight into her frame of mind" say she doesn't really have a plan for what to do over the next few months, let alone a grand plan for raising her political profile within the GOP.
The LAT fronts word that Pakistan and the United States are sharing intelligence and cooperating in military operations to a degree not seen in years. Pakistani officials are increasingly informing Afghanistan and the United States about operations along the border to get help in trapping militants. Pakistan is also apparently providing intelligence help to the United States as the search for Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured June 30, continues, although American officials disagree on the value of the information.
The LAT says that part of the reason Pakistan is more willing to cooperate with the United States is the "military's recent success" in the Swat Valley. But the success may have been short-lived. The WSJ reports that Taliban militants have re-emerged in the area as refugees start going back. The paper cautions that this uptick in violence could be "the last gasp of a dying insurgency" but it still shows how the Swat Valley offensive "remains far from complete," despite the fact that the military said the valley was secure two weeks ago.
The WSJ fronts a look at how the number of loans are on the decline as both "bankers and borrowers refrain from taking risks." An analysis of 15 large U.S. banks reveals that their total number of loans declined by 2.8 percent in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the majority of the loans in April and May "came from refinancing mortgages and renewing credit to businesses, not new loans." The numbers illustrate how financial institutions want to conserve capital while businesses are delaying expansion plans, a combination that will ultimately make it "harder for the U.S. economy to rebound."
Speaking at a public forum that will air this week on PBS, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that while he was "disgusted" by the circumstances that led him to push for a rescue of companies that acted recklessly, he had no choice. "I was not going to be the Federal Reserve chairman who presided over the second Great Depression," he said. Although Bernanke really didn't give any new information, answering questions directly from the public was "the latest unusual forum where the Fed chairman has explained his actions in recent months," as the WSJ puts it. His predecessors have usually been much more reluctant to talk in public, but Bernanke wants to send the message that the "central bank is here to help, and it is not as mysterious or menacing as people might think," declares the NYTin a front-page piece. Coincidentally, Bernanke's term expires in January, and it is still not clear whether Obama will reappoint him to serve another four years.
The WP's E.J. Dionne Jr. writes that "senators who regularly express their undying loyalty to the National Rifle Association … should practice what they preach." If they really do believe that the best way to protect Americans against crime is to make sure citizens can carry concealed weapons, then they should take down the metal detectors at the Capitol. "If the NRA's servants in Congress don't take their arguments seriously enough to apply them to their own lives, maybe the rest of us should do more to stop them from imposing their nonsense on our country."
USAT takes a look at how the United States "is becoming a nation of track-a-holics" as more companies allow customers to track the whereabouts of flights, buses, packages, and even pizzas, to name a few. And it's not just products. Parents can use a Web site to keep track of their infant's habits to detect patterns. This obsession may ultimately have to do with people's desire to feel like they have some sense of control. "I'd much rather know if I'm secure in my job," a sociologist tells the paper. "But if I can't know that, at least I can know the status of my pizza."
TODAY IN SLATE
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A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.