Morning Political Note: Jan. 28

While Democrats also are mulling over the same things about tax cuts, conservatives are unhappy too: "Few members of Mr. Bush's party are willing to put any daylight between themselves and the commander in chief at this point, but some conservatives are concerned that the administration is not fighting hard enough to keep spending down."

"Conservatives do not quarrel with a big Pentagon spending increase. But some say they would like to see the administration do more to squeeze nondefense spending."

"The administration has signaled that it will propose a spending increase of no more than 3 percent next year for programs outside the Pentagon and domestic security. That is roughly what it would take to keep up with inflation. But because some nondefense programs, like the National Institutes of Health, will get substantial increases, many others are sure to be cut."

Dan Mitchell of the Heritage Foundation breaks the code on this: "'The reason for that politically … is that the Bush administration has decided, probably for pretty good reasons, that there are other priorities right now, and getting into a fight with Congress that would not be easy to win would undermine those priorities,'" but the article suggests that avoiding the fight might come at the expense of diluting the party's image as the party of fiscal discipline.

From the Wall Street Journal : "Mr. Bush, who plans to steer clear of the Enron debacle in his speech, will paint his economic package in broad strokes. But the political devils may lie in the details … Mr. Bush is expected to cut $850 million from education and training assistance programs, including money for dislocated workers. He also is expected to eliminate grants to assist youth offenders and to train high-skilled workers sought by technology companies."

"Hoping to deflect criticism from such budget cuts, the administration is touting increases in other popular programs. Mr. Bush will boost funding for the National Institutes of Health by $3.7 billion. And senior administration officials said the president Monday will announce that the U.S. will contribute $200 million for the new Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria."

Roll Call neatly phrases Democrats' quandary: "Some Democratic strategists suggest that the party is caught between a fear of seeming to advocate raising taxes and an inability to make the case for its 'priorities' without revisiting last year's tax cut." ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/01/news0128d.html )

The Economy

Fred Dicker in the New York Post says the first study to price out the cost of September 11 to the U.S. economy will peg it at $639.3 billion and 2 million jobs. ( http://www.nypost.com/commentary/39957.htm )

Enron

Regarding the Today interview with the Lay family: in a big group interview, one of Lay's daughters said, "His generosity is beyond anything I've ever seen." Lay's wife did some serious crying on tape.

Enron Investigative

The Los Angeles Times looks at the difficulties in prosecuting corporate fraud cases and how the "prospect of serious criminal convictions of corporate executives is far from certain." ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-000007161jan28.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dfrontpage )

Enron Politics

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