Quotables
March 28, 2014
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Paul Krugman points out that proposals to introduce higher taxes on the rich — like the Buffett rule — have received serious pushback from conservatives:

As inequality has become an increasingly prominent issue in American discourse, there has been furious pushback from the right. Some conservatives argue that focusing on inequality is unwise, that taxing high incomes will cripple economic growth. Some argue that it's unfair, that people should be allowed to keep what they earn. And some argue that it's un-American — that we've always celebrated those who achieve wealth, and that it violates our national tradition to suggest that some people control too large a share of the wealth. [The New York Times]

But, as Krugman rightly points out, high taxes on the rich are hardly un-American. He points to Theodore Roosevelt and Irving Fisher as examples of the fact that "in the early 20th century, many leading Americans warned about the dangers of extreme wealth concentration, and urged that tax policy be used to limit the growth of great fortunes."

In fact, as Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century points out, "confiscatory taxation of excessive incomes — that is, taxation whose goal was to reduce income and wealth disparities, rather than to raise money — was an American invention."

This shouldn't really be very surprising. America was founded by a group of men deeply distrustful of monarchies, aristocracies, concentrated wealth, and inherited privilege, and who enacted laws to prevent wealth from concentrating in too few hands.

As Steven Budiansky noted in 2010:

With Thomas Jefferson taking the lead in the Virginia legislature in 1777, every Revolutionary state government abolished the laws of primogeniture and entail that had served to perpetuate the concentration of inherited property. Jefferson cited Adam Smith, the hero of free market capitalists everywhere, as the source of his conviction that (as Smith wrote, and Jefferson closely echoed in his own words), "A power to dispose of estates forever is manifestly absurd. The earth and the fullness of it belongs to every generation, and the preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity. Such extension of property is quite unnatural." Smith said: "There is no point more difficult to account for than the right we conceive men to have to dispose of their goods after death." [Liberal Curmudgeon] John Aziz

ISIS Crisis
May 24, 2015
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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Sunday faulted Iraqi troops for allowing the Islamic State to conquer Ramadi, saying the homegrown forces lacked the "will to fight."

"What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter said in an appearance on CNN. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."

Last weekend, ISIS captured Ramadi as Iraqi troops fled and left behind weapons provided by the U.S. Days later, ISIS overran the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra as well. Jon Terbush

This just in
May 24, 2015
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Cleveland police over the weekend arrested 71 people who participated in largely peaceful protests following the acquittal of a police officer in the 2012 killing of two unarmed black people.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said protesters became more "aggressive" throughout the day, adding that officers only intervened when they "became violent and…refused to disperse."

On Saturday a judge acquitted officer Michael Brelo over a 2012 incident in which police, after mistaking the sound of a car backfiring for gunshots, fired 137 rounds into a vehicle, killing both occupants. Brelo climbed onto the car's hood and fired 15 times through the windshield, though the judge ruled prosecutors did not prove those shots killed the couple. Jon Terbush

This just in
May 24, 2015
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John Nash, the famed Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who inspired the film A Beautiful Mind, died Saturday in a taxi crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. The 86-year-old Nash and his wife, Alicia, were both killed when the driver of their taxi lost control and slammed into a guardrail. Police said they believe neither Nash nor his wife, who were ejected from the vehicle, were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. Known for his work in game theory, Nash won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1994. Jon Terbush

Texas Flood
May 24, 2015
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At least one person died and dozens of states of emergency were declared following widespread flooding across Oklahoma and Texas over the weekend. A firefighter in Claremore, Oklahoma, died while trying to rescue a colleague who became trapped in a storm drain, though the trapped firefighter was able to make it out safely. Flooding in the region forced more than 1,000 evacuations, with officials warning that even more rain on Sunday could trigger potentially "historic" flooding. Jon Terbush

WomenCrossDMZ
May 24, 2015
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An international coalition of female activists led by feminist Gloria Steinem on Sunday crossed the highly militarized border between North and South Korea in an effort to spotlight the need for reconciliation between the two nations. The group, WomenCrossDMZ, consisted of about 30 participants including Steinem and two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee. "We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible," Steinem said. Jon Terbush

Foreign affairs
May 24, 2015
GORAN TOMASEVIC / Reuters / Corbis

The leader of Burundi's opposition party on Saturday was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in the capital of Bujumbura. Zedi Feruzi, the leader of the party Union for Peace and Development-Zigamibanga, and a bodyguard were shot dead by unidentified gunmen just one day after a grenade attack killed at least two civilians in the same city. Burundi has been rocked by unrest — including a failed coup — for weeks since President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term. Jon Terbush

Oops
May 23, 2015
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The Bank of England apparently needs a refresher on how to keep a classified project…classified.

An editor for The Guardian received an email on Friday, accidentally forwarded by the Bank's head of press, which details plans to research the financial repercussions of a British exit from the European Union. Nicknamed Project Bookend, the not-so-secret work was meant to be carried out by just a few senior officials, and examine how a "Brexit" would affect the country's export's and major cities' economies.

The email noted that any questions from the press should be answered by saying that "there is a lot going on in Europe in the next couple of months…that would be of concern to the Bank."

A note to the Bank's staff on the project: Take a good, long look at the "CC" field before you send any of Project Bookend's results. Also, consider a better name than Project Bookend. Sarah Eberspacher

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