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

no word from edward scissorhands
5:37 p.m. ET

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said he's offered to return to the U.S. to serve prison time, but that the government has not gotten back to him with a formal plea deal.

"I've volunteered to go to prison with the government many times," he reportedly told BBC's Panorama in an interview set to air Monday. "What I won't do is, I won't serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations."

After leaking thousands of secret government documents revealing NSA processes, Snowden sought asylum in Russia in 2013. Without a plea deal, Snowden could face a life sentence under the Espionage Act if he returns to the U.S., The Guardian reports. Authorities could use a strict sentence as a deterrent to other potential government whistleblowers.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said a plea deal with Snowden would be a possibility, but former NSA head Michael Hayden told BBC he disagreed.

"If you're asking me my opinion, he's going to die in Moscow," Hayden said. "He's not coming home." Julie Kliegman

Legal battles
4:38 p.m. ET

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed a bill Monday permitting doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who request them, The Los Angeles Times reports. California will join Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont in legalizing the practice.

To obtain the prescriptions, terminally ill patients must be mentally competent and expected to die within six months. The law will be enforced 90 days after the state legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare, which likely won't happen until at least January, the Times reports.

California resident Brittany Maynard, who had a brain tumor, raised nationwide awareness of the issue in 2014, but state legislators didn't pass a previous version of the bill. Ultimately, the 29-year-old moved to Oregon, where she died from legally taking a fatal dose of barbiturates.

Brown, who once studied to become a priest, faced criticism from religious advocates — including the Catholic Church — for his decision to sign the bill.

"In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death," the governor said. "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others." Julie Kliegman

some personal news
3:49 p.m. ET

Top conservative blogger Erick Erickson is leaving his role as RedState editor-in-chief at the end of December, he announced in a blog post Monday. The departure had been rumored since August, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution alluded to a possible "re-ordering of Erick Erickson's life."

Leon Wolf, a longtime RedState writer, will become the site's managing editor. Erickson, who has served as editor-in-chief for 10 years, wrote that he'll still contribute to the site and attend 2016's RedState Gathering. He cited his growing radio career as the reason for the shift.

"Right now, RedState is me and I am RedState. It's time for Erick to be Erick and it is time for RedState to have its own identity," Erickson wrote. "I think Leon is the best person to run that transition and make that happen." Julie Kliegman

Presidential polling
3:33 p.m. ET
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If Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina were to face off in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in Iowa right now, Fiorina would crush Clinton by double digits. A new The Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll has Fiorina beating Clinton 52-38 — a margin of 14 points. And while Fiorina was the Republican who beat Clinton by the widest margin in Iowa, she wasn't the only Republican to lead Clinton in a matchup. Clinton also trailed Jeb Bush by 10 points and Donald Trump by seven points in Iowa.

While Clinton is still the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, her biggest competition, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), fared better than she did against Fiorina, Bush, and Trump in Iowa. Sanders only lags behind Fiorina by three points and behind Bush by two points; in a Trump matchup, Sanders leads by five points.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three points. Becca Stanek

3:11 p.m. ET
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed President Obama's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year, calling it "nothing short of crazy," The Associated Press reports.

"There is a reason the director of national intelligence said among those refugees are no doubt a significant number of ISIS terrorists," he told a crowd at a Michigan campaign stop Monday. "It would be the height of foolishness to bring in tens of thousands of people, including jihadists, that are coming here to murder innocent Americans."

But James Clapper, who Cruz refers to, has not said that. Rather, he's mentioned he's aware of the risk.

The Obama administration has also announced its plan to up its total refugee acceptance to 100,000 per fiscal year by 2017, a target designed to accommodate people fleeing Syria. As part of the September announcement, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed background checks would be a part of the process in an effort to keep ISIS fighters from infiltrating refugee pools. Julie Kliegman

This just in
2:54 p.m. ET
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House Speaker John Boehner announced Monday that the floor vote for his replacement will take place on Oct. 29, just one day before he is set to step down as speaker and resign from Congress. However, Boehner announced, the vote for the other two GOP leadership positions — majority leader and majority whip — will be delayed until after a new speaker is selected, changing the original plan for House Republicans to vote for all leadership positions on the same day.

Boehner's announcement comes just a day after two members requested a delay in the voting process, saying that it would "be presumptive to schedule elections without a vacancy for those posts," The Washington Post reports. As Politico explains, this delay "gives more time for conservatives to find a candidate to run against [Louisiana Rep. Steve] Scalise and Georgia Rep. Tom Price."

The new speaker will be left with the decision of when to hold the votes for lower-level leadership posts. Becca Stanek

This just in
2:34 p.m. ET

Russia warned Monday that it could not stop "volunteer" forces from fighting in Syria, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's assurances that the use of ground troops was off the table. However, according to a statement from the former commander of the Black Sea fleet, Vladimir Komoyedov, "A unit of Russian volunteers, conflict veterans, will probably appear in the ranks of the Syrian army." Sending in unmarked ground troops has become a familiar Russian tactic, after unidentified Russian forces seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and were later caught fighting the Ukrainian army in the ongoing conflict there; Admiral Komoyedov suggests that it would be those very veterans who would be appearing to fight in Syria.

Last week, Russia began air strikes that supposedly target the Islamic State and Syrian al Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra Front. Many sources, however, have reported that the strikes instead hit Western-backed rebels. Jeva Lange

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