×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 28, 2014
SCOTT OLSON/Getty Images

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

November 24, 2017
ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan has released designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed, outraging the U.S. Justice Department, which has a $10 million bounty on his head over his ties to a group that killed 168 people in a 2008 Mumbai attack, The Associated Press reports. "The Pakistani government should make sure that [Saeed] is arrested and charged for his crimes," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Prior to his release, Saeed had spent 10 months under house arrest in Pakistan. He is accused of founding the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group; India accuses Lashkar-e-Taiba of being behind the devastating Mumbai attack. "[Saeed] was not only the mastermind, he was the prime organizer of the Mumbai terror attacks in which many innocent Indians and many people from other nationalities were killed," said India's External Affairs Ministry in protest of the accused terrorist being allowed to "walk free and continue with his evil agenda."

Saeed addressed thousands of his followers after his release, claiming he was detained for protesting India's oppression of the people of Kashmir, The New York Times reports. "My struggle is aimed at safeguarding the interests of Pakistan," he said. "I want Kashmir's freedom from India and this is my crime. I was arrested for it." Saeed's spokesman, Yahya Mujahid, called his client's release a "victory of truth." Jeva Lange

November 24, 2017
Marco Longari - Pool/Getty Images

A South African court on Friday doubled Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius' prison sentence for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, to 13 years and five months, The Guardian reports.

Prosecutors challenged the double amputee's initial sentence of six years as being too lenient, and the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that it should be increased to 15 years, minus just over a year and a half for the time Pistorius has served. "This is an emotional thing for them," said Steenkamp family spokeswoman Tania Koen. "They just feel that their trust in the justice system has been confirmed this morning."

Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in his home on Valentine's Day in 2013. He said he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a bathroom door. He was originally convicted of manslaughter, but the appeals court upgraded the conviction to murder. Jeva Lange

November 24, 2017
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Flynn/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

On Thursday morning, the U.S. Navy announced that it had ended the search for three crew members lost in the crash of a Navy aircraft in the Philippine Sea near Okinawa, Japan, on Wednesday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families," said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton in a statement, as reported by NPR.

The twin-engine, propeller-driven C-2A Greyhound was carrying 11 crew and passengers to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it went down. "[E]ight U.S. Navy and [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] ships, three helicopter squadrons, and maritime patrol aircraft covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the search for the missing sailors," the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.

The Navy confirmed an investigation is ongoing. The crash came after the 7th Fleet, based in Japan, had several deadly collisions involving ships in the Pacific. Jeva Lange

November 24, 2017

President Trump is a man who knows how to have a holiday. While the White House has been quick to confirm that the president is doing executive work throughout his stay at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, Trump couldn't help but brag that he is also "quickly" playing 18 holes with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson at his course in Jupiter, Florida. "Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!" he tweeted.

Golfing or not, when tragedy struck abroad on Friday, Trump was quickly back online. "The world cannot tolerate terrorism," he wrote, condemning an attack in Egypt on "defenseless" Sufi Muslim worshipers as "horrible and cowardly." Jeva Lange

November 24, 2017
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

An estimated 115 million Americans are expected to participate today in the annual bargains bonanza Black Friday, CBS News reports. "Unemployment has dropped, so people are really thinking that folks are going to head to the stores and head online this season," said USA Today business reporter Charisse Jones. "They're thinking sales will be up about 6 percent and $1.4 trillion will be spent by consumers."

Investment banking firm Jefferies found that only 13 percent of customers said they'd be spending more on Black Friday this year, compared to 17 percent last year, indicating that more people are shopping online throughout the month than on just one day. Adobe Analytics reports that this year's "Cyber Monday," for example, could see customers spending $6.6 billion on internet deals.

Read tips for getting the biggest bang for your buck on Black Friday here at The Week. Jeva Lange

November 24, 2017
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Lawyers for President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, have ended an agreement to share information with Trump's lawyers about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing four people involved in the case.

Trump's lawyers reportedly believe the move could mean Flynn is cooperating with Mueller's team. Lawyers sometimes pull out of such information-sharing agreements when their clients start negotiating deals with prosecutors.

Flynn had ties with Moscow before he joined Trump's campaign, and the White House has been preparing for his possible indictment since Mueller's team filed charges in October against Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign aide Rick Gates, and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Read more about what this means for the Mueller investigation at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

November 24, 2017
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

At least 200 people were killed Friday and more than 100 others injured when Islamist militants attacked a Sufi mosque in Egypt's Sinai province, state run news agency MENA reports. "I can't believe they attacked a mosque," one cleric from the town told The New York Times, speaking anonymously out of fear that he could also be attacked.

The attackers planted bombs inside the mosque, then fired on worshipers as they tried to flee, The Associated Press reports. Extremists in the region have targeted Christian churches in the past, but attacks on mosques remain relatively rare. The worshipers at the mosque attacked Friday were Sufi Muslims, who are considered heretical by Sunni extremists. Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads