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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

May 29, 2016
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Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination Sunday. He secured the win on the second ballot of the Orlando, Florida, convention with 55.8 percent of the vote.

Johnson, also the Libertarian Party's pick in 2012, has been polling in the double digits against both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. To qualify for televised debates, he'll need to hit 15 percent. Julie Kliegman

May 29, 2016
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The family of a Pakistani taxi driver, Mohammad Azam, who was killed in May by an American drone strike, has demanded a criminal inquiry into the U.S. government. Following an investigative report filed by Azam's brother, Mohammad Qasim, local police are obliged to investigate the death.

Azam "was the sole breadwinner of our large joint family, [so] this was an attack on our family that hardly earns enough for two meals a day," Qasim said, noting that before he was killed Azam supported six family members, including a disabled brother. "Who will feed them now?" he asked, demanding compensation to maintain his relatives' livelihood.

There is some precedent for his effort: The families of some past drone strike victims who have been deemed innocent after the fact have received secret condolence payments from Washington.

The drone strike's target, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, happened to be Azam's taxi fare when the bombs hit. Bonnie Kristian

May 29, 2016
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Bo and Sunny Obama are apparently just as busy as the rest of the first family. First Lady Michelle Obama told The Associated Press on Sunday that she's in charge of managing their schedule of appearances each month.

But don't worry, when the Portuguese water dogs, ages 7 and 3, aren't greeting tourists, they have some time to unwind.

"They can sit on my lap, they sit on my chair, they cuddle with me," Obama said. "I like to lay on the floor with them and blow in their face. I like to make them run and chase each other. But they're so cute, I just love to just cuddle them and massage them."

The dogs also get up to their share of mischief around the house.

“You know what [Sunny] does sometimes?" Obama said. "She leaves the kitchen and she'll sneak and she'll go poop on the other end of the White House." Julie Kliegman

May 29, 2016
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The Amish are a unique Christian community known for their radical forgiveness, pacifism, and eschewal of worldly goods. Donald Trump believes he needs no forgiveness from God, advocates bombing women and children, and lives in a penthouse that is entirely covered in gold.

But Trump allies with ties to Ben Carson and Newt Gingrich think it's a political match made in heaven. In fact, they've formed an Amish PAC in an attempt to persuade the 70,000 Amish people in Pennsylvania and Ohio, both swing states, to turn out for Trump this November.

The project faces an uphill battle. Though a few Amish voters do show up at the polls each election, most do not vote for theological reasons. Of course, the Amish have been spared Trump's Twitter feed thanks to their rejection of computer technology — but it is difficult to fathom that a religious group that considers buttons too ostentatious will be persuaded to back the king of ostentation. Bonnie Kristian

May 29, 2016

A 4-year-old boy sustained serious injuries after crawling into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday, ABC News reports. A 17-year-old, 400-pound male gorilla named Harambe picked up the boy and dragged him around after he fell at least 10 feet into a moat.

A zoo employee fatally shot the gorilla so firefighters could enter the enclosure and rescue the child, whose name has not been released. The boy was hospitalized with injuries that are reportedly not life-threatening.

"The zoo security team's quick response saved the child's life. We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically endangered gorilla," the zoo director said in a statement. "This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide. Julie Kliegman

May 29, 2016
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Marco Rubio apologized to Donald Trump for making fun of his hand size, the former Republican candidate said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that aired Sunday.

"I actually told Donald — one of the debates, I forget which one — I apologized to him for that," Rubio explained on State of the Union. "I said, 'You know, I'm sorry that I said that. It's not who I am and I shouldn't have done it.' I didn't say it in front of the cameras. I didn't want any political benefit." Rubio recently indirectly indicated he will support Trump this November.

The Trump-Rubio tiff dates to February, when the Florida senator hit back at Trump after the presumed GOP nominee began calling him "Little Rubio." "You know what they say about guys with small hands," he quipped, adding after a pause, "You can't trust 'em!" Trump has been sensitive to suggestions that his hands are small since a 1988 magazine article called him a "short-fingered vulgarian." Bonnie Kristian

May 29, 2016
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Top Donald Trump adviser Paul Manafort is gently walking back his Wednesday assertion that the presumptive Republican nominee wouldn't choose a male person of color or a woman as a running mate because that would be "pandering."

In an interview with ABC's This Week on Sunday, Manafort clarified that candidates from those groups wouldn't be omitted from Trump's list of potential running mates; rather, they just won't earn spots on the list solely because of their race or gender.

"If a female is qualified, that's a totally different story," he said. "And there are many Republican women who are qualified, and several who might be on the list."

Manafort also confirmed that Trump is seeking a vice president with Washington, D.C., experience. Julie Kliegman

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