Timothy Noah

The Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, who died today at 76, is remembered as being relentlessly moderate, but Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell didn't view him that way. In his famous "Powell memorandum," a 1971 memo Powell wrote, shortly before his 1971 Court appointment, to a friend working at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Powell urged American business to unite in political opposition to what Powell perceived as the growing influence of "Communists, New Leftists, and other revolutionaries" on mainstream political discourse.

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Rapacious capitalists ain't what they used to be. "Law? What do I care about the law?" the shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt (1794-1877)  famously bellowed (in legend, if not in fact). "Hain't I got the power?" His son William (1821-1885) demonstrated a similar indifference to public opinion when he said, "The public be damned.... I don't take any stock in this silly nonsense about working for anybody's good but our own, because we are not." The banking tycoon J.P. Morgan (1837-1913) held the same view, and didn't hesitate to articulate it.

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Yesterday I argued that President Obama's proposed one-year extension of the Bush tax cut for family income up to $250,000, though probably a good idea in the short term to help boost a weak recovery, was a bad idea in the long term.

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Yesterday I argued that President Obama's proposed one-year extension of the Bush tax cut for family income up to $250,000, though probably a good idea in the short term to help boost a weak recovery, was a bad idea in the long term.

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My latest TRB column, "States Of Confusion," explains how the Roberts Court has inadvertently hastened the federalization of the state-federal Medicaid program.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the health care case is best understood as an attempt to maximize damage to established legal precedent while minimizing damage to the particular law under consideration. On the one hand, Chief Justice John Roberts wanted to maintain the Supreme Court as a playpen for anti-government sophistry. On the other, Roberts wanted to avoid getting pilloried as a right-wing extremist who doesn’t care whether people get health insurance or not.

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President Obama wants to extend the Bush income-tax cuts, but only on family income up to $250,000 per year. Mitt Romney wants to keep the Bush tax cuts for everybody and to further lower all existing income-tax rates by 20 percent. They're both wrong. Romney is a lot more wrong than Obama, because his plan is very regressive. Romney would drop an already too-low top marginal rate of 35 percent down to 28 percent.

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President Obama wants to extend the Bush income-tax cuts, but only on family income up to $250,000 per year. Mitt Romney wants to keep the Bush tax cuts for everybody and to further lower all existing income-tax rates by 20 percent. They're both wrong. Romney is a lot more wrong than Obama, because his plan is very regressive. Romney would drop an already too-low top marginal rate of 35 percent down to 28 percent.

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The Idea Biz

Today’s New York Times op-ed page carries two separate citations from last week’s Aspen Ideas Festival, which probably means the thing has already paid for itself. The ideas cited are good ones, but the increasing dominance of corporate-sponsored idea-disseminators like the Aspen festival and the TED conferences (gently lampooned by my friend Nathan Heller in a recent New Yorker takeout) makes me wonder whether ideas upsetting to the moneyed classes will become harder to shoehorn into the national conversation.

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