The artifact of pulped wood and ink that was dropped at my house this morning.
There was a time in America when industrial tycoons would buy newspapers to be their playthings, using the editorial pages to reward friends and punish enemies, all while watching healthy profits from subscriptions and advertising roll in. Then a couple of decades ago, the newspaper industry began an era of consolidation, with firms like Gannett and the Tribune company scooping up one small and mid-size paper after another. The results were usually awful for journalism; if your local paper got bought by one of those behemoths, there's a good chance the newsroom would be gutted and you'd end up with a paper with little enterprising reporting and lots of wire stories.
But now the billionaires are back. Last week the New York Times company sold the Boston Globe to Red Sox owner John Henry. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has quietly bought a couple dozen small papers, making him one of the largest newspaper owners in the country. And yesterday the Washington Post announced that the Graham family, which had owned the paper for the last 80 years, is selling it to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million. So is this a good thing?
Greg Sargent is rightfully stunned by the entitled petulance of Wall Street bankers who are shocked—shocked—that President Obama would do anything other than praise their indispensable brilliance:
Wall Streeters are so upset about Obama’s harsh populist rhetoric that they privately called on him to make amends with a big speech — like his oration on race — designed to heal the wounds of class warfare in this country. […]
Now that America's burning hunger for Mitt Romney has overflowed, and he really is the Republican nominee-to-be, the Obama campaign must settle on its anti-Romney strategy. Or more properly, they will reveal to us the anti-Romney strategy they settled on many months ago. One central component will be an argument about taxes, contrasting Obama's approach with the Republican one, and the cornerstone of that argument looks to be the "Buffett Rule." Which is kind of unfortunate. The Buffett Rule is, I'm quite sure, good politics. Believe you me, the Obama campaign wouldn't be going whole-hog on it if they hadn't already polled and focus-grouped it within an inch of its life. What it isn't is particularly good policy.
Democrats are doing everything they can to make the Buffett Rule as the predominant issue of the week before it is subjected to a Senate vote on Tax Day. The rule—named after Warren Buffett's frequent refrain that his secretary pays a higher effective tax rate than the multi-billionaire investor—would force multimillionaires to give up some of their tax breaks until they pay at least a minimum rate of 30 percent. Obama is headed to Florida tomorrow to promote the bill, while his campaign is highlighting the rule as a campaign issue in contrast to Mitt Romney's tax disclosures he released earlier this year, which revealed that the probable Republican candidate paid taxes of just 13.9 percent on his $21.7 million in income in 2010.
Over the weekend, President Obamaproposed a new tax to make sure people earning over a million dollars a year don't get away without paying taxes, something that sounds a lot like what the Alternative Minimum Tax was supposed to do. He's calling it the "Buffett Rule" in honor of Warren Buffett, who often tells people that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. That's clever, because every time the term is used, journalists will have to repeat the explanation of where the name comes from, thereby repeating the White House's message.
Will Wilkinson asks an interesting question: Why doesn't Steve Jobs get the same kind of criticism other billionaires get? After all, Wilkinson says, a lot of his fortune is built on patent trolling and exploitation of poorly paid Chinese workers, and he contributes nothing to charity. His explanation is that Jobs has brought beauty into our lives:
Once more, let us try to plumb the depths of Sen. Ben Nelson's brain -- a taxing sport given the man's incoherent policy views. Nelson has been one of the Democrats most reluctant to vote on extending unemployment benefits -- even as job openings continue to outnumber job-seekers -- and held up votes on key stimulus measures targeted at everything from small business to infrastructure. Why has he been so reluctant to vote with his party?