Over the weekend, professional golfer Phil Mickelson complained about tax increases (including state income taxes in California) that he said had pushed his marginal rate to 63 percent: “I’ve got to make some decisions on what to do.” That incited a scolding from Syracuse University professor Len Burman, who said Mickelson should “stop whining” because he was so “lucky” to be one of the world’s highest-earning athletes.
Well, just another cranky liberal academic, eh? We are not surprised to learn that Burman served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration, nor are we surprised that Burman founded the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think-tank. What is perhaps surprising is that Burman published his attack on Mickelson’s “whining” at Forbes.
Forbes was once a leading advocate of free-market economic policy and has published such famed conservative writers as P.J. O’Rourke and Peter Brimelow. The magazine’s publisher Steve Forbes sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000 on a platform advocating a flat tax. His father, the late Malcolm Forbes, proudly named his private jet the “Capitalist Tool.”
Yet in recent years, the online version of Forbes has become increasingly notorious as a hive of strident left-wing opinion. Forbes publishes environmentalist blogger Steve Zwick, who has waged a one-man jihad against the free-market Heartland Institute for its criticism of climate policy. Last February, Zwick used his Forbes blog to promote a hoax in which a fake document purported to show Heartland’s “secret strategy.” Forbes also publishes Rick Ungar, who became notorious in 2009 for a column with the headline “Send the Body to Glenn Beck,” blaming the talk-radio host for the alleged lynching of a Census worker (who, as it turned out, had committed suicide).
What happened to Forbes? Two words: Lewis Dvorkin.
A former AOL executive, Dvorkin got funding from Forbes in 2009 to start a Web site, True/Slant, that lasted a little more than a year before it was taken over by Forbes in a deal that brought Dvorkin into the company with the title of Chief Product Officer. (Dvorkin’s “Copy Box” column is a lot of jargon-crowded hype about the awesomeness of the “product”; he recently defended the concept of “sponsored content” in the wake of last week’s debacle in which the Atlantic published an “advertorial” for Scientology.) Dvorkin’s July 2010 deal also brought under the Forbes online umbrella several of True/Slant’s left-wing staff and contributors, including Zwick, Ungar and, apparently, Professor Len Burman.
My friend Jim Lakely at the Heartland Institute is dismayed that Phil Mickelson apologized after his scolding from Burman. I’m more dismayed that Dvorkin’s left-wing takeover at Forbes has proven the truth of O’Sullivan’s First Law, formulated by former National Review editor John O’Sullivan: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”
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