ThinkFast: April 4, 2011

Union workers will march in Memphis, TN and Wisconsin today, “linking their fight for their rights to the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Pointing out that King was killed in Memphis where he was supporting striking sanitation workers, unions said he should not only be remembered for opposition to racism but as “a strong advocate for equality and justice in the workplace.”

In a scathing look at modern American income inequality, economist Joseph Stiglitz writes in Vanity Fair that America has become a country “of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.” He notes that the top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of the wealth and, reflecting on the Middle East uprising, he asks, “When will it come to America?”

The Internal Revenue Service is increasing audits of the wealthiest taxpayers in a “multiyear effort to crack down on tax avoidance.” Limiting amnesty for undeclared offshore accounts and creating a “wealth squad” to perform detailed audits, the IRS’s “heightened scrutiny” of the wealthy is “in sharp contrast to the agency’s audit practices during the previous decade.”

House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will propose a budget that cuts $4 trillion over the next ten years. His budget would do this partially by offering a “plan [that] would essentially end Medicare.” Ryan will offer a “premium-support” system that “would grow more slowly than health costs…so seniors would end up with less coverage.”

Transocean touted 2010 as its “best year in safety performance in our Company’s history” — the same year in which its Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Swiss company was “so enthralled with its safety record that it’s paying bonuses to its executives.”

Less than 12 months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP is asking the government to let it resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. If its petition is approved, BP could resume drilling at 10 existing sites in the Gulf. In exchange, it would have to adhere to stricter safety and supervisory regulations.

The U.S. has quietly shifted away from years of support and now does not back Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh was seen as a critical ally in fighting al Qaeda in Yemen, but U.S. officials have “concluded that he is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office.”

Two sons of Libyan Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have reportedly offered to resolve the Libyan conflict by pushing their father out and transitioning to a constitutional government under their leadership. It is unclear if Qaddafi is willing to go along, and a representative of the rebels said the proposal was unacceptable.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said yesterday he wants to see a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this summer, though he did not say how many he’d like to see withdrawn. “I want to see a clear trend line that suggests our American troops are coming home. The longest war in our history has to come to the end,” he said.

And finally: The wife of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is less than thrilled about the idea of him running for president. “It horrifies me,” she told a local ABC affiliate. “It’s been a lot to be first lady of the state of Mississippi and this would be 50 times bigger,” she said in the interview aired on Friday. “It’s a huge sacrifice for a family to make.”

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