As we move toward some kind of resolution of the tax debate, I thought it might be worthwhile to put some things in context, particularly the question of the top marginal tax rate. That's the one conservatives are so desperate to keep low, and part of the reason liberals in Congress are rebelling against the compromise reached by President Obama and Mitch McConnell.
The American income tax was established via the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1913. Since then, the top rate has varied, but it has been falling pretty much since World War II. Let's look at a chart:
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at a news conference following two votes on tax cuts during a rare Saturday session of the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill earlier this month (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
When Barack Obama took office two years ago, four far-reaching problems stood above all others he had to face: the free-falling economy, the war in Iraq, the health-care crisis, and the threat of global climate change. If he could make real progress on those four, his presidency could stand among those of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan as the most consequential of the last hundred years, no matter what else he did or didn't do.
Right now, the legal machinations regarding the Affordable Care Act are kind of like the overture you hear before a musical starts. It's a little preview of the different songs to come, but it isn't really the show itself. So today, Judge Henry Hudsonruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, in contrast to a series of other judges in other jurisdictions who have found the opposite.
Should you be worried? Well yeah, but not because of this ruling.
One of legislators' favorite strategic moves is to force their opponents into "tough" votes, whereby in order to get what they want they have to vote for something really unpopular or against something really popular. The idea is that since these legislators (particularly those in the House, who have to run every two years) are motivated largely by fear, they will knuckle under as visions of attack ads dance in their heads.
There's a new poll out from the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which shows that nine in 10 voters said that during the campaign they encountered information that was misleading or false. Obviously, in order to know you're encountering misleading information, you have to have some idea of what the truth is. But apparently not. As I've noted before, most of the misinformation benefits Republicans: