U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
With John Paul Stevens' impending retirement, Barack Obama now has his second opportunity to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. Republicans surely know that they won't be able to actually stop Obama's nominee from being confirmed. So they are no doubt hoping to create a teachable political moment, one that clarifies distinctions between the parties and keeps our political clash of civilizations humming along. At times like this, when the outcome is not much in doubt, we should ask: Is there anything to be gained from the theatrical presentations we will soon be witnessing?
There are some political problems that can be solved with a shift in strategy or rhetoric -- for instance, after Scott Brown's surprise victory in the Massachusetts special election, Democrats realized they were being damaged by the perception that they were a bunch of ineffectual cowards, so they stopped acting cowardly and actually passed health-care reform. It didn't turn everything to roses, but it gave them a chance to minimize their political losses this fall.
A number of people have noted that after a weird outbreak of at least tentative reasonableness, Focus on the Family reversed itself this week and declared that no, they would absolutely not be open to the idea of a gay person on the Supreme Court, no matter how otherwise sane such a person might seem. The bigotry we've come to expect, but there's something else notable about the statement the group issued:
Around this time every year, people start making all kinds of ideologically motivated claims about taxes. So I thought it might be worthwhile to diffuse a few myths. Let's get right to it:
We're taxed to death! Well, no. In fact, when you look at American tax rates compared to those of other countries, we have extremely low taxes. This graph, using data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, shows that among industrialized countries, we rank near the bottom in taxes paid. It's a little hard to see, but the U.S. is over there on the right, with only the Japanese, Turkish, and Mexicans paying less in taxes than us: