As I’ve been saying here, the burden is on President Obama to sell the need to combat inequality and tax unfairness as not just a matter of basic morality, but as a way to facilitate economic growth, by enabling government investment in the future that will spur opportunity and social mobility over the long term. Mitt Romney and Republicans are trying to disentangle the tax fairness issue from the economy in the public mind, by arguing that hiking taxes on the rich will do nothing for the economy and that shrinking government is the route to broad prosperity.

Today’s New York Times/CBS poll is the first survey I’ve seen that asks about tax fairness in the context of economic growth:

Which do you think is the best way to promote economic growth in the U.S.? 1.Lower taxes on individuals and businesses, and pay for those tax cuts by spending on some government services and programs, or 2. Spend more on education and the nation’s infrastructure, and raise taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses to pay for that spending.

Lower taxes, cut spending: 37

Spend more, raise taxes: 56

The poll also finds that 67 percent say the government should do more to help improve the situation of middle class Americans; 52 percent say government shold do more to improve the housing market; 57 percent think the wealthy pay less than their fair share in taxes; and that 51 percent think capital gains should be taxed as ordinary income. People say they dislike government in the abstract, but when the talk turns to specifics, suddenly active government doesn’t look so bad.

All this is key to Obama’s ongoing case that lowering taxes on the rich and trickle down economics represent a failed ideology and won't help secure the middle class’s prosperity — and that more progressive taxation, more active government, and more investment in the future are the better way.

Other polls have suggested the Obama argument is resonating. But it’s still unclear whether the larger clash of visions will matter as much the state of the economy on Election Day 2012 in determining the outcome.

* Obama and Romney deadlocked: Whatever the Times poll tells us about their respective visions, it also finds Oama and Romney tied at 46 percent apiece. The number who think the economy is getting better has edged up, and Obama holds the edge on sincerity, women’s health, and empathy with voters.

But a whopping 55 percent are confident in Romney’s ability to make the right decisions about the economy. If Romney clears the basic competence threshold with voters, as seems likely, it could be trouble for Obama.

* Quinnipiac finds Obama holds small lead over Romney: A new Quinnipiac poll finds Obama with a 46-42 lead over Romney among registered voters. Key findings: The demographic breakdown we’ve seen in other polls that gives Obama a slight edge is basically holding.

The gender gap is still in place, with Obama leading among women, 49-39, and only 30 percent of women viewing Romney favorably. Obama wins among Hispanics, 64-24. But Romney is far ahead among blue collar whites, 55-32.

Also: Obama’s numbers are very bad among independents.

* Obama still dodging on discrimination: The Post editorial board lets Obama have it for his craven dodge on the executive order that would bar federal contractors from discriminating on sexual orientation. As the Post notes, the idea has broad public support, and the White House’s focus on a broader legislative solution is deeply misguided, since it won’t pass Congress. More on this later today.

* White House throws down gauntlet with House GOP: David Rogers captures the drama of the looming showdown, in which the White House is threatening to allow a government shutdown if the House GOP doesn’t agree to restore spending levels agreed to in the debt ceiling compromise.

Obama officials seem to think the House GOP’s travails over the payroll tax cut fight and debt ceiling debacle give them room to draw a harder line in an election year in which Obama is running against Congress and Dems hope the House GOP’s unpopularity will drag Romney down.

* Boxing in Romney? Jed Lewison on the White House’s game plan:

By forcing the issue now, President Obama is forcing the GOP to put its cards on the table early....Obama’s move also boxes in Mitt Romney. Romney would no doubt love to wait until the fall and play a high-profile role in walking Republicans back from the brink. But by moving now to force Republicans to make a decision, the White House is effectively taking that option of waiting away from Romney. If he wants to play a role in talking Republicans away from the brink, he needs to do it now.

* The doomed marriage between Romney and House GOP: Norm Ornstein plays marriage counselor.

The delicate dance Romney will need to conduct with the House GOP promises to be one of the more interesting subplots of Campaign 2012.

* Bad news on the economy: Jobless claims are stuck at a four month high, and Steve Benen has the larger picture in chart form.

* Is GOP getting crushed in war over women? Dana Milbank makes an interesting prediction: Republicans will be forced to fold in the battle over reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which would be another sign Dems are winning this one, despite the misdirection about Hilary Rosen supposedly wiping away the gender gap.

* And a look at that the Ann Romney controversy really means: E.J. Dionne on the core contradiction at the heart of the conservative response to Rosen’s alleged attack on stay-at-home motherhood, and the larger debate the “controversy” should be sparking.

What else?