* In the end, it’s all about the Bush tax cuts: When you step back and think about it, it’s kind of striking how central the Bush tax cuts have proven to our politics in recent years — and how central they will continue to be through at least next year, when the argument over them will help decide the Congressional elections and presidential race.

They are a defining issue at the heart of the broad ideological argument between the two parties. They were central during the 2010 elections, and they will again be central in 2012. They are a key cause of our current fiscal problems, and now they’re at the center of the supercommittee’s likely failure to do anything to solve those problems.

They are at the center of the GOP’s supercommittee’s demands; indeed, keeping them in place is one of the primary motivations driving the current overall conduct of the Republican Party. And now, as Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman explain, they are going to be a central reason the supercommittee’s failure might work to the advantage of Democrats. The looming expiration of the cuts may give Dems more leverage in future fiscal talks:

If the supercommittee fails, many lawmakers and senior aides say a debt-reduction deal is unlikely to be completed until after the November 2012 elections. That’s when Congress will face the prospect of not only unprecedented cuts to the Pentagon and other agency budgets, but also the expiration of George W. Bush-era tax cuts — an outcome that would raise taxes for virtually every American in January 2013.

Some Democrats say they would have more leverage to force Republicans to consider taxes as part of a debt-reduction deal as that tax increase — one of the largest in U.S. history — drew closer. Republicans, aware of that tactical disadvantage, have fought to extend the Bush tax cuts as part of supercommittee negotiations.

In other words, the Bush tax cuts will be at the center of yet another huge deficit battle next year, this one perhaps even more intense, since their expiration will be looming and the war over them will climax just when the 2012 elections are at full throttle.

The ultimate irony: The Bush tax cuts will continue sucking up an enormous amount of everyone’s energy for months and months and months — when the best possible course forward would be doing nothing and letting them go away.

* Dems in driver’s seat? Remember when Dem Rep. Emanuel Cleaver called the debt ceiling deal creating the supercommittee a “Satan sandwich”? Dems are now saying their increased leverage has left that Satan sandwich tasting pretty good.

* Jan Brewer’s big power grab goes bust: You may recall that Jan Brewer pulled a Scott Walker-style power grab in Arizona recently, giving the ax to the head of a commission drawing up new Congressional lines because Republicans didn’t like the results. Wel, now the state Supreme Court has just overturned her decision, handing a big win to Democrats.

The larger context here is that this is yet another major setback to the designs of yet another overreaching GOP governor.

* The centrist dodge. ctd: Paul Krugman has some fun with one of my favorite themes, i.e. the refusal of self-styled centrist commentators to admit that Obama and Dems are the ones offering centrist solutions, lest their above-partisanship brand be tarnished:

Oh, and let me give a special shout-out to “centrist” pundits who won’t admit that President Obama has already given them what they want. The dialogue seems to go like this. Pundit: “Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?” Mr. Obama: “I support a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes.” Pundit: “Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?” You see, admitting that one side is willing to make concessions, while the other isn’t, would tarnish one’s centrist credentials. And the result is that the G.O.P. pays no price for refusing to give an inch.

Krugman, clearly, was talking about his Times colleague Tom Friedman. Also note Krugman’s prediction that supercommittee failure will inevitably be covered by the media as a failure by both sides.

* Newt, Inc.: A great Dan Eggen scoop:

A think tank founded by GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich collected at least $37 million over the past eight years from major health-care companies and industry groups, offering special access to the former House speaker and other perks, according to records and interviews.

The essence of those perks? Access to Newt’s wisdom! Money well spent.

Also: “The health center advocated, among other things, requiring that `anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond,’ a type of insurance mandate that has since become anathema to conservatives.” It’ll be interesting to see if this undercuts Newt’s surge among Tea Partyers.

* Trouble in Tea Party paradise: Ron Brownstein on the inability of the GOP’s Tea Party wing to coalesce around an alternative to Mitt Romney and what that tells us about the GOP divide.

Also: Support for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry has evaporated even among Tea Partyers.

* Perry still searching for a way to reverse his slide: Relatedly, seeing Rick Perry trying to turn around his plummet in the polls by alternately painting himself as the anti-Wall Street outsider and falsely claiming Obama said Americans are “lazy” is akin to watching a man thrash around while sinking in quicksand.

* Pretending the reality of GOP obstructionism doesn’t exist: Charles Krauthammer mocks Obama for claiming Republicans are deliberately obstructing his policies, making governing impossible. Of course, Republicans themselves have openly admitted they’re doing exactly that.

* Fact check of the day: FactCheck.org absolutely demolishes the widespread and reprehensible GOP claim that Obama called Americans “lazy.”

* What Occupy Wall Street could learn from the civil rights movement: Good stuff from Andrew Levinson on the ways Occupy Wall Street should emulated the three-pronged strategy of the civil rights movement in order to channel its energy into politics and stave off the irrelevance that could result if it doesn’t diversify its strategies.

* What Occupy Wall Street has already accomplished: Dem strategist Celinda Lake gets it right: “It has fundamentally defined the narrative of the 2012 elections.”

But ... but ... but ... the protesters defecate everywhere!

* And sanity is a major liability in the GOP primary: Michael Gerson comes up with a very pithy way of describing a key dynamic bedeviling the 2012 GOP hopefuls — the fact that previously held sensible views are now potentially debilitating: “The scandal of sanity.”

What else is happening?