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Joseph Stiglitz looks at how the widening income gap is making it harder to get the economy rolling again.

Politicians typically talk about rising inequality and the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena, when they are in fact intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth. When even the free-market-oriented magazine The Economist argues — as it did in a special feature in October — that the magnitude and nature of the country’s inequality represent a serious threat to America, we should know that something has gone horribly wrong. And yet, after four decades of widening inequality and the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, we haven’t done anything about it. ...

Our skyrocketing inequality — so contrary to our meritocratic ideal of America as a place where anyone with hard work and talent can “make it” — means that those who are born to parents of limited means are likely never to live up to their potential. Children in other rich countries like Canada, France, Germany and Sweden have a better chance of doing better than their parents did than American kids have. More than a fifth of our children live in poverty — the second worst of all the advanced economies, putting us behind countries like Bulgaria, Latvia and Greece.

Are you better off than you were four years ago? The truth is, most workers haven't been able to say yes to that question for forty years.
Adjusted for inflation, real wages have stagnated or fallen; a typical male worker’s income in 2011 ($32,986) was lower than it was in 1968 ($33,880). Lower tax receipts, in turn, have forced state and local cutbacks in services vital to those at the bottom and middle.
Maureen Dowd and Frank Bruni both spend the bulk of their columns focusing on the question that seems to occupy many, many waking hours of NY-based pundits: what will Andrew Cuomo do next? But while one of the columns wonders about Coumo's private life, and the ability of any unmarried person to seek national office, the other concentrates on the governor's skill in directing the legislative process and his actions in steering the first major piece of gun legislation post Newtown.
But with the president privately signaling some pessimism on new gun laws, as his domestic policy aides take a slower, less stringent approach, it’s bracing to see somebody, anybody, actually make government hum. ...

“You have to try to hit a home run,” he said. “Home run hitters also have notoriously high strikeout rates. But it’s like when we tried to pass marriage equality. You have to be willing to fail.” ...

The N.R.A. and Greg Ball, a Republican state senator, denounced the New York law as a product of the governor’s 2016 ambition, although it could hurt Candidate Cuomo in places like Nevada, Colorado and Florida.

The governor doesn’t have the president’s public magnetism. But Cuomo, who devotes a lot of time to wining, dining and wheedling legislators, is far more deft at carrots, sticks and baby-talk than President Obama is. It’s a fascinating — and open — question about whether those skills could work the same way to jolt comatose Washington.

In case you're wondering, it's Dowd's column that concentrates on Cuomo's deal-making skill.

Ross Douthat thinks he knows what President Obama will say on his second inaugural. Reading carefully, it appears that he's going to say that Douthat is an idiot who gets paid to erect straw men and kick them over each week.

Dana Milbank is pre-bored with the innagural.

Obama was reelected less because he inspired the nation than because he discredited his opponent. Most Americans still think that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and just one in five trust their government to do the right thing.

Much of this says less about Obama than about the times. But the president manages to make his own presidency seem smaller by his frequent invocations of our greatest president. Obama, who launched his first presidential campaign in the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech, will place his hand Monday, as he did in 2009, on the Bible Lincoln used for his 1861 inauguration.

You know, Dana, the press at that 1861 inaugural was none too taken with Mr. Lincoln. You may be ready for a nap on Monday, but remember—you're sleeping through history.

David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine has a brief grade card for the president.

Mr. Obama and his team would benefit, as they begin the second term, by acknowledging that many of the biggest problems facing the administration flow directly from the man at the top. Mr. Obama is a lousy manager. As chief executive he gets a “C” — and then only if graded on a curve that takes into account his predecessor’s managerial weaknesses. ...

The administration has not done a good job of delegating to and empowering cabinet officials. Nor does it seem to have built necessary teams and coalitions or anticipated and planned for likely challenges. The Obama team’s failure to make the most of stimulus funding, to make progress on climate change, react swiftly to international crises in Egypt, Libya and Syria, and to maintain good relations with allies on Capitol Hill and beyond stem from lack of managerial skill.

That level of criticism might make you disinclined to read the full article, but I'd recommend you get... re-inclined, if only for the discussion of differing management styles across various administrations.

David Maraniss doesn't expect a repeat of the last innagural. After all, we have a new president.

It took one of the best days of his political career and the worst day of his presidency, in combination, to push his evolution to another stage. These were his reelection on Nov. 6 and the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., 38 days later. His unlikely rise had been shaped by his study of power, beginning with his days as a community organizer in Chicago, and an uncanny ability to avoid traps that would diminish power. The 2012 election, in essence, was his last trap. But the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School forced him to reconsider the moral balance of what he had done, or failed to do, to reach that point.
Laura June has a terrific piece up on the history of arcades. Why is this important? Because she shows how the tendency to blame video games for society's ills has been there for as long as there have been games... and maybe even longer. Well worth your time.

Every animal that lives above ground is solar-powered to some degree. We either eat things that get their energy from sunlight, or we eat the things that eat them. But one salamander has a more direct approach.


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Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 10:43 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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