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USA Today:
The climate trends are overwhelming. Earth had its fourth-warmest year on record in 2013, and all of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week.

It is true, as the skeptics like to point out, that long-term climate modeling remains an inexact science. Some environmentalists hurt their cause by leaping to blame every extreme weather event on global warming. And a changing climate produces winners as well as losers.

But climate scientists are 95% to 100% sure that human activity — emission of greenhouse gases — is the dominant cause of dramatic warming. That warming is already raising sea levels, acidifying oceans, melting glaciers and intensifying heat waves, downpours, droughts and wildfires. January's cold snap has caused plenty of misery. The damage will only be compounded if it becomes an excuse for yet another year of denial and delay in addressing climate dangers.

The Miami Herald:
[C]limate change is not just about warming trends. It’s also about extreme weather cycles. Consider the bitterly frigid temperatures that have gripped the Upper Midwest and New England states this winter, crippling routine business transactions, closing schools and hiking heating costs. And heat-induced extremes make typical flooding, with which low-lying regions like coastal Florida are accustomed dealing, longer, more catastrophic events. [...]

The Obama White House hasn’t ignored the threat of global warming. It increased vehicle mileage standards, and the EPA has implemented some stronger rules on carbon emissions, for instance.

But the administration needs the cooperation of the House and Senate in order to make meaningful progress this decade toward really reducing emissions that cause warming.

Scott Martelle at The Los Angeles Times:
Shell’s decision to give up on Arctic Ocean oil drilling for 2014 is good news for the environment. Now if only the oil companies — and the Obama administration — would give up altogether on the idea of drilling in such a remote and harsh place.
Yes, there are arguments for ramping up domestic oil production to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, but the bigger issue is our dependence on oil, period. It’s mind-boggling that we talk about trying to reduce global warming caused by burning fossil fuels while at the same time pursuing policies that will bring us more fossil fuels to burn, and at a cheaper price. It’s like a heroin addict saying, “Yeah, I’ll get clean, someday.”
Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.

On the topic of immigration reform, The New York Times calls for real action over simple principles:

Principles are no substitute for actual legislation, and we’re still a great distance from a deal. Repairing a system so huge and so broken is a big undertaking for any Congress, much less this dismally dysfunctional one. The Republicans’ grab bag of ideas still leaves Democrats nothing to negotiate with. [...] We are a long way from the hopeful days when John McCain and Edward Kennedy embarked on big bipartisan Senate legislation that was eventually killed by a Republican filibuster. Reform has died several deaths since then, and millions have suffered. Now Republicans, the party of self-deportation and Arizona-style laws, may be edging closer to saying yes to legal status for millions of the undocumented. Who knows if they’re serious, or if any bills will get past the party’s “hell no” caucus. It will be clear soon enough whether this is the first step back toward the rational, humane reform that should have passed years ago.
More on the Republican proposal from NYT op-ed contributor Mae M. Ngai:
The House speaker, John A. Boehner, ruled out any “special path to citizenship” for undocumented migrants, but seemed to leave open the possibility that they could eventually be naturalized. Even that stance, however, is likely to raise hackles among conservatives.

Those who take this ultraconservative position (including many aligned with the Tea Party) are blind to the lessons of history. The United States has a long track record not only of legalizing illegal immigrants, by legislative or administrative action, but also of pairing legalization with a grant of permanent residency, the prerequisite for naturalization.

Jonathan Bernstein takes on critics of the president's executive order strategy:
It’s not just that the president has a formal role in the legislative process thanks to his veto. It means that Congress does things that look an awful lot like executing the laws (think oversight, and the Senate’s role in the nomination process) and even in some cases judging; the courts do things that look an awful lot like making and executing the laws; and, yes, the executive branch does things that look an awful lot like legislating and judging. In other words, separated institutions -- president, legislature, courts -- sharing the powers of legislating, executing the laws, and judging.

Those aren’t newfangled modern ideas; they’re really inherent in the way the Constitution is written, and they took root early in the republic as politicians learned to work according to the rule book that James Madison and others gave them. “Separation of powers” has always been just a very misleading description of how the U.S. political system is designed.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that presidents can do whatever they want. The text of actual laws constrain them, as do all sorts of political and institutional factors -- although both of those factors also open possibilities for executive action, since most laws leave plenty of room for interpretation, and Congress is often very happy to let the president do what he wants. Also constraining the president are precedents and rulings about executive action. As Norm Ornstein explains in a very nice piece, this sort of action is “very limited in its scope and duration.”

Good point on health insurance reform from Timothy Egan:
Ignoring what her own neighbors are doing, McMorris Rodgers said on Tuesday that new health care law “is not working.” But if that’s the case, why have nearly one in 12 people in her home county signed up for expanded Medicaid coverage or new private health insurance?
Maya L. Harris at CNN examines the issue of equal pay for equal work:
We need measures that will support women as they increasingly fill the role of both primary caregiver and primary breadwinner in today's American families.

A standing ovation in a joint session of Congress will not put food on the table for 42 million American women living on poverty's edge. A standing ovation won't create workplace policies that keep them from having to choose between caring for their families and bringing home a paycheck.

And a standing ovation certainly won't change the fact that women as a group still make only 77 cents on the dollar as compared to men -- even less if you are Black or Latina.
Only action will.

Bloomberg's editors address a conservative talking point that marriage helps to end poverty:
Marriage by itself doesn’t lift people out of poverty -- certainly not as well as policies that encourage and enable parents to work.

Equally important, correlation isn’t the same as causation. If it were, we’d be celebrating the decline of marriage. After all, in the past 50 years, poverty has decreased along with the rate of marriage.

George Zornick digs deeper into the president's proposed retirement accounts:
The MyRA accounts are essentially small Roth IRAs, which are individual retirement accounts with no tax impact—the money that goes in is from after-tax earnings, the account isn’t tax deductible and withdrawals generally aren’t taxed either. The money is invested in relatively safe stocks and bonds.

The MyRA accounts, unlike a normal Roth IRA, are backed by the Treasury Department and have safe investment vehicles that guarantee a return. It won’t be much, but slightly larger than a traditional Treasury bill. (The lack of tax impact is important here—the Treasury Department has the authority to offer certain financial instruments, but they can’t change the tax code without violating Article 1 of the Constitution.)

After Obama signs the order, employers will be able to offer these accounts to employees with minimal hassle—the company doesn’t have to pay into the account, or really do anything besides direct employees to sign up.

Speaking of saving money, Robert Applebaum and StudentNation argue that massive student loan debt is hurting an entire generation:
While agrees with the fundamental principles laid out in the president’s speech, we believe that so much more needs to be done to address the existing $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. Because of this debt, more than 40 million Americans are not buying houses or cars, starting businesses or families, or otherwise contributing to rebuilding the economy.

While I continue to believe that across-the-board forgiveness of student loans would represent a major boost to economic growth, let’s face reality—it’s a pipe dream in this political climate. That said, there’s a whole host of reforms that Congress could undertake to dramatically improve the lives of those saddled with student loan debt.

On a final note, Eugene Robinson take apart complaints by the nation's wealthiest:
Why does the national conversation we’re beginning to have about inequality make some conservatives take leave of their senses? Why does it make them spout nonsense about “personal vilification” and the “abuse of government power.”

The answer, I believe, is traction. I think the crazy, hair-on-fire rhetoric means that progressives are making progress in winning support for policies designed to lessen inequality.

Tax cuts and deregulation have dominated federal policy since the 1980s; during this time, inequality has spiraled out of control. If conservatives have nothing better to sell than more tax cuts and more deregulation, it’s no wonder that people are tuning in to what the other side has to say.


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