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Obama agenda: The income-inequality gap

A USA Today/Pew poll finds: “At a time when Republicans and Democrats disagree about almost everything, on this there is virtually no partisan gap: 61% of Republicans, 68% of Democrats and 67% of independents think economic inequality has been growing in the United States over the past decade. They're right. While widening wealth disparities are a concern around the globe, the United States has scored one of the most dramatic increases anywhere. The share of income going to the wealthiest 1% of Americans has doubled from less than 10% in 1980 to nearly 20% now.” 

More: “Under such circumstances, it's no surprise that the poll found overwhelming support for extending federal benefits for the long-term unemployed — 63% are in favor of that idea — and for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10; 73% support that. Both proposals are stalled in Congress.”

That could be a point Obama brings up today when he speaks before the U.S. Conference of Mayors. USA Today says he “will probably discuss how his economic agenda relates to cities.” 

“A sharply divided government task force that reviewed the National Security Agency's surveillance program for four months has urged President Barack Obama to shut down the agency's bulk collection of phone data and purge its massive inventory of millions of Americans' calling records, The Associated Press has learned. The recommendation from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to abandon the NSA's phone surveillance was even more sweeping than a similar proposal from another panel of experts. That panel, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, advised Obama in December to restrict phone surveillance to limited court-ordered sweeps.”

“A new Associated Press-GfK Poll finds the president's personal image to be on the rebound after taking a hit during the government shutdown late last year, with 58 percent now sizing him up as very or somewhat likable. That's up 9 percentage points from October, just after the shutdown,” AP writes. “Yet as Obama prepares to stand before Americans for his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, people are largely pessimistic about the country's direction, down on the condition of the economy and doubtful it will bounce back anytime soon.” His approval is 45%/53%. Congress’ approval is at 14%, but that’s up from 5% after the government shutdown.

AP: “The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that the uninsured rate for U.S. adults dropped by 1.2 percentage points in January, to 16.1 percent. The biggest change was for unemployed people, a drop of 6.7 percentage points. That was followed by a 2.6 percentage-point decline for nonwhites. Traditionally both groups are far more likely to be uninsured than the population as a whole. The survey found no appreciable change among young adults ages 18-34. Members of that coveted, low-cost demographic have been ambivalent about signing up so far.”

Reuters: “More than 6.3 million Americans were deemed eligible for government healthcare plans for the poor since the October 1 launch of President Barack Obama's healthcare law through December, federal officials reported on Wednesday. The swelling rolls for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reflect both an expansion of Medicaid under Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) and what healthcare policy analysts call an "out-of-the-woodwork effect," in which people who heard about Obamacare sought to obtain health insurance and discovered that they had qualified for Medicaid even before the law expanded eligibility.” 

AP: “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for free and fair elections in Syria, saying it would respect any outcome. Rouhani also said his nation is ‘ready to engage’ with its neighbors on most important issues of the day.” 

At the Sochi Olympics, two toilets are better than one. This picture is going viral.