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Four Weeks Until Iowa

Sanders invests in Iowa grassroots operation. NYT: “The campaign has quietly assembled an extensive ground game here, with 100 paid staff members and with trained volunteer leaders for each of the state’s 1,681 caucus precincts.”

Fundraising hauls reflect different strategies. Politico: “Clinton is seeking to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer. Sanders is attempting to lead a movement … Bringing in $38 million in 2015’s closing months, [Clinton] raced past her $100 million primary goal for the year — all while bagging an extra $18 million for other Democrats … [Sanders] raked in $33 million in the fourth quarter, part of an overall effort that reeled in more off-year individual contributions than any other candidate ever: 2.5 million. But just how much did Sanders raise for other Democrats? Nothing … future cooperation is unlikely, given the Vermont senator’s war with the national committee…”

GOP candidates get into attack mode. NYT: “Supporters of Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee are poised to unleash a wave of ferocious attacks this month … plunging the muddled contest into a multidimensional war in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses … candidates and their allied groups could spend as much as $100 million combined, much of it on negative advertising…”

Ryan Seeks To Shape 2016 Policy Debate

Speaker Ryan calls on GOP caucus to coalesce around policy agenda . WSJ: “The Wisconsin lawmaker has asked members of his conference to bring proposals to a policy retreat next week at which they will draw up the chamber’s priorities for the year … he believes the party should tackle an overhaul of the tax code [and offer] a health-coverage plan that would replace the Affordable Care Act.”

Left wary of tax reform push. The Hill: “The White House, Republicans and some Democrats agree that corporate tax reform be revenue neutral, meaning it would not lower or increase the amount of money coming into the government. There is also bipartisan support for allowing companies to repatriate revenues held overseas at a rate that is lower than the 35% corporate tax rate. But many liberals disagree on both points.”

GOP candidates push tax cuts over balanced budgets. Politico: “Many Republican contenders are pairing tax plans that independent analysts say would cost trillions of dollars over a decade with vague assurances that they’ll put long-term clamps on spending…”

Obama To Close Out With Slew of Regulations

Obama eyes new regulations in final year as president. Politico: “…a full court press at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reduce exposure limits for silica … more small-scale gun sellers to perform background checks … make food manufacturers disclose on product labels how much sugar they add to cranberry juice … a rule extending [FDA] jurisdiction to e-cigarettes … requiring brokers who offer advice about retirement investments to … consider only the best interests of the investor … dozens of new or updated [energy] efficiency standards … overhauling how teachers are prepared for the classroom.”

Obama begins new year with gun control rules. Mother Jones: “Obama is expected to announce new executive orders this week on gun policy, aiming foremost to expand background checks for buyers by broadening the definition of a gun dealer [even though it] still won’t close the so-called gun show loophole … He also plans to hold a town hall meeting on guns on Thursday night…”

Economists Sharpen Focus on Inequality

Economists gather at annual conference to review latest research on inequality. NYT: “…there’s a growing consensus among economists of all ideological stripes that inequality is growing … the top quarter of 1 percent of Americans appears to be pulling away from the rest. For workers at this threshold, who earn at least $640,000 annually, their salaries rose 96 percent from 1981 to 2013, after taking account of inflation. The trend was especially pronounced among the most successful enterprises in the American economy, creating a divergence between the highest-paid people at companies that employ more than 10,000 people and the rest of the work force.”

Presidential candidates show deep disagreement on how to boost middle class. WSJ: “GOP candidates are advancing a set of bold—some critics would say radical—ideas for reshaping the tax system as a way to encourage spending and investment … Democrats are making nearly the opposite case: that the deepening gap between the highest earners and everyone else has changed the economy so thoroughly that the government must channel tax dollars specifically to lower earners …”

The American Prospect explores how “Fight for $15” took flight: “[New York’s] The car washeros and fast food workers also launched their effort at a politically opportune moment. Cuomo was eager to win back progressives who had criticized and distanced themselves from his administration. In less than a year, he went from calling $13-an-hour wage hike a ‘nonstarter’ to backing a $15 per hour minimum wage. The combination of fed-up workers, motivated organizers, and political opportunity created a perfect storm.”

NYT’s Paul Krugman shows how Obama’s re-election changed the tax code: “… the average income tax rate for 99 percent of Americans barely changed from 2012 to 2013, but the tax rate for the top 1 percent rose by more than four percentage points. The tax rise was even bigger for very high incomes: 6.5 percentage points for the top 0.01 percent … for top incomes, Mr. Obama has effectively rolled back not just the Bush tax cuts but Ronald Reagan’s as well.”

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