Steven Rattner on income inequality. Bad news: it's still getting worse. And after the GOP's gains in the midterm elections, it seems unlikely Washington is about to do anything about it:

To only modest notice, during the campaign the Federal Reserve put forth more sobering news about income inequality: Inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell between 2010 and 2013, with those near the bottom dropping the most. Meanwhile, incomes in the top decile rose.

Perhaps income disparity resonated so little with politicians because we are inured to a new Gilded Age.

But we shouldn’t be. Nor should we be inattentive to the often ignored role that government plays in determining income distribution...

In the new issue of the Baffler, Andrew J. Bacevich writes about the legacy of the War of 1812:

Here, indeed, is an episode of history that we may safely say produced next to nothing of value, with a 1959 hit record by Johnny Horton being a possible exception. Horton memorably sang of the Battle of New Orleans, known to every schoolkid in my day as a famous victory won after the war itself had basically already ended—a gold standard for meaningless military mayhem. The doughty Americans who sent the attacking redcoats fleeing through briars, brambles, and bushes “where a rabbit couldn’t go” succeeded mostly in advancing the political ambitions of General Andrew Jackson.

And that was the war’s high point. Low points included abysmally unsuccessful U.S. attempts to peel away Canada from the British Empire (Canadians resisted their liberation with, um, unexpected vigor) and the torching of Washington, D.C., by marauding British troops (President Madison and members of his cabinet had fled).

The New Yorker's James Wood on the strange life of the novelist Penelope Fitzgerald (who was, among other things, the niece of Monsignor Ronald Knox). One of the best English novelists of the second half of the last century, Fitzgerald published her first novel when she was sixty-one.

[W]hy did Fitzgerald wait so long to start writing? The obvious answer is that she had three children, a wayward husband, and was earning a living—and yet you feel that, during the nineteen-sixties, had she started also writing, things could hardly have gone worse for the family.... Certainly it seems relevant that Fitzgerald started to write after her children were old enough to leave home and take care of themselves. Was it also significant that she started writing shortly after the death of her father? Did some Knoxian combination of insecurity and confidence hold her back until she could be sure of avoiding public failure? “Decision is torment for anyone with imagination,” a character says in “Offshore.” “When you decide, you multiply the things you might have done and now never can. If there’s even one person who might be hurt by a decision, you should never make it. They tell you, make up your mind or it will be too late, but if it’s really too late, we should be grateful.” Potential remains potent if unused.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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