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The infamous one percent of all Americans own 35% percent of the nation's wealth. Meanwhile CEO's are paid more than 300 times what an average American worker makes. The wealth gap is growing. A new study finds that what we all thought is true, most likely is: wealthier Americans wield more political influence. Also, Russia responds to ongoing clashes between Ukraine and pro-Russia militia. On today's Talking Point, vaping gets a rule book as the FDA begins drafting regulations for the fledgling e-cigarette industry. Barbara Bogaev guest hosts.

Banner image: Based on the imagery of EN2008 and Stan Dalone & Miran Rijavec

Clashes between Ukraine and Pro-Russia Militia, Russia Responds 7 MIN, 50 SEC

Clashes between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian activists are spreading today. There are reports of deaths at three different checkpoints in Slovyansk in the eastern part of the country where most of the fighting has taken place. Russia's military has responded to the violence by announcing "tactical drills" in areas bordering Ukraine. President Obama is threatening to ramp up sanctions on Moscow if it doesn't do more to get pro-Russian troops to lay down their arms. Earlier today reporter Andrew Roth was in Slovyansk for the New York Times.

Andrew Roth, New York Times (@ARothNYT)

America: Democracy or Oligarchy? 35 MIN

The evidence is overwhelming. The wealth gap in America is growing. A new study claims that the wealthiest 10% of Americans influence public policy in this country more than any other group. Of that 10%, the top one percent pocketed nearly the entire gains from the recovery from the financial crisis. Yet many pay a lower tax rate than middle class. The top selling book on Amazon is a re-working of Marx's Das Kapital. It argues that income inequality is an inevitable result of free market capitalism, and that it threatens our democratic institutions at almost every turn. Is that just capitalism at work? Has income inequality eroded democracy to a vanishing point? If our country is indeed controlled by the very few and the very rich, how do we level the playing field?

Martin Gilens, Princeton University (@WilsonSchool)
Timothy Noah, Politico (@TimothyNoah1)
Ross Kaminsky, Heartland Institute (@Rossputin)
Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation (@mychalsmith)

Gilens' 'Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America'
Noah's 'The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It'
University of Chicago's 'Survey of Economically Successful Americans'
Thomas Piketty's 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century'

Affluence and Influence

Martin Gilens

FDA Moves to Regulate E-Cigarettes 8 MIN, 15 SEC

E-cigarettes have been taking off over the past several years and the vaping industry has operated in a regulatory vacuum. That ends with today's announcement from the Food and Drug Agency of sweeping new rules. If the FDA gets its way, sometime next year minors won't be able to purchase e-cigs, cigars or pipe tobacco, and manufacturers will have to register with the agency and comply with requirements similar to those governing other tobacco products. John Quelch is Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and Harvard School of Public Health.

John Quelch, Harvard University

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