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POLITICS: PennAve

The week ahead in economics: Ben Bernanke's goodbye, Bitcoin and GDP

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Barack Obama,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Federal Reserve,Ben Bernanke,Bitcoin,Income Inequality,State of the Union

Some numbers to keep in mind ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, in which he is expected to stick to the theme of attacking economic inequality:

Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the gap between rich and poor has grown over the past 10 years, according to a Pew Research-USA Today january poll.

And 69 percent say the government should act to address that gap, including 90 percent of Democrats.

But Americans are not so confident that the government would succeed. A slim minority, 49 percent, say that government aid to the poor does more harm than good. Almost as many, 44 percent, maintain that government anti-poverty programs do more harm than good.

Nevertheless, two specific proposed policies, namely raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits, poll very well, at 73 and 63 percent, respectively.

For the week ahead:

Members of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors and regional Fed bank presidents will gather in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday for the last monetary policy meeting headed by Chairman Ben Bernanke before Janet Yellen takes over in February. Most analysts expect the Fed to follow its $10 billion taper of its monthly asset purchases last month with another $10 billion reduction, despite December's weak jobs report and continued low inflation.

Bitcoin will face the latest test of its credibility in a two-day set of hearings before New York's Department of Financial Services. The Winklevoss twins, who are known for suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over their role in the development of the social media site but are now major investors in Bitcoin and related businesses, are scheduled to testify during the first day's hearings on Tuesday.

Also on Wednesday, the House Committee on the Budget will hold the next hearing in its series on the progress on the War on Poverty. Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is one of several big GOP names who have recently spoken more about conservative approaches to reducing poverty.

On Thursday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will release its initial estimate for fourth-quarter growth in the gross domestic product. After a third-quarter reading of 4.1 percent growth, another strong number is expected.

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