The widening gap between the rich and poor is a story that transcends Cascadia’s borders. However, northwesterners feel both the positive and negative effects of the trend in a unique way: Some of the richest people in the history of the world live—or keep second, third, fourth homes—in our region. Cost of living is soaring in our beautiful cities, especially Vancouver and Seattle. And, at least in Seattle, philanthropy is changing the local economy, with the establishment of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Featured on Tidepool today, The Sunday New York Times takes an in-depth look at what the paper calls the “New Gilded Age,” and how a new wave of philanthropy is changing the role of government—and the power of public policy.

Meanwhile, news for your pocketbook: Rents continue to increase and the price of milk is going up too. Oh yeah, and don’t forget gas…

And in related news: The Democratic Party is finding success with populism, this time early in the election game. Moreso, John Edwards today embarked on a Poverty Tour—a la RFK 1968—starting in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.

(This reminds me more-than-a-bit of a book I read a few years ago, circa November 2004.)

Lastly, a new green campaign, um, brews on the East Coast: “Sign up for clean energy and get free beer.”