Money in politics: How Republicans are working to keep corporate lobbying secret. Getty Images

A surprisingly strong report from the Census Bureau: U.S. household incomes rose last year for the first time since 2007. And those median gains were big and wide - 5.2 percent to $56,516 - with increases spread across all regions. Experts say falling unemployment and the increase in minimum wages by many states fueled the gains.

At the same time, the poverty rate fell sharply to 13.5 percent. It was the biggest drop in 16 years.

Poverty expert Sheldon Danziger of the Russell Sage Foundation said, "We basically have recovered the ground lost during the Great Recession. But the economy, whether we're talking about poverty or household income or inequality, still doesn't look as good for the typical worker as it did in 1999.

"So it would take many positive years like this going forward for us to make a substantial dent in poverty and inequality and really have widespread prosperity."

One aspect that didn't make much progress: the gender pay gap. Full-time working women still earned 80 percent of what men earned.