It’s no longer just an expression – the rich are getting richer, and the rest of us are being shut out of the game. According to a new report from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, the top ten percent of income earners in our nation took home more than half of all of the income in 2012. That is the highest percentage ever recorded in the 96-year history of data collection. As if that statistic wasn’t bad enough, more than 20 percent of all income in 2012 went directly to the top one percent. And, 95 percent of all income gains have gone straight to those at the top since the recession ended.
According to the New York Times, “The figures underscore that even after the recession, the country remains in a new Gilded Age.” Three decades of Reaganomics widened the divide between rich and poor, and since the economic meltdown of 2008, the rich have sucked up billions in soaring corporate profits, rising stock prices, and increasing home values. All the while, the majority of Americans continue to be bogged down with stagnant wages and high unemployment. And, our nation’s regulation and tax policy isn’t helping.
The economists point out that the meager tax increases on wealthy Americans, which went into effect in January, “are not likely to have a major effect.” The concentration of income at the top won’t change, “unless drastic regulation and tax policy changes are implemented and [we] prevent income concentration from bouncing back.” As the Think Progress Blog notes, our nation suffers from more drastic income inequality than Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan, the Ivory Coast, and Ethiopia. Many Americans are well aware – we must pursue real economic change, and start closing this gaping wealth divide.