Meanwhile, economic security is a thing of the past: year-to-year fluctuations in the incomes of working families are far larger than they were a generation ago. All it takes is a bit of bad luck in employment or health to plunge a family that seems solidly middle-class into poverty.
But the wealthy have done very well indeed. Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripled...
The partisans also rely in part on scare tactics, insisting that any attempt to limit inequality would undermine economic incentives and reduce all of us to shared misery. That claim ignores the fact of U.S. economic success after World War II. It also ignores the lesson we should have learned from recent corporate scandals: sometimes the prospect of great wealth for those who succeed provides an incentive not for high performance, but for fraud.
In recent years it does seem like there has been a progressive unravelling of the New Deal and the Great Society. Clinton destroyed welfare, Bush's top domestic policy priority since 2000 has been to give tax cuts to the rich, and now we've seen the elimination of the estate tax, and "bankruptcy reform" that punishes middle class families for having a medical emergency without even doing anything to curb the real problem that is huge businesses that harm the public using bankruptcy to then shield themselves from paying off debt. We've even seen the attempted destruction of social security, which fortunately appears to be dead in the water politically. It goes beyond Bush to a larger political culture that seeks to increase income inequality.