Madison, Wisconsin - Events Local News Contact
Any Hope Of American Equality Died In The 1980s (And Here's Proof)
By Jillian Berman /

That growing divide between the rich and you? It's not just in your mind, and it's certainly not just a couple years in the making.

Actually, the average incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans have grown steadily over the last century or so, especially when compared to the flat-lining incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans. But as you can see in the above chart, it wasn't until the 1980s that the rich really started to pull away from the normals.

We created the chart using the World Income Database, a collection of data compiled by a group of economists who focus on the incomes of the rich, poor and middle-class. The chart plots the average income of the top 1 percent of American earners against the average income for the bottom 90 percent of Americans between 1913 and 2012, using real 2012 dollars.chart

In 2012, the top 1 percent took home more than $1 million on average, while the average income of the bottom 90 percent of Americans was $30,438. Compare that to 1917, when the top 1 percent's average income was just under $300,000 and the bottom 90 percent took home slightly more than $11,000 on average.

So how is it that the U.S. income gap has grown large enough for us to claim the title of worst inequality in the developed world? There are a variety of explanations:

1. Tax Cuts For The Rich: Many of the spikes in the chart correspond with periods when the government slashed taxes on the rich. As the Center for American Progress notes, Ronald Reagan’s early 1980s tax reforms helped to increase income inequality.

The same thing happened in the late 1990s when Bill Clinton passed a tax cut on capital gains, or investment income, which rich people are more likely to have than ordinary Americans. And then it happened again when George W. Bush cut the top marginal tax rates in 2001 and 2003.

Altogether, about 30 percent of the expansion of the after-tax income gap between 1979 and 2007 was due to tax and budget policies becoming less progressive, according to a June analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.

2. Corporate Profits And Executive Pay Are Soaring: Over the past several years corporate profits -- which go in large part to rich investors -- have soared to the point where they now make up the highest share of the economy on record. And over the last several decades, CEO pay also skyrocketed. The result: The ratio between CEO and average worker pay ballooned by roughly 1,000 percent since 1950.

3. The Wages Of Regular Workers Haven't Kept Up With Productivity: In the 1960s workers and their families used to be able to live above the poverty line on a minimum wage income. But now, that’s no longer the case, according to EPI. In fact, if the minimum wage had kept up with boosts in worker productivity over the past several decades it would be $18.30, according to EPI. That's more than double the current minimum wage of $7.25.

Part of the reason workers have had a tougher time securing higher wages in recent years is because of a marked decline in unionization. Drops in union membership typically correspond with growth in income inequality, research finds.

3.5 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 29,308 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 16,041 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 10,468 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 10,409 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 10,371 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 8,738 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 4,997 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Our Obsession With 'Good Immigrants' Breeds Intolerance
2 min · 3,744 views today · Society sets the bar so high to become a 'good immigrant', argues writer Nikesh Shukla, that normal immigrants are demonised. He says non-Brits in the public eye have a simple...
My Cuba - An Intimate Look at the Pleasures and Struggles of 6 Different People's Cuba
150 min · 1,988 views today · Cuba - diverse, vibrant and complex - is undergoing immense change. But what does it mean to be Cuban in this time of change? Six people. Six films. From the comedy and ballet...
Bird Watching on Lesvos Island - A Poetic Call to Stand With Refugees
3 min · 1,960 views today · Born in Darfur, Sudan and raised in Philadelphia, Emi Mahmoud is the 2015 World Poetry Slam Champion and the Women of the World co-Champion of 2016. From a young age Emi...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,872 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Important Difference Between Love and Being Loved
2 min · 1,567 views today · We talk of love as if it were just one thing: in fact, it’s two very different moves, Loving and Being Loved. You start to grow up when you stop focusing on the latter and get...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 1,334 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
The Untold History of Palestine & Israel
22 min · 1,299 views today · Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s...
Introversion Is Not a Personality Fail
Cat Elz · 1,252 views today · A few years ago, I got into an argument with my now mother-in-law over my supposedly “backwards” ways. My transgression? I did not attend a party of my now husband’s (then...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 954 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Alliance of 600,000 British Doctors Calls for 'Imperative' Coal Phase-Out
Nadia Prupis · 938 views today · Doing so would constitute 'double win for tackling the twin health threats of air pollution and climate change,' report states
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 895 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Lessons in the Calais Jungle: Teaching Life Stories and Learning About Humanity
Aura Lounasmaa · 802 views today · I am part of a team of academics teaching a course to residents in the Calais Jungle, a camp for migrants and refugees outside the French city. Life Stories in the Jungle has...
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 735 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Any Hope Of American Equality Died In The 1980s (And Here's Proof)