The numbers in this chart are all normalized to zero in 1979, and what they show is that the total share of national income going to the super-rich has more than doubled over that time. The merely well off have also gotten a slightly bigger piece of the pie, while everyone else has funded this free-for-all. “Everyone else,” in this case, means 90% of the country. Our share of national income has gone down in order to make sure that virtually all the fruits of economic growth over the past four decades could go to the well-off, the rich, and the super-duper-rich.
One of the reasons it’s important to see charts like this, even if you’ve seen them before, is that it gives the lie to the endlessly recycled myth that growing income inequality is mainly due to increased returns to education and technical skills. But it ain’t so. The returns to education might be growing a bit — though even that’s debatable — but by far the biggest beneficiaries of skyrocketing income inequality have been the top 1%, the top 0.1%, and the top 0.01%. Not even Republicans will try to make the case that the top 1% have become better educated over the past 40 years compared to the top 10%, so if that’s where income inequality is concentrated then education just can’t be a huge factor. If you’re interested in the truth, you have to look elsewhere.