A Gilded Age

A GILDED AGE…. When we think about the gap between the rich and poor in the United States, we tend to think of the 1920s and 1930s as the extreme example that the nation moved away from in later generations.

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As it turns out, according to one new research paper from Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez, we’re seeing Depression-era inequality again — only now it’s slightly worse.

The Huffington Post, which ran a copy of the Saez report, explained, “Though income inequality has been growing for some time, the paper paints a stark, disturbing portrait of wealth distribution in America. Saez calculates that in 2007 the top .001 percent of American earners took home 6 percent of total U.S. wages, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000. As of 2007, the top decile of American earners, Saez writes, pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that’s ‘higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock market bubble in the ‘roaring” 1920s.””

Paul Krugman described the results as “truly amazing.”

Any efforts to address this, of course, will be immediately met with cries of “socialism,” “class warfare,” and “welfare state.” Today’s conservatives see a chart like this and think, “It is as it should be.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.