Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
By James M. Lindsay
The Occupy Wall Street movement has made the phrase “the 99 percent” the hottest new political buzzword. So just how different has the experience of the top 1 percent been from everyone else’s over the past decade?
As the chart above shows, when it comes to real-income growth - that is, after accounting for the effects of inflation - the difference is substantial.
The three decades after 1979 were spectacularly good ones for the top 1 percent of wage earners, even with the 2000-2001 tech crash. In comparison, the bottom 80 percent of wage earners were only marginally better off in 2007 than they were in 1979 - and much of that gain was probably lost in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crash.
Whether one is impressed by the gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else, or by the fact that the trend lines for everyone but the top 1 percent are relatively flat, the chart provides some indication of why so many Americans are pessimistic about the direction of the country, and have been for quite some time.