Paul Krugman writes:
Apologists for rising inequality often argue that since most Americans’ income has risen despite rising inequality, there’s no reason to complain about inequality other than envy. So it’s worth remembering that we used to expect economic growth to deliver large increases in real income, not just a bit of a rise that’s accomplished in large part through longer working hours; and that a major reason so many have seen such small gains is that a large part of growth has been siphoned off to the very high end.
Lane Kenworthy had a nice chart illustrating both points, comparing median family income with real GDP per family (for those worried about the fine points, it was nominal GDP divided by the CPI, avoiding some technical issues):
You see the contrast: a doubling of family incomes in the post war generation compared with maybe 20 percent since, and family incomes growing in line with GDP before, lagging far behind since, with the difference basically being the rising share of the 1 percent.
This is real stuff, not some trivial envy-driven concern. But we must be very, very quiet about it, right?
[Doing my best imitation of Hugh Grant] Riiiiight…