The severity of income inequality in the United States may have been relatively little known before making national headlines this past year, whether through the protests of Occupy Wall Street, President Obama's calls for the so-called Buffett Rule or dismissals of the whole conversation as a marker of class warfare. But income inequality is not new to the United States. And in his new book "The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It," Timothy Noah explores the history of wealth disparity in this country, and looks into its possible futures.
Here's an excerpt from the introduction to "The Great Divergence":
During the past 33 years the difference in America between being rich and being middle class became much more pronounced. People with high incomes consumed an ever-larger share of the nation’s total income, while people in the middle saw their share shrink. For most of this time the phenomenon attracted little attention from the general public and the press because it occurred in increments over one third of a century. During the previous five decades—from the early 1930s through most of the 1970s—the precise opposite had occurred. The share of the nation’s income that went to the wealthy had either shrunk or remained stable. At the first signs, during the early 1980s, that this was no longer happening, economists figured they were witnessing a fluke, an inexplicable but temporary phenomenon, or perhaps an artifact of faulty statistics. But they weren’t. A democratization of incomes that Americans had long taken for granted as a happy fact of modern life was reversing itself.