This month, Berkeley economics professor Emmanuel Saez put out an update to his estimates of income inequality, and the headline figure has everybody outraged: 95% of income gains since 2009 have accrued to the top 1%.
This is indeed outrageous, but not quite for the reason that most people think.
What the 95% statistic obscures is that the last three years’ recovery haven’t been very good for anybody, including the rich. They’ve been terrible for the bottom 99%, whose incomes are barely rising at all: just 0.1% per year in real terms. But top 1% incomes are also growing more slowly than they did in the last two economic expansions. That’s because the same slack labor market that holds down wages also deprives businesses of the customer base they need to invest and grow.