“That’s one of the things, debt really does tie the 99 percent together. Everyone who is under the 99 percentile saw a debt runup in the 2000s,” Mike Konczal, finance blogger and fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, told me. “You can talk about ‘the richest 1 percent makes this much money,’ but part of what they’re making is debt. Their wealth is a claim on everyone else’s future income.”
That debt was for many years a substitute for wages in the pockets of many Americans. As incomes stagnated or even shrank, credit cards and home equity filled the gap—until the housing bubble popped, leaving millions underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their homes were worth, and unable to get more credit cards or even make the minimum payments on the ones they had.
The common response to this kind of blather is to point out that conservatives like Bachmann are absolutely in love with policies that redistribute wealth, as long as they shift it from working people upward to the investor class. Whether we’re talking about trade policy, labor rules that make it difficult for workers to organize or shifting the tax burden from corporations to the backs of American families, the results of the right’s long class war from above are plain to see.
The top 1 percent takes in more than twice the share of national income today than they did 30 years ago. Paul Buchheit, a professor with City Colleges of Chicago, crunched some numbers using IRS data and found that “if middle- and upper-middle-class families had maintained the same share of American productivity that they held in 1980, they would be making an average of $12,500 more per year.” At the same time, top earners pay far less in taxes than they did when Ronald Reagan was in office.