Closing America’s growing disparity in wealth

Nick Licata,
The Shadow
Published in
6 min readAug 24, 2021


lumber baron William Carson’s Victorian Mansion built 1886; photo N. Licata

Over the past year, new research has shown how a phenomenal accumulation of wealth has become concentrated among just 1 percent of Americans over the last four decades. If that trend continues, our future as a democracy will come to an end. So the first step is to recognize it, and the second is to address it now.

This trend was quantitively demonstrated in a RAND Corporation paper, Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018 by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards. They used a time-period agnostic and income-level agnostic measure of inequality that relates income growth to economic growth. A summary and commentary of their work by Nick Hanauer And David M. Rolf is readily accessible to the public in Time.

The RAND study shows how from 1947 through 1974, real incomes grew close to the rate of per capita economic growth across all income levels. Since then, Americans whose wealth was already in the top 1 percent have received a much larger share of our nation’s economic growth. At every income level up to the 90th percentile, wage earners receive only a fraction of what they would have received if the inequality ratio had held constant from 1974.

In real wages, this means that an employee today with a median individual income of $36,000 would receive an additional $28,000 using the CPI as a measurement of growth. That comes out to an additional $10.10 to $13.50 an hour on top of the current wage.

Critics point out how the growing gap in wealth among Americans is not a random economic trend but a politically driven plan to protect a select group’s capital and their ability to increase it through manipulating our democratic decision-making process.

Political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, in Let them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality, argue that the Republican Party has merged plutocratic economic priorities with a right-wing populist appeal that threatens American democracy. In a YouTube interview referencing decades of research, Hacker and Pierson explain the doom-loop of tax-cutting that characterizes the Republican strategy.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse believes that approach is undermining our democratic government. His presentation during the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett to…