New York Times columnist David Brooks, who's been called the "bard of the 1 percent" for his writings in defense of the economic elite, is at it again–telling people not to worry about the concentration of wealth at the very top of the income scale. Brooks writes in his January 31 column that the claim that "America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society's resources" is a "distraction." Brooks argues:
The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness.
Brooks' claim, then, is that inequality is really a matter of the top one-fifth, not the 1 percent. Well, that's not what the Congressional Budget Office (10/11) says.
It's true that what you might call the upper middle class has done better than the middle class and poor over the past three decades or so–their income has grown by 65 percent, vs. 40 percent for the middle class and only 18 percent for the poor. But over the same time period, the income of the richest 1 percent has soared–by 275 percent. That's close to quadrupling.
So while the share of income claimed by the upper middle class has stayed about the same since 1979, the poor and middle class have gotten substantially less while the piece of the pie taken by the 1 percent has more than doubled in size. As it turns out, the real driver of inequality and unfairness–is the financial elite who hog society resources.
Score one for Occupy Wall Street–zero for David Brooks.