The 1% vs. the Rest of Us

We hear a lot about income inequality, and thanks to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), we now have some state-, county-, and metropolitan area-level data to take a closer look at local inequalities.

According to EPI:

“Income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s and in many states is up in the post–Great Recession era.”

What does this mean when looking at Minnesota? The same trend emerges – the top 1% get richer while working class Minnesotans struggle to get ahead.

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The graphics above and below, from EPI’s Unequal States of America page for Minnesota, demonstrate the drastic gap between the 1% and the rest of Minnesotans. The top 1% makes 19.7 times more than the bottom 99% of Minnesotans.

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EPI concludes:

“The rise of top incomes relative to the bottom 99 percent represents a sharp reversal of the trend that prevailed in the mid-20th century. Between 1928 and 1979, the share of income held by the top 1 percent declined in every state except Alaska (where the top 1 percent held a relatively low share of income throughout the period). This earlier era was characterized by a rising minimum wage, low levels of unemployment after the 1930s, widespread collective bargaining in private industries (manufacturing, transportation [trucking, airlines, and railroads], telecommunications, and construction), and a cultural and political environment in which it was outrageous for executives to receive outsized bonuses while laying off workers.

We need policies that return the economy to full employment, return bargaining power to U.S. workers, and reinstate the cultural taboo on allowing CEOs and financial-sector executives at the commanding heights of the private economy to appropriate more than their fair share of the nation’s expanding economic pie.”