On the leftward side of America’s political spectrum and even creeping into some warrens of the right, wealth and income inequality is the issue of the day. That is hardly surprising since the bare numbers, compiled over decades, tell us how a tiny fraction of the population is leaving the great mass of Americans behind. Occupy Wall Street helped give the debate a vocabulary – the 1% vs the 99%. New Court rulings like Citizens United have expanded the prerogatives of extreme wealth. The scale of interest has even taken what was destined to be a thick tome on capitalism and inequality – Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century – read only by specialists and economists and transformed it into an international bestseller.
So with that interest, this consequence and the centrality of the issue for our time, we at TPM decided to commission a four part series on the topic – the first time we’ve ever done such a project. The four pieces come from different authors, each coming from a different angle, with a different sort of expertise. The aim of the series is to pose a simple question: How did we get here?