This graph clearly shows the current erosion of the middle class, and the accelerating growth of income inequality, began with the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the advent of supply-side (“trickle-down”) economics in 1981. It compares three economic measurements over most of the past four decades: 1) the percentage of union membership in the U.S. workforce, 2) the income share of the U.S. middle class, and 3) the income share of the top 1% of U.S. households. It is a stark and revealing visualization of economic disparity.
This is hardly a coincidence. Powerful corporate interests began a systematic campaign to influence government institutions and policy in the early 1970s (see: The Powell Memo: A Call-to-Arms for Corporations). Since then, it has greatly escalated with a series of corporatist Supreme Court rulings (exemplified by Citizens United), and legislative acts such as the repeal of Glass-Steagall which deregulated Wall Street and crashed the economy in 2008. While some politicians in the Democratic Party have been complicit, it is the Republican Party who are fervently championing this agenda. Their ideological mantra of laissez-faire capitalism, union busting, regressive taxation, and draconian budget cuts, perfectly meshes with the corporatist view.
The GOP’s most indefensible position is its insistence on reducing taxes for the wealthiest individuals. The following links demonstratively prove there is absolutely no causative relationship between lowering the top marginal tax rate and either GDP growth or job creation; however, they do indicate a direct relationship to income inequality. In spite of the evidence, the GOP keeps pushing their rhetoric. We should all know why.