At the same time, it is important to be clear about the distinction between wealth and income. The very wealthy earn money from "rents" (the use of their capital), rather than wages. Most people, however, are wage earners and so the question is whether or not they are better or worse off than they used to be, no matter what is happening to the very wealthy. Mauldin offers data from Emmanual Saez at UC Berkeley--a frequent collaborator of Piketty's--showing that the income share of people just below the top 1% has not changed much in the US over the past 100 years. This emphasizes Piketty's point about the explosive concentration just at the top. Mauldin also quotes studies (that I have not checked on myself) suggesting that if you include benefits and account for inflation “Middle-class stagnation and the ‘decoupling’ of pay and productivity are illusions. Yes, the U.S. economy is in the doldrums, thanks to a variety of factors... But by any sensible measure, most Americans are today better paid and more prosperous than in the past.” This sounds like something you would only hear on Fox News, but perhaps the data bear out that conclusion.
There are even more demographic complications to the income inequality issue, and I'll discuss them in a subsequent blog.