I love visuals and details. Here's a nice series of graphics showing various income comparisons over time:http://www.slate.com/slideshows/news_an ... ality.html
(takes a moment to load, but not forever -- click the purple triangle to page through the slides.)
They show the US income differential started shifting in 1979 at a point they call the "Great Divergence." (This is close enough for me to my own "when it started to go to hell" point which is 1980.) Read the text to the right of the slides for their explanations.
From text accompanying Slide 3:
...much of the Great Divergence was driven by a stunning rise in income for the top 1 percent (who today earn about $368,000 or more). This group's share of national income more than doubled, from 8 percent in 1973 (the end of the Great Compression) to 18 percent in 2008.
And from Slide 4:
If the top 1 percent are the Rich, the top 0.1 percent (who today earn about $1 million or more) are the Stinking Rich. Since 1979, their income share hasn't doubled; it's quadrupled.
Conservatives, do not despair. Slide 8 and its text show that
Tax cuts for the rich certainly contributed to the Great Divergence. But it would be hard to argue, based on this data, they were a major factor.
Instead, they put a lot of blame on the education system, and find a striking difference between what happens when each of the two major political parties was in power. See the last slide, Slide 10, for how that looks and for some reasons:http://www.slate.com/slideshows/news_an ... l#slide_10