Surprise! Census Data Contains Good News... For The Rich

September 13, 2011 1:36 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Today's Census Bureau release of household income data contains some awfully gloomy numbers: The nation's poverty rate is 15.1 percent, the highest since 1993, and median household income in 2010 was only $369 higher than in 1989. 

But, as usual, the new data contains some good news... for the rich. Here's a chart showing mean household income from 1978 to 2010 for the bottom, middle, and top quintiles:

And here's the total change in mean household income for those quintiles:

So while the poorest Americans actually make less than they did in 1978, and the middle class has seen its income stagnate, the richest Americans have done far better. And the data in the Census report actually obscures the extent to which the wealthy have gained while everyone else has been stuck in neutral, because it doesn't break out the richest one percent, whose incomes have really soared.

Unsurprisingly, the Census Bureau's Gini Index of Income Inequality shows a steady increase in income inequality over the past four decades:

It's no coincidence that all of this has taken place while the nation's political and media elite favor policy changes that further rig the system against the poor and middle class and behave as though the only tax policy that matters is tax policy that affects the rich. Just as it's no coincidence that elites in both politics and media have financial incentives to favor policies that help the rich at the expense of the rest of the country.