Conservatives are desperate to absolve the 1 percent

There's no question where our inequality problems come from, though

One percent.
(Image credit: Illustrated | champc/IStock)

Over a decade ago, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez helped launch the problem of "the top one percent" into the political mainstream, as shorthand for the idea that the very rich were sucking up most of the fruits of economic growth. Their original papers breaking down the stunning scale of American inequality were picked up by Occupy Wall Street in 2011, which made "we are the 99 percent" one of their signature chants.

This has unsurprisingly inspired a cottage industry of one-percenter apologia. The very rich themselves, along with the think tanks and foundations they fund, have made quibbling with Piketty and Saez practically an entire academic discipline. Recently, The New York Times' David Brooks tried to scapegoat the top 20 percent, while the American Enterprise Institute's Lyman Stone pinned the blame on the entire Baby Boom generation. Neither are convincing.

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