...Notice the desperate effort to find some number, any number, to support claims that increasing inequality is just a matter of a rising payoff to education and skill. Conservative commentators tell us about wage gains for one-eyed bearded men with 2.5 years of college, or whatever — and conveniently forget to adjust for inflation. In fact, the data refute any suggestion that education is a guarantee of income gains: once you adjust for inflation, you find that the income of a typical household headed by a college graduate was lower in 2005 than in 2000.
More broadly, right-wing commentators would like you to believe that the economy’s winners are a large group, like college graduates or people with agreeable personalities. But the winners’ circle is actually very small. Even households at the 95th percentile — that is, households richer than 19 out of 20 Americans — have seen their real income rise less than 1 percent a year since the late 1970’s. But the income of the richest 1 percent has roughly doubled, and the income of the top 0.01 percent — people with incomes of more than $5 million in 2004 — has risen by a factor of 5.