"Over the past generation, the patterns of income growth have been radically transformed," said Paul Pierson, professor of political science at UC Berkeley, adding that the argument "that rising inequality is simply an economic reality ... too easily lets policymakers off the hook."
Meanwhile, wages have grown by nearly 40 percent for the top 10 percent of earners over the past three decades, while wages for the bottom 50 percent of earners have remained stagnant or fallen, she said.
Allegretto called this "you're on your own economics" and said it is "why we have workers who have paychecks along with food cards; it's why we have a term called the working poor." She noted that the 400 richest people in the United States, as calculated by Forbes magazine, hold about the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50 percent.
"At the current levels, it's simply not possible for a large fraction of U.S. earners to support themselves and their families, even if everything goes right," and they can work full time, she said.