Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton wants to “topple” the top 1 percent of U.S. earners, according to a story published in The New York Times on Tuesday in which Clinton’s allies paint her as a hipster populist and progressive.
The story, by Amy Chozick, describes a meeting Clinton held with economists earlier this year — it’s not clear if the meeting was held before or after she became a presidential candidate this month.
She showed a chart of income inequality in the U.S., an issue that progressives are pushing as a central one in the 2016 presidential campaign. The chart, according to the Times, showed how real wages, adjusted for inflation, had grown “exponentially” for the top 1 percent while leaving middle- and lower-income earners behind.
It made “the bar so steep it hardly fit on the chart,” Chozick wrote.
This chart from the Economic Policy Institute shows the issue to which Clinton was referring. It displays the change in real annual wages by wage group from 1979-2012:
The top 1 percent of income earners saw their real annual wages increase by more 153.6 percent from 1979-2012, more than four times the average wage increase and far surpassing the economic growth of that timespan.
Comparatively, the bottom 90 percent of income earners experienced only a 17.1 percent increase in their real annual wages. Even the 95-99 percent and the 90-95 percent — at 61.6 and 39.2 percent increases, respectively — lag behind the richest of the rich.
Here’s another chart that shows the change in real hourly wages of all workers. Like the previous chart, it reveals that for all but the highest earners, hourly wages have either stagnated or even declined from 1979-2013:
After showing a version of the first chart to economists at the meeting, Clinton “pointed at the top category and said the economy required a ‘toppling’ of the wealthiest 1 percent,” according to the story.
Before officially announcing and in the days since she officially launched her campaign, Clinton has sought to reassure the liberal and progressive bases whose enthusiasm she’ll need to be successful in both the Democratic primary and general election. Some of those groups have continued to wage efforts to draft progressive darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) into the Democratic primary.
In recent days, for example, she has shifted on her support for an in-the-works trade agreement being negotiated by the Obama administration. Her campaign has said that the agreement must “protect American workers” and “strengthen our national security.” Previously as secretary of state, she called the agreement a “gold standard.”
The Republican National Committee blasted what it sarcastically referred to as Clinton's "newfound economic populism."
"Let’s face it: Hillary Clinton’s newfound economic populism is as phony as her staged campaign events," an RNC spokesman said.
"Hillary Clinton claims she wants to ‘topple’ the one percent despite being a certified member who decided to launch another White House bid while vacationing at Oscar de la Renta’s Caribbean estate. She attacks hedge fund managers but plans to hold her first fundraisers with them. Clinton attacks CEO pay, despite charging more to give a 90-minute speech than the average working American earns in four years."
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.