It all started in 1980, when Reagan convinced people that his "trickle down" economics (or as the first George Bush called it -- voodoo economics) would create a richer country for all Americans. He said if we removed regulations and allowed the corporations and the rich to make unlimited profits, those profits would be shared by everyone. He lied.
There were unlimited and record-breaking profits, but it all stayed in the bank accounts of the richest Americans. This resulted in the most uneven distribution of income and wealth since the 1920s. That vastly uneven distribution in the 20s lead to the Great Depression. The current vastly uneven distribution has led to the most serious recession since the Great Depression (and may well someday be called the Second Great Depression).
George W. Bush hastened this recession by his slavish adherence to the Reagan policies. It started a period of expansion for the income of the richest 1% of Americans that was unprecedented. As the chart above from msnbc.com shows that the income of the richest 1% of Americans grew over 60%, while the bottom 90% of all Americans only had their income grow by a paltry 4%.
The recession in 2007 and 2008 hurt all Americans, but the bottom 90% were hurt the worst because they had the least they could afford to lose. The last bars on the graph show that. In the period from 2002 all the way through 2008, even considering the recession, the richest 1% of Americans still had their income grow by 30% while the bottom 90% had their income fall by 4%.
Now the recession is over for the rich and they are once again making record profits and enjoying record bonuses (after being bailed out by the rest of us). Meanwhile, the rest of America is still mired in a jobless recession.
The sad part is that many brain-dead Americans are blaming President Obama and the Democrats for the country still being mired in recession (and I admit the president and the Democrats have not acted boldly enough, and have given in to Republicans too many times). But many are now ready to return the Republicans to power.
That would be a terrible mistake because they still cling to the policies that got us into this economic mess in the first place. If Republicans return to power, their policies (such as encouraging and rewarding outsourcing of jobs, deregulation of Wall Street and the giant financial organizations, tax cuts for the rich, abolishing the minimum wage, destruction of unions, privatizing Social Security, etc.) will just continue the redistribution of income from the bottom 90% of Americans to the richest Americans.
It's beginning to look like the Republicans won't be happy until the rich have all the country's wealth and income, and the rest of us have to beg them for bread crumbs. Too many Americans don't realize it yet, but if you're in the bottom 90% of Americans then voting for the Republicans is voting against your own economic interest.