Does it matter? Yes. Let’s start with the difference between income and wealth. The top 1% of today’s earners make more than $700,000 annually, and the top 1% in terms of wealth have assets of more than $9 million.

There’s a big difference between the two kinds of money. Income lasts only as long as you have the job, and it has a tendency to get spent once it’s earned. Income taxes, which are hard to evade on earnings, come out of it, as do the expenses of daily life. But wealth is forever, as long as the possessor can resist risky investments and live on the income from it rather than the principal. Many of the returns on acquired wealth come from capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate of 15%. Other returns are sheltered from taxes in a variety of ways…

But let’s get back to the bottom 60% of American households and how they have never enjoyed more than 11% of the country’s wealth. Doesn’t that figure suggest we should review the content of the American dream and emphasize what is actual rather than illusory? We have a constitutional government, widespread enjoyment of personal freedom and government policies that protect opportunity. Perhaps the current public conversation about the 1% and 99% can focus on the fundamental question of how long political equality can survive amid such economic inequality.