I would recommend Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal for an entertaining read. He referenced another book, aptly called Inequality, which I'm currently going through. Its a little more academic prose so its not something I can finish quickly (in short, its not an entertaining read...not that all books have to be of course).
Both of these books examine historical precedents for income inequality and attempt to analyze the current situation as well. I think they did a fair job, although I am open to change my mind if there is a better explanation. But these and other books, such as Dark Money, and just general news about the scummy activities of people like the Koch brothers have made me more convinced of this viewpoint.
Now to address your comment...
> Only a minority of companies in the US even have executives that get the much maligned high pay and bonuses in the last decade or so. What about the massive percentage of wealth that didn't fall into this category? They may have gain significantly from globalism but that was hardly the result of US tax policy alone.
This is most certainly not true . From  and from Krugman's book, you can see just how much the changes in tax policy has incentivized ballooning executive pay and created a new class of executives, who may not be as rich as the landed/inherited, but are certainly "rich". And this class has grown and become more enriched due to globalism, the opening of foreign markets and plummeting of labor costs, both due to automation and cheap foreign labor. I almost think of it as a weird form of trickle down effect, where most of the wealth goes to the very rich but a little (relatively insignificant but in absolute terms very much so) trickles down to the executive class.
> Lets not forget that democrats were in power for the last 8yrs and the state has only grown exponentially since the 1990s under both republican and democrat governments. Just because tax rates weren't the extremes of pre-1980/1970s doesn't make them low. They've been relatively consistent while the middle class income dropped.
Yes Democrats were in power for 8 years but how many of their policies could not be enacted due to obstructionism? But lets not get into that area here: 8 years is a relatively small time to create/destroy inequality. And I don't see any Democrats pushing for tax cuts on the rich, especially cutting estate taxes, which affect only the very rich.
> The complexity of the tax code and lack of competitiveness with international countries may have heavily influenced inequality. But it was hardly the result of explicit tax reduction for the rich...
Its not the complexity of the tax code but its very nature. The top tax rate for personal income is around 35% in the US whereas it is much higher in other developed economies. And the sources that I've listed point to historical trends that prove the same point: once you have a class of super wealthy, they will inevitably influence the Government to reduce their tax burden no matter how that is achieved.
> The idea that tax havens are something that were merely a matter of weak policy is naive. Even worse than the drug war hawks.
I don't think that comparison achieves anything but hyperbole so I'm not going to comment on it.
> Just because the middle class didn't keep pace with the wealthy doesn't mean only the wealthy were at fault. The fact the middle class lost wealth is hardly singularly the fault of the wealthy. I know this narrative sells well in politics but it's very short sighted.
I think you're conflating wealth with income. The middle class, by their definition, is not wealthy (at least in the same country; middle class in US is most certainly more wealthy than in India, say). The US middle class hasn't lost wealth, its their incomes that have not been growing as fast as the incomes of the wealthy. Its unfortunately not just politics: investments in people reap great benefits for society. If a country fails to invest in the health and education of its citizenry because its unable to raise the revenue to do so by the wealthy, then its most certainly the fault of the rich.
> Even if the US adjusted tax policy to redistribute a larger chunk of taxes towards the middle class it would hardly make a dent in the new reality in the fact there is hardly a middle class economy like there used to be. So you must either develop a new middle class economy or you get temporary perks of taking it from the wealthy. This is the big whale in the room that the Bernie bro guys are ignoring. The likely scenario is that the wealthy would become continually less competitive over the years, shift way more money over seas, and the middle class would be in the same situation with a little bit more money for a short period.
I don't think that is likely. Sure its a changed reality now, and I certainly don't see what other future markets will open up, but this new reality demands a healthy, educated workforce to operate it. Income redistribution is less about taking from wealthy and giving it to the poor as much as taking from the wealthy and investing in institutions/programs that can assist the most vulnerable in society. More taxation by itself won't make the wealthy less competitive... I mean, how does that even happen? On the contrary: educating a kid from Inner City Detroit might give us the next Steve Jobs.
> Gov spending under any administration that enacts those policies would largely offset most of the gains going directly to the people regardless (which is good if it results in universal health care, but little else if it's not sustainable).
You seem to imply that all Govt. spending is wasteful which is most certainly not true. Surely its not perfect, but that's another problem that needs fixing.
Also, you asked for a source but failed to provide a single one for any of the many many assertions that you have made.
The gist of the matter is: What should sane and compassionate people do about the Trump supporters in their lives? Many of us have them. Some of my family members support Trump, and I cannot fire them as family members or cancel Christmas, so I, and we, have to find another approach.
There are different levels of engagement, and the three most important are:
1) Political. Trump supporters are asking for power, and they must be denied that power, because their candidate is a dangerous, emotionally unstable racist, a sexual predator, and man who would do deep damage to US democracy. We should take a hard political line and fight them with all legal means to exclude them from decision-making positions that affect the public interest.
2) Private/Social/Familial. What kind of private discussions can you have with Trump supporters? There are different kinds of supporters, and the discussions you can have with them will vary according to which battle in the culture war you choose. Like previous GOP candidates, Trump has gathered a coalition of single-issue voters behind him. These include the usual suspects 1) anti-abortion groups, gun-rights groups, and climate change deniers. But Trump also has the support of a) white nationalists and other racist groups; and b) post-factual conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones who preach the existence of an evil and "alien force not of this world".
Anyone who has tried to argue someone out of their views on abortion or gun rights quickly finds that the discussion moving in circles, and pretty soon you've wasted a couple hours of your life.
People don't change their minds, and "when faced with doubt, they shout even louder." So sure, talk with them if you want, but adversarial debate is one of the least effective ways to engage with Trump supporters.
Let's take Peter Thiel as an example: At the core of his RNC speech was the simple argument that the US government is broken and only Trump can fix it. I agree that the USG is broken in a lot of areas, but hiring Trump to fix it, as someone funnier than me put it, would be like trying to cure eczema with a blow torch. Peter and I might agree on a lot of concrete, isolated problems with government, and he may have some pragmatic ideas for solving some of them, but when you go up one level of abstraction to a "total solution", there's not much to say. A debate between reason and irrationality leads no where.
At the heart of Thiel's position is a question: How do you fix a complex, broken and long-standing system? There are two alternatives: reform or revolution. Clinton represents reform at best and the status quo at worst. She has my vote because she's sane and sanity has become surprisingly rare. Trump represents revolution.
Most revolutionaries overestimate the good a total change will bring, and underestimate the damage. All they can see is the bad of the current situation. But most revolutions fail miserably. The Arab Spring failed violently in Libya, Egypt and Syria. The Iranian revolution of 1979 rang in decades of theocracy. In China and Russia, Marxist-Leninism ultimately killed tens of millions of people. The French revolution led to a century of political instability and the collapse of the French empire. The revolution that overthrew the decadence of Weimar Germany was called Nazism. In the wake of a revolution, you find that the new humans at the top are no better than the old ones, and generally less experienced. Without well thought out structures (like the separation of powers in the US constitution), the new elite will fail and be corrupted.
Anyone who's had to refactor a large, complex and crappy code base has longed to start from scratch. But countries cannot "start from scratch" without massive turmoil and bloodshed. Revolutions mean violence. I don't think we need a revolution, but if we did, it should at least go in the right direction. Trump is not the right direction.
Another important thing to remember is: some political views do not count as dissent, and cannot be accorded the same privileges as other forms of speech: hate speech and white nationalism don't count as dissent. Sexual predation and misogyny don't count as dissent. They are ugly prejudices, and it's not useful to listen to or engage them in a "debate". They have to be tackled in some other way.
In public fora, we should present alternatives to Trump supporters' views, but in private conversation, we should build relationships with his supporters based on non-political common ground. Years down the road, some of them will come round, and when they do, that human connection will be their road of return. One of my siblings was in a cult for about a decade. We just nodded, laid down some light rules about proselytizing and turned the conversation to baseball. For years. And then one day they left the cult and we never heard about it again.
3) Root cause. This is the most important level of engagement. How do we address the factors that have lead us to this point?
There are a lot of factors, but I think we can boil is down to one word: bubbles. People are living in bubbles. Wealth creates bubbles of isolation (Trump himself is a great example, and so is SV). Poverty creates bubbles of isolation, where people are not exposed to new ideas, other cultures and different kinds of people. And the media creates bubbles. Some of the media's bubbles are great (innocent weirdos congregate and find their human home on the Internet), and some are really damaging, because, as a nation, Americans no longer live in a shared reality or agree upon facts. Fox News has never cared about facts, and the GOP has done a lot to drive its supporters away from mainstream media where fact-checking actually happens. The FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, and since then US media and their audiences have grown increasingly polarized. Maybe that was a mistake.
Different types of bubbles can be burst in different ways. Internet media bubbles could be addressed, at least partially, with algorithms to recommend other types of content, but we would have to accept a benevolent algorithm-maker trying to change our minds. Media bubbles cause bubbles of ideology -- destructive, self-perpetuating memes like anti-semitism and white nationalism. Those are hard to burst. It takes a huge commitment on the part of the people who are hated to go out, encounter the haters in a neutral context and demonstrate your humanity. It can be done. Sometimes it leads to a minor victory, like a racist realizing "not all n are bad." Really hard work.
Bubbles of poverty can be burst by investing more time and money in poor communities, getting people to work and exposing them to the other in non-threatening ways. Maybe we're talking dance troupes and exchange students -- I don't know.
To get to the root, we have to go beyond the media to the interests that are financing the culture wars and climate denial.
I don't have ready-made solutions for bursting bubbles, or cutting off the funds that are creating the ideologies that threaten the US and the whole species, but that's where we need to focus. The real issue is the dark money and Citizens United. Beyond that is only capitalism itself, the system that allows a few individuals for reasons of merit or inheritance to lay enormous social claims on the rest of society through the unequal allocation of wealth.
We're living in a strange time. Large historical forces are at work in America, which are beyond the powers of any one person to address. This election cycle has taught me a lot about humans and group behavior, more than I ever wanted to know, and it's given me a surprising sympathy for the Germans whose lives were eclipsed by Nazism in the 1930s. Not all of them wanted it, but all of them got it. A few resisted and died; some fled; many sank into indifference and getting-by; and some saw it as a career opportunity. Just a few more percentage points in favor of Trump and all of America gets him, his walls, his deportations and his groping paws, too. And then we'll all have choices to make.
Jane Mayer’s recent work is recommended reading on this subject: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0385535597
Or if you want something shorter, from a few years ago, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/30/covert-operatio...