Michael Lind in Tablet:
To observers of the American class system in the 21st century, the common conflation of social class with income is a source of amusement as well as frustration. Depending on how you slice and dice the population, you can come up with as many income classes as you like—four classes with 25%, or the 99% against the 1%, or the 99.99% against the 0.01%. In the United States, as in most advanced societies, class tends to be a compound of income, wealth, education, ethnicity, religion, and race, in various proportions. There has never been a society in which the ruling class consisted merely of a basket of random rich people.
Progressives who equate class with money naturally fall into the mistake of thinking you can reduce class differences by sending lower-income people cash—in the form of a universal basic income, for example. Meanwhile, populists on the right tend to imagine that the United States was much more egalitarian, within the white majority itself, than it really was, whether in the 1950s or the 1850s.
Both sides miss the real story of the evolution of the American class system in the last half century toward the consolidation of a national ruling class—a development which is unprecedented in U.S. history.