About the issue: Income inequality

Associated Press

The gap between the incomes of the rich and everyone else is large and getting bigger, while middle-class paychecks stagnate. That's sparked Occupy Wall Street protests and raised concerns that the nation's middle class isn't sharing in economic growth.

The Census Bureau says that the highest-earning 20 percent of American households received 51.1 percent of all income in 2011. That was the biggest share in records dating back to 1967.

Income inequality figures prominently in the debate over how much tax the wealthy should pay. And it also comes up in disagreements over whether — or how much — to cut spending on programs such as Medicare and food stamps as part of deficit-reduction efforts.

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