The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

Visual Aid: How the 1 percent have fared since 1981

This is one of those charts that speaks for itself. It comes from a report I was directed to by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times. It shows how drastically pay in the securities business has diverged from pay in all other private sector fields, in New York City since 1981. 

If you want to know what the Occupy Wall Street — and Occupy LA — movement is protesting, look no further.

The chart tells a tale about the New York City economy, which was dominated by the financial services industry prior to the financial crisis and is still seeing very high compensation levels in that world, even after the near-collapse of the system, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and the taxpayer bailout of the big banks. The bailout money, by the way, came from the people represented by the red bars.

New York is an extreme case, but it's not the only place in the country where people in finance get paid much more than everyone else. You can shorten the blue bars a bit. But they're still pretty tall.