When people rightly complain that the top 1% in the U.S. have done well—their share of the nation's wealth has doubled in 30 years—while the middle class has been hammered, they often then evoke the likes of the Koch brothers or top-tier hedge fund managers. By doing so they somewhat muddle things. Not all 1-percenters are the same. $383,000 in annual income is pocket lint compared to the millions others in the top 1% make annually (or hourly).
If you mean the likes of the Koch brothers, you really mean the uber rich, the massively rich, the top of the top.
More than 1 in 10 American households (estimated at 12%) will for at least one year find themselves in the top 1%. That doesn't mean it's a common experience—1 in 10 aren't great odds. But, while it's a clear indication of the brokenness of our economic system that the top 1% have nearly 40% of the entire nation's wealth, the sort of mind-bogglingly out-sized gains in wealth that have occurred in roughly the last decade have really been accomplished mostly by the uber rich—often relatively effortlessly making wealth from their wealth via investment income and with the help of the experts and services they can easily afford and tax regulations that help along the way. Parts of the system are basically gamed; the system taxes the rich, of course, but in other ways it favors them.
Most of the top 1% have actually seen the rate of their wealth increase slow, sometimes markedly. (Don't misunderstand: they're still incredibly well off.) But the top tiers of the 1%? Well, the charts below show how the top 0.1% and 0.01% have done extraordinarily better than even the rest of the elites.
It's noteworthy that we're living in an age of wealth inequality that is both getting worse and, it would seem, is concentrating every more wealth at the top of the top.
The Atlantic, "How You, I, and Everyone Got the Top 1% Wrong", March 2014. (See charts below.)
Forbes, "The Richest of the Rich Get Richer", June 2014.
The New York Times, "What Percent Are You?" January 2012.
(Click chart for enlarged view.)
(Click chart to enlarger it.)