...in or around 1978, American life changed.... It was, like this moment, a time of widespread pessimism -- high inflation, high unemployment, high gas prices. And the country reacted to its sense of decline by moving away from the social arrangement that had been in place since the 1930s and 1940s....
This is a story about the perverse effects of democratization.... Once Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers and Walter Wriston of Citicorp stopped sitting together on Commissions to Make the World a Better Place and started paying lobbyists to fight for their separate interests in Congress, the balance of power tilted heavily toward business.
Of course the move to neoliberalism occurred across much of the world, not just in the U.S., but the consequences in terms of inequality were worse here.
Update: See also Zakaria in today's WaPo on social mobility in U.S. compared to Europe. (Link to be added later)